Camino Francés description : 12. San Juan de Ortega - Burgos   

 

                              Camino de Santiago / French Way : 12. San Juan de Ortega - Burgos

                                                                                     (27.6 km)

  

               

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  From San Juan de Ortega there are two routes to Burgos;

  but the other, passing through the villages of Santovenia de Oca, Zalduendo, Ibeas de Juarros, Castrillo del Val, San Medel, Castañares, Villayuda, is hardly used therefore,

  described below is the standard route towards Burgos.

 

  Upon leaving San Juan de Ortega you head past the church and walk down the Barrio de Colinas, takeing a right turn towards the way marked track through the pine woods. Not long out of the town you pass over a couple of cattle grids, through some open fields coming eventually to a large wooden cross. At this point keep well left, this path will take you through a small gate and down a dirt track towards the village of Agés.

 

  There are 3 refugios/hostels in Agés. The Hostel San Rafael has a café and restaurant, and for those of you who wish it, internet access. One of the other hostels, Casa Caracol, which can be found on the Calle la Iglesia is supposedly to be one of the gems of the Camino. Also in Agés you will find a sign which lets you know that you still have 518 kilometres to go before you reach Santiago.

 

  The most dominant monument in the village is the 16th century Iglesia de Santa Eulalia. It is here that the remains of King Garcia de Navarre were originally entombed before eventually being moved to the Pantéon Real in the Iglesia María de Real in Nájera. King Garcia had been the ruler of the kingdom of Navarre and his brother King Ferdinand I was ruler of the kingdom of Castilla y Leon. The kingdoms had at one time been part of the empire of King Sancho III of Navarre, their father, upon the king's death they were divided between the two brothers. Unfortunately, as has so often happened in history, one brother, King Garcia, being jealous of his sibling decided to go to war against his brother King Ferdinand. Unfortunately this resulted in his death in 1054 at the battle of Atapuerca.

 

  To leave Agés walk down the main street past the fountain on the right and follow the street out of the village and down the road for approximately 2.5 kilometres until you reach the next village, Atapuerca. On the road between Agés and Atapuerca you will come across a 2 metre high standing stone which marks the spot where the armies of King Garcia of Navarra and King Ferdinand of Castile met. The words inscribed on the stone are Fin de Rey - Garcia de Najera 1054. In English this translates to “end of the king - Garcia de Najera 1054.

 

  Atapuerca is not a large village, having around 230 inhabitants, but it has an impressive church, la Iglesia de San Martín which overlooks the village from a small hill. Atapuerca was once known as one of the first villages to have been wrested back from the Moors (muslims) during the Reconquista.

 

  However, in the 20th century Atapuerca became world famous for the discovery of the most important archaeological site ever to be found, situated in the Sierra de Atapuerca hills some 3 kilometres from the village. The on-going archaeological dig was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2000. The site was originally discovered in the 1960's during the construction of a railway. However, since the 1980's the remains of more than 32 individuals have been found in La Sima de los Huesos, or the pit of bones. Most of the bones found here are over 300,000 years old. In 1994, during excavations of an old railway cutting in Trinchera Dolina, close to Atapuerca, more bones were discovered. These were found to be over 800,000 years old thus making them the oldest Europeans and the discovery of the Atapuerca Man.

 

  Most of the items found during the various digs are to be found either on display in the Museo de Burgos or in the Museo de Ibeas in the village of Ibeas de Juarros near Atapuerca. Visits to the site can also be arranged. A worthwhile website to look at before you go is www.atapuerca.net that has information in English. However the main information site is www.visitasatapuerca.com, which unfortunately is only in Spanish. This does contain information on visiting times and fees.

  If you wish to stay in Atapuerca there are 2 Albergues and a hostel. There are also 2 bars, one with a restaurant, a café and bakery.

 

  To leave Atapuerca walk through the village and just after the second bar and bakery take a left turn past the fountain and following a line of fencing on your left hand side up towards another cross. The path continues across open heathland and as the path begins to descend you will see the City of Burgos ahead. Keep walking straight on passing some TV antennae and a quarry. Soon after passing the quarry the path starts to descend and you come to a fork in the road.

 

  At this point take the right hand fork and then turn right onto a minor road which leads you into the small hamlet of Villaval. This route is slightly longer but it takes you through some beautiful villages. The other route takes you mainly through stony pasture.

 

  Pass through Villaval keeping to the road until after about 2 kilometres you come across the village of Cardeñuela Riopico. There is a small municipal Albergue here, the keys of which can be found either in the town hall or at the bar La Parada.

 

  The road continues down towards Orbaneja Riopico where you meet up with the alternative route. About 1 kilometre away from the village you will come to a bridge over the A1 motorway. At this stage you are faced with 2 options for entering Burgos, both routes are clearly marked.

  The original or historic route takes you through Villafria an industrialised area which follows the very busy and noisy main road into Burgos. This is apparently the worst part of the whole Camino.

  The other, quieter route follows the river. It's slightly longer but is a much safer way to enter Burgos via Castañares, one of the suburbs. We will detail both options below and it is then up to you which route you take. A third option is to take the Number 8 bus from Villafria into the centre of Burgos, but then that would be cheating.

 

  Traditional route through Villafria

  Cross the bridge over the motorway and follow the road for about 2 kilometres until you come to the railway line which runs parallel to the road. The road bends and you will see a rubbish tip on your left and a bridge over the railway. Cross the bridge and from here you can either follow the road until it joins the N1 or take a slight detour to visit la Iglesia de Villafria with its resident storks. There are a couple of bars near the church should you wish to have a drink.

 

  Going back to the main road follow the N1 towards Burgos and after about 4 to 5 kilometres you come to a large crossing and at this point the road becomes Calle Vitoria. A little further on you come to another junction which is signposted right towards Santander, left to go to Madrid and the centre towards Burgos city centre. At this point we would recommend that you continue down Calle Vitoria but taking the shaded road running parallel to it on your left which takes you along the river and down the Avenida General Sanjurio. Eventually this road leads you to the pedestrianised area known as Paseo de Espolón in the city centre close to the cathedral.

 

  The alternative route through Castañares

  After you have crossed the bridge over the A1 motorway turn left past the former barracks, then take a right onto a track through some wheat fields and waste ground. The path is way marked but because the authorities have had no option but to paint them on the ground they may be difficult to see. As an alternative guide look out for 2 large chimneys in the distance. One is coloured red and the other white, the spire of the cathedral can be seen behind them to the left. After about 3 kilometres you pass through Casteñares and will soon meet up with the route that came from San Juan de Ortega. Two options: Follow Calle Vitoria, down the Avenida General Sanjurio and into the pedestrianised area of Paseo de Espolón towards the cathedral. Or better: crossing the Río Arlanzón and by the left bank through Fuentes Blancas.

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  Burgos - Burgos city map (Rabe) - Burgos city map (Pombo)

 

  Burgos

  Burgos is a place that is worth spending a whole day in if not longer. If you are a lover of architecture or of history you will find something to suit your taste here. There are around 75 monuments in Burgos with the Monasterio de Santa Maria la Real de las Huelgas, the Cartuja de Santa Maria de Miraflores and the Catedral de Santa Maria, Burgos all well worth a visit. If you take into account the Atapuerca Man, who at over 800,000 years old is considered to be the oldest European, then Burgos could technically be considered the oldest city in Europe. The city's actual foundation comes some time in the late 9th century around the time of the Reconquista, becoming the capital of Castilla y Leon during the 11th century. Burgos flourished through the export of wool to Flanders during the 15th and 16th centuries however, by the 17th century this was in decline, primarily due to the political strife in Flanders and other towns and cities also exporting wool. As its fortunes declined Burgos settled into the role of provincial capital. Burgos has been on the pilgrim route from the very beginning and as I've said earlier it is a place well worth spending a day, if not more in before you start on your next stretch of the journey through the flat plains of the Meseta.

 

  The old part of the city with the remains of the old castle looking down onto the Gothic Catedral de Santa Maria, declared a World Heritage Site in 1984 and the impressive gateways leading into it from the river are well worth seeing. People who visit Burgos without doubt visit the cathedral. The building of the cathedral was  commissioned in the 11th century by the then King Fernando III and his German wife Beatrice of Swabia. The building of the cathedral was overseen by the English born Bishop Don Mauricio. The towers which dominate the skyline were designed and built by Hans of Cologne, bearing more than a passing resemblance to the great cathedral in Cologne. Many of the sculptures within the cathedral can be attributed to the father and son team of Gil and Diego de Siloé, natives of Burgos.

 

  The cathedral is vast with a number of different chapels but perhaps one of the most interesting is the Capilla de Santisimo Cristo de Burgos. Here, behind a pane of glass can be found the figure of a crucified Christ dating back to the 14th century. Nothing unusual in that, however this wooden figure is entirely covered in buffalo hide. It also appears to have a full head of real hair and is wearing a skirt. The arms and legs are also moveable. Directly opposite this chapel above the Capilla de Santa Tecla you will find another strange sight, that of Papamoscas. This is an automaton above a clock which opens and closes its mouth and strikes a bell on the hour, every hour. Also within the cathedral are buried the remains of Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, better known worldwide as El Cid, and his wife Doña Jimena. Their burial place, surprisingly, is marked simply by a paving slab.

 

  When you came into the city, if you followed the route down the Avenida General Sanjurio you will have probably already entered the old town across one of the two main bridges. The more eastern of the two, known as the Puente de San Pablo is guarded by an imposing statue of El Cid. The other bridge is the Puente de Santa Maria dominated by the magnificent Arco de Santa Maria, one of the original archways of the city's ancient walls. If you have an interest in Christopher Columbus make your way to the Casa de los Condestables. It is said that the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella received Columbus in one of the halls here after he returned from his second journey to the new world.

 

  For those of you who may have an interest in the Spanish civil war you may be interested in visiting the neo-gothic building called la Capitania. This building, still used by the army today, was used as the headquarters for the Nationalist Junta during the civil war and the façade still bears plaques to the memory of Generals Franco and Mola.

 

  Now leaving the old quarter there are a couple of religious buildings of particular merit that should be visited.

The first is the Monasterio de las Huelgas which is about 20 minutes walk from the old town. The monastery, founded by Eleanor wife of King Alfonso VIII of Spain and the daughter of English monarch Henry II and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, is still home to around 40 Cistercian nuns. Las Huelgas literally translated means “the reposes” and it was once a favourite place of retreat for the Castilian monarchs. The church was partitioned in the 16th century and a moving pulpit installed that would allow the Priest to address both the nuns and the general congregation at the same time. Also in the church you will find an unusual statue of Santiago holding a sword. You might say that there is nothing really unusual in that as there are hundreds of statues of Santiago as Santiago Matamoros depicting him with a sword in hand. The unusual thing about this statue is that the arms move. It is said that the statue was used in the coronation ceremonies of the Castilian kings. The coronation ceremony of the Castilian monarchs would involve them being knighted. Obviously, already being of the highest rank in the land there was no-one who could knight them, who better than the patron saint of Spain to perform this deed. Therefore statues of Santiago were made with moveable arms in order that they could be used to knight the monarchs.

 

  On the nun's side of the partition is the royal pantheon where you will find the ornate tombs of King Alfonso VIII and his wife Eleanor showing the heraldic arms of Castilla and England, King Enrique I and his wife Doña Berenguela, along with a number of other members of the Castilian royal family. Also in the grounds of the monastery can be found the Museo de Ricas Telas. This museum displays the remarkably well preserved clothing and jewellery found within the tombs when they were opened in 1942.

 

  The other monastery to visit is the Cartuja de Santa Maria de Miraflores. You can walk there but it takes around an hour from the centre of town and as you have already walked several kilometres it is recommended that you take a bus. The monastery was built on the site of a former hunting lodge used by King Enrique III. After his death his son King Juan II de Castilla decided to donate the lodge to a Franciscan order but it was a Carthusian community which eventually established itself here. Unfortunately in 1442 the building was destroyed by fire. The King ordered that it should be rebuilt but regrettably did not live to see it completed, dying in 1454. The King's daughter Isabella, who was to become one of Spain's most revered monarchs Reina Isabel la Catolica, took over the building project. Like the cathedral in Burgos, this building was designed in part by Hans of Cologne. There is another link to the cathedral to be found in the church, the elaborate star shaped tomb of King Juan of Castile and his wife Isabel of Portugal. The tomb was commissioned by their daughter Isabel and was carved by Gil Siloé. Also lying close by is the tomb of Alonso XII, Queen Isabel's brother, the heir to the throne, who died at the tender age of 14. His tomb was also carved by Gil Siloé.

 

  As mentioned before Burgos' most famous son Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, known the world over as El Cid, a name he never used in life, is buried within the cathedral. However, his horse Babieca is entombed in the Monasterio de San Pedro de Cardeña about 10 kilometres outside the city. This monastery is also where El Cid and his wife Jimena had originally been buried. Unfortunately during the Napoleonic wars their bones were stolen and taken to France. There is an ornate tomb in the 15th century church marking the spot were they had been buried. The bones were later reclaimed from the French and were interred in 1927 in the cathedral.

 

  El Cid

  Most of us will have at some time or other seen the 1961 film El Cid starring Charlton Heston as El Cid and Sophia Loren as his wife Jimena. This film immortalises him as one of the great heroes of Spain but in reality this is only partly true. Born Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar in 1043 he became friends with King Sancho II of Leon y Castilla, serving him until the King's assassination in 1072. He then served King Alfonso VI as a general but the relationship was not a happy one.

 

  To begin with Rodrigo believed Alfonso to have had a part in the previous king's assassination and made the king swear, before god, that he had nothing to do with the death of his brother at the church of Santa Gadea in Burgos. Their initial friendship ended when the king banished him following the battle of Cabra near Toledo. The king believed Rodrigo had taken it upon himself to attack the muslim stronghold, when actually he was defending himself. Whilst in exile Rodrigo became somewhat of a mercenary, fighting for the man who would pay the highest price. This included fighting for the muslim army with Almutamán, king of Zaragoza. He was eventually reconciled with King Alfonso VI in 1086 when the King sent him to protect the Castilian interests on the east coast around Valencia. This was around the time that the Almoravid invasion was beginning. With a combined Moorish and Christian army Rodrigo lay siege to Valencia in 1093, first in the July and August and then again at the end of the year, with the city finally surrendering to Rodrigo in June of 1094. It is also believed that it is around this time that Rodrigo receives the Arab title of Sidi (my lord) which subsequently becomes El Cid. The Almoravid army, angry at having lost Valencia to the Christians continued to apply pressure resulting in numerous battles, most of which were won by El Cid.

 

  It is now where the story of El Cid is mixed with fact and fiction. If you believe the story given in the film, the Almoravids again besiege the city of Valencia and it is during one of the skirmishes that El Cid receives a fatal wound by an arrow piercing his heart. Upon hearing that their hero has been wounded the Valencian troop's morale drops so despite dying during the night, the following morning Doña Jimena orders that El Cid be strapped to his horse Babieca to lead his troops to battle. That way morale would improve as the troops believed that he still lived.

 

  Another story tells that he actually died of natural causes. I know which one I would like to believe. Either way Valencia was taken by the Almoravids in 1102 but before the city was taken, Jimena with the help of Alfonso VII, abandoned the city along with her family and followers of El Cid. They took Rodrigo's mortal remains along with them to be buried, along with his horse, in the grounds of the Monasterio de San Pedro de Cardeña.

 

  If you really want to explore the city in some depth the tourist office can be found close to the cathedral. Like any large city there will be plenty of hotels, hostels, pensiones and albergues to choose from dependant upon your budget. There are also a large number of restuarants, bars, cafés etc.

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                                                         delhommeb at wanadoo.fr - 13/01/2014