de Santiago / French Way : 26. El Acebo - Ponferrada
you leave El Acebo you pass the local cemetery
where you will see a sculpture of a bicycle. This
was placed here in memory of a German pilgrim named
Heinrich Krause, who sadly died in 1987 of a heart
attack at the age of 70 just outside el Acebo on
his way to Santiago. Passing the sculpture keep
walking down the path towards Riego de Ambrós.
Riego de Ambrós there is a single albergue,
a pension and a hostal. A restaurant in the village
offers a pilgrim menu and you can get some food
at the café too.
all the way through the village descending all the
time and follow the track that takes you through
a chestnut wood and join the road that leads
into the village of Molinaseca. Just as you
enter the town, before you cross the bridge, is
the 17th century Santuario de Nuestra Señora
de las Angustias which has been built partly
into the cliff.
past the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de las Angustias
and over the Río Maruelo via the medieval Puente
de los Peregrinos. Molinaseca’s location
has over the centuries attracted the nobility and
it is said that Doña Urraca, the 11th century Queen
of Castilla y León and Galicia once lived here.
Many of the houses in the village are emblazoned
with the elaborate coats of arms of the various
noble families that once resided here. In terms
of its importance regarding the Camino de Santiago
it once boasted 4 pilgrim hospitals but nothing
remains of these. The Calle Real is the main
street through the town and it is here where most
of the noble’s houses can be found.
street also has a number of channels running down
it which were used to clean the streets. These channels
led to a new fiesta being devised in the early 1950’s,
which is now celebrated on the 16th and 17th August
every year. In 1954 a couple were celebrating their
wedding and some of their guests decided that they
wanted to have a bit of fun so they decided to open
the sluice gates a little bit, like the villagers
did when they wanted to clean the streets. The water
came down the channels and the guests started to
throw water over each other and great fun was had
by all. They repeated this the following year and
after a while it became a tradition. The day begins
at 3 pm with a wander round the bars of the village
followed by a chocolatada, a gathering where hot
chocolate is served, at the local school at 8pm.
At 9 pm the sluice gates are opened and water pours
down the channels and then the real fun begins.
terms of accommodation there are a couple of albergues
and 4 hostals as well as a number of places where
you can stop to eat or to have a drink.
Molinaseca by following the main street, Calle
Real, until it becomes the main road, taking a right
turn after you pass the tennis courts and down a
path which runs parallel to the main road. You will
meet up again with the main road at the top of a
hill where you have a choice of routes.
route, the right hand one, follows the busy road
all the way to Ponferrada and is slightly shorter
than the left hand route. The alternative path takes
you through the village of Campo and is slightly
longer but you are away from the traffic. Directions
for both routes are below.
road route. At the top of the hill keep walking
ahead for about 1.5 kilometres where you take a
right bend past a furniture warehouse and then cross
over the bridge spanning the Rio Boeza. Shortly
you will take a slight left bend and walk down a
path that leads you to a bridge over the railway
line, passing a cemetery before you reach an albergue
and the town of Ponferrada.
off road route via Campo. At the top of the
hill take the left hand route following a minor
road for approximately 1.5 kilometres until you
reach the village of Campo.
village is now a suburb of Ponferraba and is locally
known as Campo de Ponferrada but the village
itself has been here for many years, probably
dating back to when the Celts lived in the area.
It is believed to have originally been called El
Castro. The romans settled here as can be seen by
the remains of a Roman fountain. During the Middle
Ages, before the Spanish inquisition, this area
was known as Ponferrada’s Jewish quarter. Then as
now the Calle Real or main street forms part of
the Camino Frances but there are no albergues or
places to stay, these disappeared some time in the
early 20th century. There is however a café/bar
where you can get something to drink.
down Calle Real and take the left hand of 2 roads
down a gravelled path. This path will eventually
turn into a tarmacked path passing some slightly
unsightly buildings including a slaughterhouse and
a rather smelly rubbish tip. A little further on
you take a left at a sign saying Los Barrios and
shortly after cross the medieval Puente Mascarón
spanning the Rio Boeza and enter Ponferrada.
city map (Rabe) -
city map (Pombo)
has been around since Celtic times and grew in importance
and prosperity during the Roman occupation because
of the gold mines in the El Bierzo region, then
it was known as Interamnium Flavium. In the Middle
Ages it became known as Puebla de San Pedro named
after its church and became a major stopping point
along the Camino de Santiago. However, getting to
the village across the river, which had been set
up by Fernando III the king of León, was no mean
feat so towards the end of the 11th century Obispo
Osmudo, Bishop of Astorga orders a bridge to be
built making the Camino easier for the pilgrims.
Unlike many bridges of this time which were usually
constructed out of stone, this bridge was constructed
from iron or ferro as it is called in Spanish. This
bridge became known as the Pons-Ferrata (iron bridge)
and it was this that eventually gave the city its
modern day name of Ponferrada.
Knights Templar began to settle in the region
during the 12th century and the town of Ponferrada
was given over to the Knights by King Alfonso IX
with the mandate that they protect the pilgrims
who were walking the Camino de Santiago through
León. The Knights began to construct el Castillo
de los Templarios over the remains of a Roman
fortress and completed it in the late 13th century.
The current castle was extended during the 15th
century and further alterations were done in the
19th and 20th centuries.
visiting whilst you are here is the Basilica
de Santa Maria de la Encina. The church was
built in the late 16th century and houses the statue
of la Virgen de la Encina from whom the church gets
its name. Legend has is that in the middle of the
5th century Santo Toribio de Liébana visited Jerusalem
and brought back with him a number of relics, amongst
them a statue of the Virgin Mary. This statue stayed
for a number of years in Astorga but during the
wars with the Moors the relics were hidden in various
places to avoid them being plundered by the Saracens.
During the Reconquista many of the relics were recovered
but the statue of the Virgin disappeared for many
1178 the Knights Templar came to Ponferrada and
built their castle. One fine day the man in charge
of felling trees in the nearby forest saw a bright
light emanating from the forest. He made his way
towards the light and as he approached its location
he saw that it was coming from the opening in the
trunk of a holm oak tree. On closer inspection he
found that inside the oak was the statue of the
Virgin that had disappeared so many years before.
He brought it back to the castle and from then on
the Virgin has been known as la Virgen de la Encina
or the Virgin of the Holm Oak.
Royal Prison or Real Cárcel is worth visiting too
as it now houses the museum el Museo del Bierzo.
The building dates from the late 16th century and
has at one time been a judge’s house, a prison,
hence its name, and the original council offices.
The building underwent a total remodel in the late
18th century and following restoration in the mid
1990’s it became the town’s museum. For anyone who
has an interest in weaving and its traditions there
is plenty to see here including some old looms.
is so much beautiful architecture and history to
see in Ponferrada that it would be worth spending
a whole day here before the arduous trek across
the mountains into Galicia.
accommodation there is the albergue which you passed
as you entered Ponferrada but there are also a number
of hostals where you can stay. Because of the size
of the city there are all the usual amenities such
as restaurants, bars and cafés as well as banks
if you need to withdraw any money.
à CF description
at wanadoo.fr - 10/01/2014