Host, group leader, and now guest writer, Nancy Mead, has written a beautiful piece on her experience she had last month on our Easter on the Camino: Seville to Santiago (along the Via de la Plata), escorted multi day tour. To see her original blog post and many others on the Camino, please visit her blog, nancyelnorte.blog

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At last, after a two year delay, we are beginning our Easter on the Via de la Plata Tour. Over the next ten days, we will travel along the Via de la Plata route from Seville to Santiago.

This pilgrimage walk starts at a marker in the sidewalk outside of the Seville Cathedral. Pilgrims traditionally get their first credential stamp inside.

Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral
camino credentials
Camino Credentials

The Via de la Plata has erroneously been called the Silver Route by some people, including me. Scholars suggest several different explanations for its name, with supporting evidence going back before 1500.

One stems from the Arabic word al-balat- or “paved road” that could refer to a Roman Road which the Via follows.

Roman Road
Roman Road

Another thought is that the name comes from via Delapidate meaning “a road marked by milestones”, which was misheard so often as de la plata, that it eventually became known as such. There are many fine examples of milestones or “miliarios” on the route, some even with the Roman numeral milage inscribed in the stone.

Milestones or “miliarios”
Milestones or “miliarios”

Whatever the origin of its name, after the reconquest of Spain, the Via de La Plata became one of the Christian routes for pilgrims walking to Santiago to venerate the tomb of the apostle Saint James. It is a distance of 1000 kilometers ( 621.3 miles). To walk from Seville to Santiago takes about two months, and although it is not as popular as the Camino Frances, just over 9,000 people walked it in 2019.

Starting in Seville, our tour will work its way up the map from south to north stopping in Zafra, Mérida, Cáceres, Salamanca, taking a little detour to Braganza in Portugal, stopping in Ourense, and ending up in Santiago de Compostela.

We will have an opportunity to walk portions of the Camino and experience some of the spiritual, cultural and gastronomical highlights of this amazing route.

Our second trip to Spain in the past three months was easier than the February trip. An earlier flight allowed us more time to claim our baggage, check in a second time, and work our way through the various COVID checkpoints. The architecture in the Madrid airport never ceases to amaze me, even as getting from one place to another continues to baffle me.

Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas
Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas

The crowds waiting for the connecting train were non existent and the red COVID distance markers seemed like a reminder of past fears.

covid measures at Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas airport
COVID measures at Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas airport

The taxi ride from the airport into Seville was longer than usual, as already, the rites of Holy Week had begun. The streets were crowded and many were closed to traffic, but our driver persevered and we arrived at our hotel, the beautiful Vincci La Rábida.

Lobby of Vincci La Rábida, Seville
Lobby of Vincci La Rábida, Seville
Corral style halls of Vincci La Rábida, Seville
Corral style halls of Vincci La Rábida, Seville

Once checked into our rooms, we hit the ground running. Before we met our local guide for a tour of the Royal Alcázars, there was just enough time for a quick tapa and glass of wine on the roof top restaurant. At 3pm., every table was full of elegantly dressed locals and their children having lunch, a Maundy Thursday tradition.

Elegantly dressed locals, a Maundy Thursday tradition, Seville
Elegantly dressed locals, a Maundy Thursday tradition, Seville

Having met our guide, we walked through narrow streets and hidden plazas. We saw the ever present carriages, inactive today due to the crowds and street detours.

Seville corners
Seville corners
Plaza del Cabildo, Beautiful semi-circular building, Seville
Plaza del Cabildo, Beautiful semi-circular building, Seville
Horse drawn carriages, traditional Seviile
Horse drawn carriages, traditional Seville

Pious dress, distinctive head wear and unsettling clothing, plus ranks of chairs set up throughout the city, were a harbinger of what we would witness during the processions.

Outfits Seville Processions
Outfits Seville Processions
Costaleros Seville Processions
Costaleros Seville Processions
Band members Seville Processions
Band members Seville Processions
Ceremonial Pointed Hats, Seville Processions
Ceremonial Pointed Hats, Seville Processions
Chairs set up in front of the General Archive of the Indies, Seville
Chairs set up in front of the General Archive of the Indies, Seville

Our destination, the Royal Alcázar of Seville, is a compound of palaces dating back to the 10th century when the Caliph of Cordoba ordered a new government center to be built in this important port city.

Royal Alcázar of Seville, entry
Royal Alcázar of Seville, entry
Royal Alcázar of Seville, entry close up
Royal Alcázar of Seville, entry close up

Over the next centuries, new palaces were added and the complex became the hub of governmental and cultural Seville.

Royal Alcázar of Seville, inside
Royal Alcázar of Seville, inside
Royal Alcázar of Seville, details
Royal Alcázar of Seville, details
Royal Alcázar of Seville, tile work
Royal Alcázar of Seville, tile work

In 1248, after Seville was conquered by the Castilians, the Alcázar also became a Royal Palace. Kings Alfonso and Pedro I added their own Gothic and Mudéjar touches. Even today, the present King and Queen of Spain maintain apartments there.

Royal Alcázar of Seville, gardens
Royal Alcázar of Seville, gardens
Royal Alcázar of Seville, wooden ceiling & plasterwork
Royal Alcázar of Seville, wooden ceiling & plasterwork

Wooden ceilings and plasterwork were renovated and modified as each ruler left his mark on the buildings.

Royal Alcázar of Seville, ornate walls
Royal Alcázar of Seville, ornate walls
Royal Alcázar of Seville, stunning ceiling dome
Royal Alcázar of Seville, stunning ceiling dome

Gardens were lush. Fountains and ponds were numerous, reflecting the importance of both throughout the history of the Alcázar.

Royal Alcázar of Seville, fountains
Royal Alcázar of Seville, fountains
Royal Alcázar of Seville, Gardens
Royal Alcázar of Seville, Gardens

What we saw was breathtaking but paled in comparison to what we would see later tonight. Here is a preview.

Preview to Seville Processions
Preview to Seville Processions

To be continued. Stay tuned.

 

by Nancy Mead

 

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