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.
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.
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.
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.
The crowds waiting for the connecting train were non existent and the red covid distance markers seemed like a reminder of past fears.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 governent center to be built in this important port city.
Over the next centuries, new palaces were added and the complex became the hub of governmental and cultural Seville.
In 1248, after Seville was conquered by the Castillians, 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 appartments there.
Wooden ceilings and plasterwork were renovated and modified as each ruler left his mark on the buildings.
Gardens were lush. Fountains and ponds were numerous, reflecting the importance of both throughout the history of the Alcázar.
What we saw was breathtaking but paled in comparison to what we would see later tonight. Here is a preview.
To be continued. Stay tuned.