Day 16 – Ventosa to Nájera

Walked today: 6.8 miles

Walked Camino 2019: 110.9 miles

A dry, 56F morning was perfect for our walk to Nájera. All went well for the first mile or so, on a level dirt path winding through one vineyard after another… until we were abruptly confronted by this:

Rough footing.,,
… and uphill

… and large loose stones are hazardous to foot health

Fortunately, it was only about a 10 floor hill and we were rewarded with a nice view at the top.

Nájera off in the distance, right of center

A relatively easy downhill path continued for several miles with vineyards surrounding us all the way.

Vineyards left and right

Vineyards all around

The hill with the tower in the upper left corner is known as “El Poyo del Roldán” or Roldán’s Hill. It is here that Roldán (Spanish), Roland (French) was established as the greatest knight of Christianity.

The story of Roland and Ferragut closely mimics the story of David and Goliath; Ferragut is even described as a descendant of Goliath. The story goes that the giant Ferragut was sent along with 20,000 soldiers from Turkey to fight against Charlemagne’s army. Ferragut came out from Nájera, challenging any of the opposition to fight him one-on-one. Many tried and failed. Finally, Roland insisted on having his turn and fought with the giant for three days. In between spurts of fighting the two conversed about their respective faiths, and Ferragut revealed that his one weak place (his Achille’s heel if you will) was his belly button. A final battle ensued, having both agreed that the winner would be the one espousing the true faith. Ferragut tried to fall on Roland to crush him to death, but Roland stabbed him in the belly and won.

Sign at the base of Poyo de Roldán with local version of legend

As we approached the outskirts of Nájera (pop. 8452) we passed through industrial areas that seemed to be co-exiting well with the persistent vineyards.

industry and vineyards

Just as we entered town, we stopped for breakfast.

Coming into Nájera

Nice bar specialized in tapas, we stuck with our usual

We walked through Downtown Nájera
Crossed the bridge
into the old section of the city
looking down Calle Mayor (Main Street)

Having dos mas (two more) cafe con leche while waiting for Pension to open.

We checked in to our room in Pencion Calle Mayor (30€) at noon after having lunch and immediately went through our daily routine.

Our double room at Pencion Calle Mayor (shared bathroom)

Jim ventured out into the city looking for an ATM to replenish our supply of Euros and had to cross over the bridge to eventually find one, after retracing our steps of this morning.

Interesting pasta bowls… something to look for back home

Next we had a pasta dinner at a riverside bar/restaurant and wandered around a bit on our way back to our room.

We stopped by the Monasterio de Santa María la Real which contains the 11th-century church built by King Garcia III after a most unusual hunting trip in 1044. The story goes that as Garcia hunted partridge along the riverbank, his falcon flew into a nearby cave. Garcia followed and was amazed to find a beautiful statue of the virgin with a vase of fresh lilies and a burning oil lamp.

Visiting hours were over, but here is photo of Virgin statue in the cave.

King Garcia saw this as a blessing on the Reconquista, and used some of the money he plundered from the Moors to build a church here for the icon. The Virgin statue is still resting in the original cave, the original church built around it. Little remains of the original church except for the area around the cave. The statue originally wore a crown of jewels, which was later stolen and divided; the Black Prince Ruby made its way to England’s coronation crown!

From outside the current church, after destruction and restorations over the centuries, you can still see where the remains of the original church merges with the cave in the mountain side.

Cliffside, original church remains and wall of current church
The current church attached to the Monastery

Main entrance to current church

We made our way back to our room, finished today’s blog entry, then called it a day.

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