Sunday, November 18, 2012

Ancient Monasteries, Steak not Lamb, and Plenty of Rain

One of my hobbies is bookbinding-- the old craft of binding books. I've been at it for about 10 years, but others in my group like Javi have been doing it for 20 or more. Pablo, our "maestro", was able to pull some strings and get us into the libraries at two different monasteries in Burgos Province, in Castilla-León (Spain). The first was to a visit at 10:00 am to Father Norberto at the Monastery of Silos, in Santo Domingo de Silos, the second was after lunch, at 4:00 pm, to see Father Jesús at the Royal Monastery of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, in Caleruenga.
There were five of us on the 3-hour journey. Four went by car and I on my Royal Enfield Bullet, La Balita Roja.
When we set out at the ungodly hour of 6:30 am, it was dark and raining. It took me forever to fumble with gear, keys, iphone, etc. but just before 7:00 am I was on the road. The rain doesn't bother me too much (except that I can't lean much into the curves) so I was happy enough riding, and it wasn't too cold. At 1440 m above sea level, the Somosierra Mountain Pass was cold and dark and very foggy, and proved a challenge to climb on the Balita's 28 hp engine. But we managed, and the day began to dawn on descent on the far side of the pass so I could enjoy the autumn scenery at least.

We met up again at km 158, the turnoff right before Aranda del Duero, an excellent red wine region and very famous for its roast lamb cooked slowly in a brick wood-fired oven.

From here I took a wrong turn in a roundabout and ended up some 50 km away before I realized. When I got to the monastery in Silos they were already inside.
Behind the Monastery in Santo Domingo de Silos

Pouring over old books is hungry work.
Morcilla de Burgos, a delicious local blood sausage
We found a bar and got some tortilla and some blood sausage, both very nice. We were the only customers frequenting the place, but when we asked the guy "Could you please turn off the TV?" He replied with a curt "No". But he did consent to change the channel to a Spain's Got Talent imitation. Great.

There was a nice-looking convent near town, so we stopped for a look:

Inside it's a hotel with a nice modern bar, but the chapel has been gutted and now only houses a grand piano for some reason.

Still early for lunch, Catherine decided to try to pull off this big mushroom thing from a tree, but didn't succeed.
Defeated by a Fungus

The grey sky rained on and off all day, stopping for only a few minutes before the drizzle began again. I had all my waterproof gear on except my boots. Next time, take the waterproof biker boots, dummy!
We had lunch in the town of Caleruenga, at the only restaurant serving food. They did not have lamb, though, only if you order it a day in advance.
A Local Red (Ribera del Duero), very smooth but full

Entrecot done rare


 A stroll back up the hill through the ancient town.

Purple Trees and Elena & Javi

The square at the top of Caleruenga was lovely, with the church, the bar, the monastery. What more does one need?

Father Jesús, of the Dominican order, was a very nice old man. It turns out that Saint Dominic, founder of the order, was born in that castle (his mother's, Juana de Aza) way back in 1170 AD.

Jesús showed us lots of books from their old collection, and let us handle them as we pleased as he told stories about them.

Pablo Cano with Father Jesús, librarian of the Dominicans

Notice the thick and thin raised bands

Night fell. It was  time to drive back. Father Jesús extended us the hospitality of the Dominican friars and bid us stay the night (they have visitor's rooms available in the front wing, very comfortable and clean--I hope to take him up on it another day).
The drive back was uneventful, another 3 hours of driving in intermittent rain and fog. The Balita Roja was a muddy mess when I got home but all that washes off and today she's gleaming anew, with a new coat of carnauba wax to boot.
Ciao, Caleruega!

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