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Thursday, 25 October 2012

Valencia to Silla - Camino Levante route

Well the big day finally arrived for starting the walk with the mala from Robertson South Africa and for Michael to do his first leg of El Camino.  We arrived in Valencia at just after 08.30 (the dawn only arriving just after 08.00) on a drizzly and overcast day.  We arrived at the Cathedral which was open for morning services and quietly entered the huge entrance doors.   All was silent except for the service and there was restoration work being carried out at the entrance to the Grail area.  Michael took his Credencial to see if there was anyone who might be able to stamp it and an elderly gentleman with an office in the depths of the cathedral was more than happy to oblige.  By this time the drizzle had stopped and the sky was a little brighter.  We took some moments to capture on camera the departure point of the beads. 

The journey begins with the first 4 beads, threaded by Mariano and accompanied by his very appropriate words to start us off:  "Safe Journey - surrender - just do it"

Me with the Robertson Mala outside the doors of the
Cathedral - Valencia
The pictures I think say it all - a momentous occasion.  Michael with his stamped Credencial and me outside the impressive Cathedral doors and carved entrance.  I have never been here at this time before and usually there are many visitors making their way in to take an audio tour.  We had the front of the Cathedral all to ourselves!

Photos taken, we headed off along the Calle San Vicente Mártir and through the city toward today's destination, Silla.  The yellow arrows were soon to be discovered and there were many newly stenciled ones next to the older faded ones along the streets, on lamp posts and on curbstones.  

We had to capture Michael finding his first arrow!  For this he was "allowed to pose"!  The route heads out of Valencia passing a statue of El Cid and also the old hospital and monastery of San Vicente Mártir.  The buildings are beautiful and of course very old and currently are undergoing a lot of restoration.  It's nice to see that Spain seems to care so much for its national monuments and that there are skilled workers putting the buildings back to how they once were.  Many of the buildings on this route are clad in scaffolding so it was not possible to take pictures of them as they remained hidden.  The 15th Century stone cross known as the Cruz Cubierta which marks the edge of the city was one such monument, reminding me of the lovely old wayside cross I had passed outside of Algamesí.

Church on Plaza de San Agustín, which is the image of the
Virgen de Gracia - carved (according to legend)
by a pilgrim
El Cid in the Plaza de España

We had not gone far this morning before it was almost 10.15, having left late from the Cathedral, so after the city boundary and almost in Alfafar, we mopped the raindrops off a bench and had some breakfast - minus a dog today.  From here we could see the first scallop shell of the day and the first one of Michael's Camino and what a beautiful tile - it had El Camino de Santiago written on the border!   

I had expected today to be a very city based and had expected much of the walk to pass through industrial estates on the outskirts of each of the towns.  However, we had a pleasant surprise as we actually passed through a number of green areas and even followed a couple of dirt tracks.  The most amazing sights of the morning were both next to the railway entering Alfafar, one was an enormous green field of flat leafed parsley being harvested and the other was a kind of "field of cats" which on seeing us all ran out to greet us!  The most strange experience, but it must be down to someone feeding them and them assuming we too might come bearing gifts! 
Harvesting perejil - just outside Alfafar

Alfafar is Arabic in origin and comes from the words Al Hofra - according to the Pilgrim guide to the Camino Levante - meaning a deep place full of trenches or holes!  A clearer explanation of this is given on the Alfafar Ayuntamiento site (copied below).  You'll have to forgive Google's quirky translation!  For the original go to:

It is a lovely little town, with a beautiful square and church and the most delicious coffee and cakes at the pasteleria in the main square and to the left of the Ayuntamiento as you enter on the route.

Alfafar was once a Muslim farmhouse. The name comes from the Arabic "Al Hofra" deep meaning place of holes or Village Square from the Belfry. 1921.pits. These graves have been found in fairly recent times in the process of carrying out various works in the center of town. In one corner of the square galleries Pais Valencia appeared at a depth of four to five meters, in which were found several pieces of pottery believed to date from the ninth or tenth centuries
The name Al Hofra was becoming successively by corruption and speak in Alfolfar, and the current Alfofar Alfafar.En the "Book of the Repartiment" of James I, no record of donations in June 1238-before Conquest of Valencia that was conducted in October-houses and lands, people from his hosts in "Alqueriam d'Alfofar." In January 1347 the King Pedro IV Ceremonious donates all lands to Don Pedro Boil, principal gentleman of this United, of all lands, making Lordship in his favor on February 14, 1363, and his family held until the disappearance of the feudal system in 1812. Although few remaining old buildings, it is assumed that these people ran the Via Augusta, and that there was an ancient center of population engaged in agriculture and fisheries, due to the proximity of the lake Albufera.

The town apparently has a special stamp for pilgrim credenciales and we asked in the ayuntamiento for our stamps.  They were delighted and, as in each place so far, knew what we were going to ask as soon as they saw the passport.  The stamp however looks like a normal one for the town hall and not a specific pilgrim stamp - but that was fine, the smiles on the faces of the ladies at the desk was worth more than the stamp, they were so cheerful and welcoming to us.

The beautiful square in Afafar with
the pretty church at one end and
the ayuntamiento opposite
From Alfafar we headed on toward Massanassa, another town taking its name from its Arabic origins - coming from the word Manzil - meaning hostelry or inn.

Field of cats!

According to the website of the local government of Massanassa, the history runs as follows:
Massanassa is a town located in the region of "South Horta". Its origin is found in the Muslim era. The first documentary we have our people back to some verses of the poet Ibn al - Abbar, (1199 - 1260) where he laments the loss of Muslim Valencia against the troops of King James I the Conqueror, in 1238. In these verses call our population as Manzil Nasr Nasr meaning farmhouse and then a group of houses designated as an agricultural center.

The following statements refer to as Massanassa Christian period and are in the "Book of Distribution", which we know is a record of the donations made by King James I conquered lands, written probably between 1237 and 1252.

Tile detail on the
Church in Alfafar
Before the occupation of the city during the siege of Valencia and the same, King Conquistador repartix lands and houses to help him in this war, and thus appears mentioned in our population between donations made.

Specifically, on March 16, 1238, Martin gives "3 jovates farmhouse in Massanassa." On May 15, gives "Fray Mateo Commander of the Order of Calatrava, Farmhouse Massanassa with mills and bakeries." Day 13 We leave in August of hope: "8 jovates in Massanassa" and 23 March Fray Gerald Prado, commander of Alfama, "30 jovates in Massanassa."

These two texts, the poem of Ibn-Abbar and the "Distribution", confirms that Massanassa was in the first half of the thirteenth century a farmhouse with some beauty and body.

Christians are their first masters of the Order of Calatrava, who had also Bétera peoples, Xirivella, Massamagrell and Castell de Castells.

Another document, this of 1278, we reported some early Christian settlers Massanassa, citing their names and allowing us to watch for the first time in detail, as was our nation 700 years ago. Probably had a central village, where he lived most of his neighbors and surroundings, cultivated both rainfed and irrigated. The crops are traditional at the time, cereals and vines, some orchards and olive grove area.

For more information and the original text check out

The best coffee and cakes!  The people next to us
all started chatting about the camino and discussing
what we were doing after we sat down.
From Massanassa we headed into Catarroja where the traveler has to be a little alert!  The guide book takes us up the Calle Calvarí and around to the church of San Miguel.  The map also follows this route, but there is no sign for the left turn onto Salvador Pechuán but the municipal market (mentioned in the guide book and where you turn left onto Salvador Pechuán) is obvious and "Municipal Market" is written on the tiles above the main door.  There are no yellow arrows are markers here, although it is not too difficult to track the street names after the market.  The reason that there are no arrows becomes apparent when you reach the underpass that takes you under the railway - they have been drawn straight along the road you first come in on - the Ronda de'Est.  It cuts out winding through the town and is more direct but nowhere near as attractive.   From Catarroja we started to enter the industrial area, interesting in its own way but not quite so pleasing on the eye.  Here we encountered a few more drops of rain, but today we were so lucky and really only encountered these few rain drops just before we arrived in Silla.  We finished our breakfast/come lunch snack on a wall of the industrial area (we were not going to find a nice park bench here) although there was the most amazing little bar in a lovely building right in the middle of the industrial estate!  It was quite astonishing, in England or RSA this might have been a roadside caravan or boerewors stand but not an actual restaurant and bar!

There were still factories and warehouses in operation but there were also a number of empty buildings.  One of which sported an airy outside privvy - just in case a pilgrim gets caught short???

Finally entering Silla the route brought us into the square with the ayuntamiento and police station.  Just as in Xàtiva the police seemed delighted to stamp our passports and the best part - they really DID have a special pilgrim stamp and they were the first to actually date the passport!  We celebrated our collection of sellos, Michael's first 15km and the completion of my first section (77km) with an ice cold beer opposite the church of Nuestra Señora de los Angeles.  Both it and the ayuntamiento with its moorish tower can be visited.

Outside the church
of Nuestra Señora de los Angeles 

The photo with the flags was taken outside the police station - they have the most amazing "lion mask" outside - which reminded me of the movie "Roman Holiday"!  You can just about make it out on the photo.  I had to take a picture as the police were so friendly and had a special pilgrim sello!

Today's sellos - Alfafar and the special Silla police
stamp for peregrinos on the Camí de Santiago

 Ice cold beer celebrating the start of Michael's camino and his first 15km and the completion of my first section - 77km, Valencia to Canals.  Saturday will be Canals to Moixent - 20km and the first "two dog day"!

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