Getting the pronunciation right is important in Spain.Complete non-understanding follows if you get the words wrong; especially the 'c' followed by an 'i' or an 'e'.This is pronounced as 'th' so Galicia becomes 'Galithia' and gracias is 'grathias'.It ca n be quite a mouthful!
So here we are in Galithia in the far north-west of Spain.It is frequently wet and quite cold.Reports of more southern parts of the country being warm and dry are a bit hard to believe here.The wet gives rise to green, green fields and lush growth everywhere.
After a night at Santa Cruz near the big town of A Coruna which we bypassed, we headed for the Costa da Morte, a rugged coastline of bays, cliffs, beaches and river inlets. Away from the main roads the villages are small but neat and tidy.In one village we barely made it through the narrow streets with only centimetres to spare on each side between the old stone buildings. Instead of the Asturian square buildings on supports, we now saw a completely different style of strange building on stilts. These were rectangular and with the walls all ventilated (many with a 1960s date on them and made of concrete breezeblock).Just about every house had one of these in the front yard.They had a cross on top and vermin proofing on top of the stilts.We imagined again that they were for food or crop storage, or maybe for drying food, though we saw one with the door wide open and the washing was hanging on lines inside!
On the way we passed a sign to a 'castro'. We parked and walked up a hill on a narrow dirt track to find a pre-Roman stone village.It is believed that Celtic people lived in northern Spain and this was a complete village of their round huts and defensive walls which had been occupied from about the 3rd century BCE to about the 2nd century CE.It had apparently been excavated in the 1920s - there was no-one else there... no tourist throngs or souvenir sellers!
On to the point on the map that is commonly believed to be the westernmost point of Europe: Cabo Finisterre, or Cabo Fisterra in Galician. It's fairly ordinary, though the lighthouse is quite impressive.The real most westerly point is Cabo de la Nave a bit to the north, but there is no road in so this one will have to do - as it does for many, many tourists, not the least number of which are the pilgrims who walk to Santiago de Compostella and then walk a bit further to here to end their journey.
Pilgrims were everywhere on the road doing this last stretch. Apparently it is customary to leave something behind, or burn something (like a smelly T-shirt) when you get here.Shoes in particular had been left on rocks, often only one of the pair.A fire was burning and some French women of more advanced age were burning their caps. Along with the other fuel in the fire from previous pilgrims, the smoke was quite acrid.
And so we headed further south. The landscape had changed from the high limestone cliffs to granite country with pink boulders tumbling into the sea.Eucalypt trees are a common feature being grown as cash crops here - sometimes hardly any native vegetation is to be seen; it might as well be an Australian landscape.But the tops of the hills attest to the prevailing weather here - massive wind turbines adorn the tops of the treeless heights.
But before heading in to see what all the pilgrims come to see, we spent the night at a campsite right on the beach: a chance indeed to don a swimming costume (the weather often clears up in the afternoon) and put a toe in the water.The Atlantic however is a touch chilly and a toe is all it got.