Our day three on the Vía de la Plata, from Villanueva de Campeán to Zamora was short and sweet, allowing plenty of time at the end of the day to explore the fabulous medieval town. Zamora is a city filled with many historic and beautiful churches. The castle on the top is the cherry on the sundae.
The destination of Zamora is fabulous, but the walk itself is perhaps the most boring of all as you will see from the photos below.
However softly we speak, God is so close to us that he can hear us; nor do we need wings to go in search of him, but merely to seek solitude and contemplate him within ourselves, without being surprised to find such a good Guest there. ~ San Juan de la Cruz, St John of the Cross, 16th Century Mystic
If ever there was a day for silence and solitude, this day was one, at least for me. If you seek an inward journey on your pilgrimage, the high meseta of central Spain is the place for it.
Here is our Google map of the day's journey. There are absolutely no towns nor services on the entire 19 kilometer walk. While you could easily walk this distance in 4-5 hours, if it is hot, fill your water reservoirs to the top! Hopefully you have sufficient snacks in your pack. If not, buy something at the Bar Vía de la Plata before you set off. Fruit like oranges is an awesome snack, killing two birds with one stone.
Not only is the distance short for this day, but it is all downhill as you can see, as well!
Our day began after leaving the Bar Vía de la Plata, where Ramón, the proprietor, opens the bar early, just for pilgrimage travelers, at 8:00 o'clock. For only about 2 Euros, our bellies were full of café con leche and tostada, and so were our packs, full of the food we had purchased from the vendor's truck in town the prior day.
Within meters of the bar, this lovely town placard shown here, greeted us.
This was to be the first of many we were to see on the Camino Fonseca, and showed the community's history and dedication to the Camino de Santiago, the "Root of Europe - Path for Peace." This was indeed, a lovely morning salutation as we paused to read it.
The morning was misty and fresh as we set out. At eight o'clock the sun was coming up quickly to warm the Earth.
The first Vía de la Plata pillar that greeted us, shown in the next photo, on the very north edge of town, ensured us we were on the correct path.
A few meters later, Norm walks by a second pillar, showing the way as straight ahead. I love the morning light across the meseta. For me it is so calming and hopeful as the dawn of a new day bursts forth!
The way is very well waymarked, so it would be quite difficult to get lost through this countryside, despite passing through many dirt intersections on the Vía de la Plata from Villanueva de Campeán to Zamora.
I could tell already that the day was to be hot, so I enjoyed the lingering mist in the fresh morning, for as long as I could.
The sunflowers and grains were already harvested by this time in October, but the grape harvest was in full swing. The hospitalero had warned us to keep the albergue locked at night, since the town was full of migrant workers harvesting the grapes.
We passed tractors and autos full of workers heading to the fields.
As you walk along these open fields, small structures catch your eye that looked to me like storage buildings of some sort. They did not look like they were currently being used.
Also the road was lined with wild rose bushes and its remaining fruit, the rosehips shown below.
Another interesting addition to the landscape was various types of wells, all round, some made of red brick like this one next to another structure, below, and another type of well, perhaps more recent, made of concrete, shown farther below.
At about 4.0 kilometers into the day, with the town of San Marcial clearly in the distance, instead of heading toward the town, the Camino directs you to turn right, at the waymark shown below. This direction also heads toward the power line shown in the photos to follow.
You could stay straight here to head into San Marcial, if you were in dire need of services, depending on your own day's journey. They have several bars and a grocery store. It wouldn't even be a detour, if after you reached town, you headed north on the ZA-305 which the Camino eventually joins farther ahead.
After turning right, come to the next intersection, in about 700 meters, at 4.7 km for the day. The next waymark pillar for the first time had an accompanying pilgrim's staff and gourd. This is a unique characteristic of the Vía de la Plata from Villanueva de Campeán to Zamora. There are several more to come.
After this pillar, it appears that there is a bit of an incline ahead, but instead, at about 5.0 kilometers, the Way directs you to the left, at this intersection shown next. Painted on the concrete waymark, but not visible in the photo, we saw "Zamora, 12 kilometers." Yes, that would be about right. Thank-you Camino Angel.
After the turn we spied our first of many concrete water reservoirs, mentioned above, scattered around the fields. Perhaps you can make out the yellow arrow on this one below.
After passing under the powerline, here is the long barren road ahead shown below, with a visible white pillar in the distance at the next turn. You can continue to see San Marcial on your left shoulder.
I hung back from the group today, as I voice journaled my experience. I was not into the group talk of the day, but preferred to stay behind, alone with my thoughts as the others marched on ahead of me. Once in a while my husband would slow down and look back to check up on me. It was comforting.
If I was looking for answers, none came. If I was seeking God, my head was too busy processing random thoughts.
You are at about 5.75 kilometers into the day when you reach this pillar at the next intersection, on the Vía de la Plata from Villanueva de Campeán to Zamora where you make a right turn.
After the turn, the road is open, hot and dry. You can see the church steeples of another town now, on your right shoulder, El Perdigón. There is a rise in the distance where you will walk towards.
At the top of the rise, the city of Zamora comes clearly into focus! When you arrive at a T-intersection, after 7.0 kilometers for the day, the concrete waymark below directs a turn to the left and announces that Zamora is 10 kilometers away.
In barely 100 meters, this lane comes to a T-intersection with the ZA-305, the paved road that joins the Camino from San Marcial. Take a right hand turn onto the pavement toward Zamora.
Fortunately, it is only a short kilometer or so later that the Camino leaves the road, to go back onto the farmer's lanes.
It is at about 8.2 kilometers on the Vía de la Plata from Villanueva de Campeán to Zamora that you reach the turnoff from the ZA-305, at this pillar. This is one of the last pillars of its kind, so take a long look or a photo! I caught up to the others here as they admired the pillar and the view.
The way ahead on the country lanes are once again a wonderful place for introspection. I continued seeking solitude.
The town of Entrala, with a prominent white tower, possibly a grain elevator or a water tower is visible on your right shoulder as you walk along through here (not pictured).
At about 8.5 kilometers into the day, come to this mojón, below, at an intersection. Zamora is ahead and the way is clearly downhill from here.
Another 1.5 kilometers onward, pass by this group of farm buildings. Some cyclists passed us through this area, our first pilgrims we had seen in awhile!
At 10.6 kilometers on the Vía de la Plata from Villanueva de Campeán to Zamora we came to this final staff and gourd pillar, shown below, where a group of French pilgrims were having their lunch. More humans! We would not see them again, as they were just completing a section that would end in Zamora. They had the luxury of completing small sections of the Silver Way at a time.
The pillar above marks the left turn shown below, onto the little bridge with the yellow arrow.
The diversion to the left is only about 300 meters before the Camino turns to the north (right) again, shown below. At this turn you now share the road with another trail system called the GR 14 or La Senda del Duero, but only until Zamora. Click on the link if you are curious about this trail.
Shortly after the turn above, you will see a separate red trail marker for the GR 14, with a 6 kilometer marking. This is a rough estimate of the remaining kilometers to go on your own Vía de la Plata from Villanueva de Campeán to Zamora.
At 11.8 kilometers we came to this monument, below, called El Brocal de las Promesas y Monolitos de las Tres Calzadas, meaning roughly, the "Curbstone of the Promises and the Monoliths of the Three Roads."
This monument, erected in 2009 by the Association of Friends of the Camino de Santiago de la Vía de la Plata de Zamora and the Ramos de Castro Foundation for the Study and Promotion of Man, commemorates the confluence of three Jacobean routes: the Via Mirandesa, a route of friendship and the Jewish path to freedom, the Vía de la Plata, symbolizing a meeting point for cultures in peace and the Vía de la Dalmacia, a reminder of a Muslim pilgrim's way to San Francisco.
Each of the three monoliths represents each Vía, with a separate inscription describing the significance of each. By the middle monolith is also a round structure that simulates a wishing well, where pilgrims may deposit stones as they make a wish.
Thus, the symbolism of the monument is to honor the Christian, Jewish and Muslim cultures who lived in this land in Peace for many, many years before the Christian Reconquest. These trails were established by the first Mozarabic pilgrims. Another reminder of the arabic connection that has never fully disappeared.
To read more about this important monument and the lovely inscription on each monolith, click here. You must use Google translate if you do not speak Spanish.
I wish I had known about this monument before we arrived, but we all buzzed right by it. I stopped just long enough to snap a photo of it as a landmark.
Between our desire to get to Zamora and out of the hot sun, the difficulty in deciphering the Spanish on each monolith and the disrepair the monument had fallen into, we failed to enrich our day with a wish and a meditative stop here. But now, you, dear pilgrim, will know and will not make our mistake.
I must also admit that I was caught up in the idea that I must keep up with the group as they all hurried onward. Part of my mental processing on this day was just how I felt about walking with a group. It was a toss-up. There were most certainly advantages and disadvantages.
If your goal is not to "get there," spend some moments in wonder and gratitude as you meander through this barren meseta of Spain, perhaps also seeking an inward journey.
It is at the monument, where you make a right hand turn to follow the Camino onward, following the well-waymarked Vía.
Shortly the road takes a bend toward the north, and you can see Zamora getting much closer. There is a railroad track to your right shoulder that you walk close to, but soon it takes a separate path.
At 13.7 kilometers, after noticing a large industrial park on your left, you cross this highway heading towards the outskirts of town. Fortunately, this industrial park is far removed from the Camino and you never do have to walk through it.
The red signposts of the GR 14, La Senda del Duero, in various formats come more frequently now, the closer you get to town. The one across the road says four kilometers to Zamora.
When I googled the municipal albergue in Zamora, it was 4.4 more kilometers from this intersection. Only another 54 minute walk. Good to know.
At 14.5 kilometers, the next mojón directs you to the right, and shortly after you walk by a large sheep farm. All those white spots in the photo below are sheep feeding at long troughs.
In about another 300 meters, you will come to this intersection, below with a sign that says, "Camino Particular." I have no idea what this was about, but follow it, as it is the way to go. And after the turn, it was so very nice to have a bit of shade.
At 16.2 kilometers, the dirt road finally ends and pavement begins at this cement factory.
At about 16.4 km, you cross the CL-527 highway, to see this Camino sign, below, leading you down the hill. The cathedral tower and rotunda are clearly in view.
The waymarking is very good coming into the city, with these large Camino signs giving you clear directions. There is also a red Senda del Duero sign claiming it is only 1.1 kilometers to Zamora from here.
After staying straight on at the last intersection, come to this next one in a few meters with a small roundabout. The large yellow building to the left in the photo, just after the roundabout is a bar, so if the timing is right for you, this is the very first one of the day that is directly along the Camino!
After you pass the bar, head straight down the hill for about 1/4 kilometer more, passing the landmark church, the Iglesia de San Frontis next.
At 17 kilometers, after negotiating this large roundabout on its right side, you come to the Douro River waterfront promenade, on the Vía de la Plata from Villanueva de Campeán to Zamora.
The promenade along the river is gorgeous and you get fantastic views of the fortified city, all the way along your walk. There is a pedestrian path above as well as below as you can see. But it is only the walk at the street level that brings you to the pedestrian bridge into the city proper, farther along, so we stayed on it.
In the photo below, you can see the cathedral complex, towering above the fortress walls. You can also see the vestiges of the old Roman bridge jutting out of the water. There are quaint aceñas or old water mills just behind the old bridge, that are not discernable in the photo. Keep an eye out for all these features.
Just before the pedestrian bridge, is a nice public water fountain. If you are going through, or are desperate for water, here is your opportunity.
At about 17.6 kilometers you come to the Puente de Piedra, the pedestrian footbridge, shown below. It was first built in the 13th century and was the main bridge into the city, by way of the Vía de la Plata.
The bridge was vastly improved in 1905, when two historic towers and all of the ornamentation was removed for easier access. Only the stones of the arches and piles are original, and yet they were also greatly retouched. There is a placard explaining this to you, in Spanish, and we paused to read the historic information that you will see throughout the city.
We crossed the historic bridge on the final steps on the Vía de la Plata from Villanueva de Campeán to Zamora.
For me, the view of the city from the pedestrian bridge was the best of all!
After crossing, come to this well-signposted intersection...
...and make an immediate right turn onto the Calle Puente, the "Bridge Street." Now it is time to finish your day with a short walk up the hill on the other side.
In less than 100 meters you come to the Plaza Santa Lucía and its church.
After admiring the plaza and perhaps catching your breath, keep heading up the hill and around to the right side of the same church, taking a left at the wall shown below and toward a small museum on the uphill side. The castle walls are before you as you can see in the photo. This renovated wall is the support for the beautiful look-out above, the Mirador Del Ramos Carrión (see farther below).
Keep climbing the hill on the Calle San Cipriano until you see this bright yellow building on your right, and the sign next to the door says "Albergue de Peregrinos." This is the albergue, but not the entrance. Follow the signs onward, taking a right toward the church steeple ahead of you, the Iglesia de San Cipriano.
The Albergue de Peregrinos de Zamora entrance is shown below, seen on your right, immediately before the church building. Look for the white, Vía de la Plata pillar to the left of the door, that didn't make it into the photo below. This is where I turned off my GPS for the day.
It is posted that it opens at 2:30, but in our experience they opened before that.
The albergue is in an amazing, historic building, built right into the wall of the city. It is a donativo, so please give generously to this fantastic, accommodating and well-equipped place.
It has at least 32 beds in various room configurations of 16, 8, 4 and 4. The hospitaleros state they can open even more rooms if needed. They supply real sheets, soap in the bathrooms and for clothes washing. There is a lovely, well-stocked kitchen in the basement, with a community breakfast available in the adjacent dining room, also for a donation.
By the church next door to the albergue, the Iglesia de San Cipriano, lies a passageway leading to a lookout, the Mirador Del Ramos Carrión shown below. It is a gorgeous place, looking out over the river, not visible in the photo, but to the left of the church, where you can sit and contemplate life and the meaning of your Camino.
This is where we waited for the albergue to open, when we arrived around 1:00 in the afternoon.
The albergue is centrally located between the Plaza Mayor to the east, and the historic attractions a short walk to the west. There are tiendas and cafés just down the street.
There are many, many places to stay in Zamora, as you might expect. Click the link for current deals on booking.com. Thank you for your support. There are not a lot of economical places to stay in Zamora, unless you are willing to stay on the outskirts of town.
Near the center, not far from the albergue is a nice-looking home called the Casa de Paz, that sleeps up to four. Also nearby is the Hotel Hosteria Real Zamora and the La Casa de Viriato, available for two nights minimum, if you have 3-4 people.
I was surprised with the numbers of pilgrims that showed up at the albergue, when it felt like the Camino was most deserted. After cleaning up and doing our laundry, we headed out to the main plaza for a bite to eat and a beer, in the afternoon.
The Plaza Mayor is lined with cafés as you might expect. The Iglesia de San Juan Bautista dominates the plaza, shown below.
There is so very much to see in Zamora. After our break, we decided to explore the rest of town, the castle and the churches.
After our extensive tour of the town, we cooked a meal together in the albergue and fell into bed early, completely exhausted. I did not measure the additional steps we took exploring town, but a good guess would be somewhere between 3-4 more kilometers. Not so short a day afterall.
I was happy to have this day as a short one, as the town of Zamora deserves at least a day or more of exploration, if you have the time.
As I alluded above, I was growing a bit weary of the group walking, only three days into the Camino Fonseca. I wasn't sure how much of my attitude was also because I was growing weary of the monotonous landscape. My husband and I had completed an additional five days beforehand on the Camino Teresiano, across more of the high meseta. This would bring the count up to eight days.
I did long for mountains, cooler days and more interesting landmarks, that was for sure.
Whatever the reason, I was happy to seek some solitude on my walk on this day on the Vía de la Plata from Villanueva de Campeán to Zamora. My musings filled my head and allowed for precious little emptiness. Whether or not I experienced Presence, if only for brief moments, my desire was there and it was always waiting for me. And so it is.
May your own day three on the Vía de la Plata from Villanueva de Campeán to Zamora be filled with listening to your own still, small voice, through seeking solitude and Presence on the lonely, high plateaus of central Spain. Ultreia!
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