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An autumnal Camino Soriano

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
I walked the Camino Castellano-Aragonés (or Soriano) last autumn, from Gallur on the Camino del Ebro to Santo Domingo de Silos on the Ruta de la Lana. It was 10 days of almost continuous delight. It is possibly not one for those who need a "camino family", as I saw no other pilgrims.

Although only about 50 people a year walk it now, it is a genuine ancient camino de Santiago, with the ruins of pilgrim hospitals etc, more or less parallel with the Francés. Part of the track goes along the Roman road that linked two of Augustus' settlements, Zaragoza and Astorga.

Day 1: Gallur to Borja

Gallur has an excellent albergue in the former railway station. It's not a bad place for a meal either, certainly better than most of the places I checked out in the town centre. I took a few wrong turns getting out of Gallur and crossing the motorway, adding about 5km to what should have been a 25km day. A third of the way is Magallón, a pleasant place to stop for coffee. Beyond that I got a bit buffetted by the cierzo wind, which is credited with giving extra flavour to the DOC Borja wine, but is unpleasant to walk into (as a general rule, for a wind to get given a name usually means it is not a refreshing breeze wafting you on your way).

I had lunch in the excellent (Michelin bib gourmand) La Bóveda del Mercado, where the menú del día (?14€) included a bottle of the local wine, which warmed me up after the wind. I stayed in the Peñas de Herrera pensión, about 5 minutes walk from the centre of town. It was fine and, I think, 20€. I expect there are better places, but I've stayed in far worse.

Borja is a handsome town, apparently not proud of its most famous (or infamous) descendants - in fact, San Francisco de Borja was the only Borgia commemorated in its street names.

Day 2: Borja to Tarazona

A great day, with about half spent in the first proper uplands of the camino. About 4km from Borja is the santuario de la Misericordia, home of the famously botched Ecce Homo, which an over-enthusiastic local amateur attempted to "restore", with disasterous, but quite funny, results. I had been planning to stay at the youth hostel here, but they never answered my repeated calls the previous afternoon, so I assume they were closed. It certainly looked it when I walked past at about 9am (and no coffee either). Above the santuario is an interesting unusual small 16th century cylindrical chapel of Calvario.

After the Calvario the road went past various wind farm etc and no other settlements for the next 24km to Tarazona. It was very lovely and very empty. I think I went a bit wrong and saw no arrows for many km, but as you can see Tarazona in the distance from way off, and there are loads of agricultural paths, there is no danger of getting seriously lost (mundicamino says I should have gone via a hamlet called El Buste and taken 27.4km, my track took me 27.9, according to wikiloc, and I think involved much less tarmac than the El Buste way).

Tarazona is a fine place, with a judería, an amazing basilica in a jumble of styles, 18th century octagonal plaza de toros of arcaded houses, and a channelled fast flowing river bisecting the town. I had an excellent menú del día (10€) in the heaving El Galeón, not far from the turismo. At the suggestion of the helpful people in the turismo, I tried getting a bed in the huge Seminario Diocesano, but nobody answered the phone, so I checked into the Hostal Santa Agueda, very close to the town centre. It was, I think, 35€ B&B, I'd guess 2-3 stars - they take a scan of your thumb print and that acts as your outside door "key", which I've never come across before. A decent breakfast from 8am (this was just before the clocks change, so it was still dark until 8.30).

Day 3: Tarazona to Ágreda

This was an almost perfect day, certainly from the reservoir onwards (about 7km in). It's only about 24km, but the 17 from the reservoir are through green tunnels, steadily rising (although only 500m of ascent all day) towards the uplands, with a babbling river and occasional waterfalls to keep you company, before you emerge above the tree line and into the Sorian highlands, where you are greeted by eagles.

Ágreda is a little bit sad, but has many remains that show the shade of that which once was great, and how the three children of the book once co-existed here harmoniously. The arab Medina, the judería and synagogue, the church where Jaume I married Eleanor of Castille in 1221, renaissance palaces, moorish gardens, romanesque, mudéjar and baroque churches, ancient defensive walls, and all in a town which now has a population of 3000. I suspect most people with any "get up and go" got up and went 100 years ago, leaving the less bright to stay and intermarry - I've never seen so many people under 5' 2" anywhere else in Europe.

The turismo was closed and I couldn't get an answer from the parish priest, who allegedly puts up pilgrims, so stayed in the hostal/restaurant attached to the local petrol station (20€). I also had lunch there, as I'd spent so long ambling around town looking at stuff that nowhere else was open by 4pm. It was fine, but I expect there are better options for people who like to book ahead.

More follows
 
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SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999, now living in Santiago de C
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Santiago - Muxia 2019

Now: http://egeria.house/
Sigh. So many caminos, so little time! Thanks for posting this. Buen Camino, SY
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
Day 4: Ágreda to Pozalmoro

Stupidly, this is not what I did, but would do (will do, I hope), spending the morning enjoying more of Ágreda's treasures, rather than leaving before dawn and getting to Soria long after dusk, somewhat knackered. It is 59km from Ágreda to Soria. Pozalmoro is 20km, and has acogida in the old school house, and there is a very nice bar (which will sort out the acogida for you). I walked on to Fuensaúco, from where it is possible to take a bus the last 13km on to Soria. Thee are no shops and only one bar between Ágreda and the outskirts of Soria, so stocking up on emergency rations is a good idea (I always carry some raisins, cheese and fuet - not a balanced diet, but enough calories to get one through a day or two). Bécquer, whose wife was from these parts, lived here for a while.

Day 5: Pozalmoro to Soria

This another of the great days the camino offers. With the slightly stern majesty of Moncayo slowly receding to the east, the path is on a combination of Roman road and well marked GR, passing many delights. The forbidding lonely 60' high Torre de Masegoso, 3-4km from Pozalmoro, has water and a bench for a picnic - built by the moors in abut 1000AD as a border fortreess to resist the reconquista. Another 10-12km further on are the massive remains of the ruined palace and tower of La Pica, together with romanesque church, mostly originally of arab origin. There must be water here, but I didn't need any so didn't look - water isn't a particular problem, with about 3 Roman fountains, and others at Masegoso, Omeñaca ("non potable" according to a sign; excellent, according to an old lady who'd been drinking it all of her 80+ years, and looked pretty good on it), Fuentetcha and Fuensaúco. Omeñaca has a fabulous 12th century portico, Tozalmoro a fine 12th century apse and north and south romanesque doorways, Fuensaúco a later romanesque arch-nearing gothic interior, part-Roman fountain at Ontalvia de Valcorba etc.

It was quite a spread of wonders, coupled with fabulous scenery. Next time (dv) I shall enjoy it more slowly.

Next up, when I can get round to it, Soria to Santo Domingo de Silos.
 
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peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Given your track record, I made this a sticky post before I even read it. Thanks so much, Alan, I hope to be following in your footsteps next May (and that will be literally, since I have downloaded all your GPS tracks).
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
Day 6: rest day in Soria

I think it would be barmy not to spend a full day in Soria, there is so much to see. I stayed in the Casa Diocesana Pío XII, right in the centre of town. It's not quite an albergue, but very pilgrim-friendly - a corridor of single rooms and shared bathroom on the top floor of the building, for 20.50€ b&b (tel: 975212176). Highlights of Soria include the tympanum of Santo Domingo, the pure romanesque cloisters of San Pedro, the (I think) unique interlocking arches of San Juan del Duero, just across the river from town, the casa de los poetas (which is housed in a handsome 19th century clubhouse, mostly open to the public), celebrating, mainly, Machado, who spent several happy years here, and wrote extensively about Soria and its countryside (árida y fría). There's some pretty decent restaurants in town as well - I was there in the sutumn mushroom festival, and all the central bars were doing mushroom-related tapas, and a huge marquee was also celebrating all things boletus-related. Mushrooms are big in Soria - for four of the 7 days it was on the zinc in the bars I visited, local paper, the Díario de Soria, splashed on mushroom-related news: presumably the only paper in the world where that's likely to happen.

I slightly regret not taking a bus or taxi the 10km out to Numancia, where the celtiberians furiously resisted the Romans, and committed mass suicide rather than surrender.

Day 7: Soria to Abejar

A very pleasant day, mostly through Soria's famous pine forests. One of the very slightly frustrating things about this camino is that it often takes you on quite big detours to avoid tarmac - when I got to Abejar, the woman in the bar told me it was 28km from Soria, whilst wikiloc told me I'd covered 38. The "albergue" (youth hostel really) in Abejar is called the Cañada Real and costs 31€ for dinner, bed and breakfast. Not a bad dnner, and more or less the only option in town, as its restaurant/bar shut at 5pm, or there was a petrol station with bar attached.

Day 8: Abejar to Navaleno

A short day (26km) with coffee after 7km at Cabrejas del Pinar, and lots more lovely smelling pine (also a delightful surface to walk on, but also partly along a disused railway line that featured in Dr Zhivago, with Moncayo standing in for the Urals). Navaleno had several casas rural and decent looking restaurants, all tightly shut up for winter. I stayed in La Tablada (975374192), an extremely friendly place (slightly surprised to find themselves hosting a pilgrim) that did a decent menú del día for, I think, 9€, and my en suite room upstairs was around 22€.
 
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peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Alan, questions from me as usual.

In Soria did you go to the Ermita de San Saturio? It seems to be up on a hill overlooking the river, about 1 km south of San Juan de Duero.

I can't find any information about the Casa Diocesana Pio XII. Google maps takes me to something having to do with the newspaper. Did you call ahead or just show up?

Any specific names of restaurants in Soria you'd care to share?

Gracias, amigo.
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
In Soria did you go to the Ermita de San Saturio? It seems to be up on a hill overlooking the river, about 1 km south of San Juan de Duero.
There's a very pleasant riverside pathway down from San Juan de Duero to the Ermita of San Saturio, with its fine fescoes, and octagonal chapel. It's a couple of km, and goes past the remains of the (also allegedly Templar) monastery of San Polo.

I can't find any information about the Casa Diocesana Pio XII. Google maps takes me to something having to do with the newspaper. Did you call ahead or just show up?
I rang them about an hour before I arrived in Soria, and they were very welcoming. Its address is 5 Calle San Juan, just round the corner from the imposing bulk of the 12th century San Juan de Rabanera (which houses an ancient crucifix apparently "acquired" when the Templars were abolished)

Any specific names of restaurants in Soria you'd care to share?
I had a bit of a blow out Sunday lunch in the quite posh Rincón de San Juan, opposite the church, I think it might have been 22€ for a 4-5 course menú del fin de semana. Otherwise there were loads of good tapas bars around the Plaza San Clemente and the Calle el Collado (where the main paseo happens every night).
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
Day 9: Navaleno to Hontoria del Pinar

The first few km were once again in pine woods. At San Leonardo there is a fine ecce homo sculpture in the church, which was open. There is an albergue here (telephone 627 903696). Most people walk Abejar-San Leonardo-Santo Domingo de Silos, but I detoured to see the cañon del río Lobos, an impressive gorge that takes you gently uphill to Hontoria del Pinar, 26.5km from Navaleno (according to wikiloc). Hontoria del Pinar (the first town I stayed in in Burgos province) had another simple decent bar/restaurant/hostal, El Chato (947-387393) where I ate and slept.

Day 10: Hontoria del Pinar to Santo Domingo de Silos. For the first 15km you pass though pleasant upland pastures, over a Roman bridge and through a couple of more or less deserted villages (no coffee). The next couple of villages have bars but no food. You get a first view of the monastery complex in its secret valley from high above, about an hour away, it's a great way to arrive. The monastery itself is one of the highlights of all of my caminos, with its amazing capitals, and magnificent plainchant. The albergue is just across the road from the monastery. Ask for the brother hospitaler, Fray José-Alfredo at the monastery reception, and he'll take you across, give you the key and stamp your credential. [note: if it's a Thursday, the monks are all unavailable, so you have to wait to the end of vespers to get the key]. The albergue has 4 bunks and is donativo. It's 33km from Hontoria to Santo Domingo, accoding to wikiloc.

Matins was at 7.30am, and it was still dark when it started and full daylight by the time it ended, quite unforgettable.

And that was the far from anti-climatic end to my Camino Castellano-Aragonés.
 
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alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
Thanks, Alan, where did you find phone numbers for all these places? Could you give me the one in Soria? Thanks, Laurie
The casa diocesana in Soria is 975212176. The hostals etc had their numbers on their sellos, so are safely preserved in my credential.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
Perhaps you already covered this and I did not notice-- how well is the path marked? I have google-earthed the Gallur-Agreda stretch and, while there seem to be plenty of secondary roads, I prefer to avoid walking along the national highways but I also prefer to not be lost.
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
Perhaps you already covered this and I did not notice-- how well is the path marked? I have google-earthed the Gallur-Agreda stretch and, while there seem to be plenty of secondary roads, I prefer to avoid walking along the national highways but I also prefer to not be lost.
The waymarking is mostly pretty good, and the area is criss-crossed with agricultural tracks so, as long as you know roughly which way you're heading, it's difficult to get lost - that settlement on the horizon is almost certainly the one you're aiming for, as there are no others. I don't think I had to use the N122 at all, other than a very short stretch between Gallur and Borja, it was mostly dirt tracks, with a few very minor roads. For quite a long time in one of the emptier bits of Soria (province) you are also guided by the Camino Natural del Agua Soriano signage.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Day 4: Ágreda to Pozalmoro

Stupidly, this is not what I did, but would do (will do, I hope), spending the morning enjoying more of Ágreda's treasures, rather than leaving before dawn and getting to Soria long after dusk, somewhat knackered. It is 59km from Ágreda to Soria. Pozalmoro is 20km, and has acogida in the old school house, and there is a very nice bar (which will sort out the acogida for you). I walked on to Fuensaúco, from where it is possible to take a bus the last 13km on to Soria. Thee are no shops and only one bar between Ágreda and the outskirts of Soria, so stocking up on emergency rations is a good idea (I always carry some raisins, cheese and fuet - not a balanced diet, but enough calories to get one through a day or two). Bécquer, whose wife was from these parts, lived here for a while.

Day 5: Pozalmoro to Soria

This another of the great days the camino offers. With the slightly stern majesty of Moncayo slowly receding to the east, the path is on a combination of Roman road and well marked GR, passing many delights. The forbidding lonely 60' high Torre de Masegoso, 3-4km from Pozalmoro, has water and a bench for a picnic - built by the moors in abut 1000AD as a border fortreess to resist the reconquista. Another 10-12km further on are the massive remains of the ruined palace and tower of La Pica, together with romanesque church, mostly originally of arab origin. There must be water here, but I didn't need any so didn't look - water isn't a particular problem, with about 3 Roman fountains, and others at Masegoso, Omeñaca ("non potable" according to a sign; excellent, according to an old lady who'd been drinking it all of her 80+ years, and looked pretty good on it), Fuentetcha and Fuensaúco. Omeñaca has a fabulous 12th century portico, Tozalmoro a fine 12th century apse and north and south romanesque doorways, Fuensaúco a later romanesque arch-nearing gothic interior, part-Roman fountain at Ontalvia de Valcorba etc.

It was quite a spread of wonders, coupled with fabulous scenery. Next time (dv) I shall enjoy it more slowly.

Next up, when I can get round to it, Soria to Santo Domingo de Silos.
Hi, Alan,
Just wondering if you remember whether there are any bars/cafés/shops between Pozalmuro or Soria. And am also wondering if I will pass these lovely churches in Omeñaca, Tozalmoro, and Fuensaúco on the Camino or if I will need to detour. Getting excited, my flight leaves in two months and two days. :)
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
Hi, Alan,
Just wondering if you remember whether there are any bars/cafés/shops between Pozalmuro or Soria. And am also wondering if I will pass these lovely churches in Omeñaca, Tozalmoro, and Fuensaúco on the Camino or if I will need to detour. Getting excited, my flight leaves in two months and two days. :)
There is nothing from Pozalmuro until a bar at a petrol station where the N122 and N234 join about 5km short of Soria. There might be something at Aldealpozo, 2-3km off the camino, but I didn't get there. The camino goes right past all the churches you mention - at Omeñaca, the fabulous portico is on the other side of the church from the route. The south door of the church at Tozalmuro has an amazing carved almost 3D tympanum of the virgin and child with angels and saints. As well as all the Romanesque, there's also two Berber towers and some Roman fountains and a bridge. And wonderful views of the Moncayo massif.

One of the best stretches of any camino I've been on.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
After the Calvario the road went past various wind farm etc and no other settlements for the next 24km to Tarazona. It was very lovely and very empty. I think I went a bit wrong and saw no arrows for many km, but as you can see Tarazona in the distance from way off, and there are loads of agricultural paths, there is no danger of getting seriously lost (mundicamino says I should have gone via a hamlet called El Buste and taken 27.4km, my track took me 27.9, according to wikiloc, and I think involved much less tarmac than the El Buste way).

More follows
Alan, I had your tracks on my GPS but I didn't see where you got off the camino But I saw where you joined back up so I'm guessing that you started downhill before I did. There was virtually no tarmac but a lot of really hard walking. I could not have done it without the GPS because it crisscrossed over and around badlands hills with lots of overgrowth and maleza. Beautiful in its own way but really remote and no one, not even a farmer in the fields, for many kms.
 

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