Having had pleasant weather for our journey through the animal-free interior of Spain yesterday, this morning we awoke to our old Spanish friend of this trip, grey skies. At breakfast, light rain began but the skies looked a little brighter to the north so we hoped out planned visit to Burgos en route to Bilbao might remain dry.
Our first challenge was negotiating the centre of a city and finding somewhere to park. After a few corners, we lucked out and found what appeared to be the only metered parking spot left unoccupied in Burgos. Francine eventually managed to divine the correct use of a machine with no instructions and bought us a 2-hour ticket.
Being a gastronaut, I know of Burgos for its famous morcilla. Well, famous might be going a bit far outside of Spain but it is the producer of a very fine Spanish version of black pudding/boudin noir/blood sausage. Morcilla de Burgos makes a fine lunch fried with fresh habas [broad beans] and, of course, some obligatory garlic. We’ve enjoyed this combination on a number of occasions. The morcilla de Burgos (there are other Spanish morcillas) contains rice which gives it a somewhat lighter texture than others, certainly lighter than our rather dry, gluey black pudding affairs with huge lumps of fat inside. [No, I do like it, honest!] I have tried emulating morcilla y habas at home using British black pudding and – you must trust me on this – it doesn’t work; British black pudding simply cannot be used in the same way. I’d love to have bought some morcilla de Burgos from its source but we had no cooler facilities for transportation and our journey still had two days to run. Shame.
Another thing Burgos is famous for is its cathedral. Not to me, of course, being a confirmed atheist; I didn’t even know it had a cathedral. However, Francine did and wanted to cast her eyes over it so we stumped up our two 7€ entrance fees, which included an audio tour on a wand in the language of your choice, and went in.
Now, audio tours. I chose one in English, naturally, but, for all the good it did me, I might have well have chosen Greek. I freely admit to being a cultural numbskull but I find the concept of audio tours in this context somewhat bemusing. They have to try to give you value for money which normally means trying to fill your head with a lot of names of people you’ve never heard of, together with a lot of dates you stand little chance of ever remembering. I soon tired of listening to intricate detail and stopped punching in the numbers at the various listening stations on the tour – I really don’t care which architect designed this particular chapel – and just started looking.
As with all cathedrals, the amount of money and effort mankind put into paying homage to a fictitious super-being is beyond me. Be that as it may, staring at the undoubted skills of the carpenters, artists and stonemasons employed to waste their time on such things can provide a pleasant enough distraction for 15 minutes or so.
I think this picture might be what is called an altar piece. I can just imagine the bishop saying, “very nice lads but it’s too tall, it’s obscuring the bottom of the windows, make it again but about 2m shorter”. Really, you’d think they’d make it fit, wouldn’t you? As I was concentrating only at half throttle, I may have this wrong but I think the wand told me, before I switched it off, that the cathedral at Burgos was the first built in the Gothic style on the Iberian peninsular … whatever that means.
The route to exit the cathedral proved to be considerably longer than the tour route itself. On your way out, however, you come across another thing for which Burgos is famous: El Cid, a.k.a. Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, who was born nearby c. 1043. Naturally, El Cid is not himself there – well, no, he IS there; he pegged out in 1099 and is buried in Burgos cathedral – but there’s a mural of him which appears to make him look a lot more like Charlton Heston than does Charlton Heston himself. I wonder when this mural was painted?
We still had a little time remaining on the meter so enjoyed a coffee beside the river front in the centre of Burgos. This amazed me more. The promenade was lined on either side with what I think are plane trees, forming what must be a very pleasantly shaded environment for summer heat, though they were not yet in leaf. What amazed us was the way that each tree’s canopy had been grafted together with the canopies of all of its neighbouring trees. How terrific and what a wonderful idea, creating a completely integrated canopy – now there’s something worthy of effort.
We retraced our steps and found our car. Sally Satnav II threw a bit of a fit and had us driving through buildings to begin with but we hung in there and, in an act of faith not dissimilar from the builders of cathedrals, found our way out of Burgos to complete our journey cross country to Bilbao.