As the week of my personal fiesta rolls on, we paid a visit to the inside of our local castle – Castle de Pambre. We have hiked up to it before, but have never been inside. During the pandemic, it’s only open during the hours Jeff works. So we had only seen the outside. But on St James Day, it was open for visitors and we decided to take advantage of the opportunity. You’ll have to excuse me, as an American I love castles. We don’t have any real ones in the US, outside Disneyland. So seeing inside this one was on my list.
The castelo is walking distance from our house towards Palas de Rei. Just a few kilometers away. A building has stood on this site since the 600’s, first built by the Romans. That building has been incorporated into the castle and is the chapel used for religious services across the ages. The roof has been restored, but the original alter is intact. I love how the sun strikes it. The cross of the alter must have glowed, lending it powerful significance to the worshippers.
Normally just €3, the entrance fee was waved on St James Day. St James is the Saint of Galicia. July 25th was his birthday, and the years when it falls on a Sunday are considered sacred. This is called a Xacabeo year and marks a special significance for Pilgrims who walk the Way of St. James to Santiago in 2021. Because of the pandemic, Xacabeo has been extended thru 2022, as so many can not make the pilgrimage due to restrictions.
The gentleman who checked us in was very confused that we were Americans living close by. We tried to explain when he asked where we live but we gave up and he wrote something down. Probably Slovenia.
Upon arrival, we had the entire place to ourselves, before others began to trickle in. The building where they check you in contains a small museum. It’s well done and incorporates the importance of the castelo in the route of St James. I love when museums include a timeline spanning the millennia of old buildings, with dates we are all familiar with. Such as what was happening at Castelo de Pambre in 1492, when Columbus sailed to the Americas.
The entire Castelo was constructed mainly with just three tools. Touring so many castles, I’m pretty convinced that modern people have no perspective on hard physical labor and patience. These castles, and all great cathedrals, were built across centuries, and by generations of stonemasons from the same families who carried on an original vision from someone long dead. Talk about playing the long game. Such persistence appeals to me. The site was chosen because of the large boulders upon which to anchor the buildings, and a plentiful supply of stone nearby. And the river. A well was easily dug inside the walls and water was available to it’s inhabitants year round or during a siege.
Entering the castle itself, you encounter scaffolding and stairs. They’ve not tried to restore the ruins of the keep yet, just provide access for viewing. You can still see the places where timbers would have been inserted into notches in the walls to create floors. And the ghosts of staircases past.
The built-in lavatory was interesting. You can see how they took care of the necessary from inside the castle, and then how it was transferred outside. We are all human, nobility or peasant.
Walking about the main tower, it was eerie to see the small seating nooks and fireplaces suspended mid-air, after the wooden floors above us rotted away. What looks like windows are actually doors. And you can see slanted etchings where long-gone roofs were fitted over doorways into stone.
Climbing further still, the steep stone steps show the wear of tens of thousands of feet over the course of a thousand years. We finally made to the top of the tower. The crenellations here are very different than you typically see in a castle in Spain. Not squared off. And the rounded, protruding defenses from the tops of the towers and walls. In the photos you can see columns on the top. They suspended a roof that is long ago fallen or rotted away.
The views from the top are spectacular.
In the end, we decided to head down to the nearby Rio de Pambre (river Pambre), the geographical centre of Galicia. The hike down is not too bad. It’s the hike back up that will get you. But it was a few degrees cooler at the water. And so lovely.
I leave you with the peaceful sound of running water.