By Corey Jones
We went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner tonight, mostly just to see how it compared to our previous experiences with eating Chinese food. I spent most of this summer in China so I had a lot of interesting thoughts going in. It was immediately odd to me that the Chinese man who owned the restaurant started speaking in Spanish. That in itself was something very new that I experienced. The entire menu actually had a decent amount of "real" Chinese food on it, along with what we would perceive as "Americanized" Chinese food. This was different to me as well and I ordered the Peking duck in an attempt to stay true to the cultural roots of the cuisine. It came out in the same style as it would be served in Beijing, except for one difference — in China, Peking duck is a specialty and much care is taken in the way that it is cut so it takes a long time for the dish to come out. However, here the chef just cut it in the quickest way and it came out in a matter of minutes, which was a surprise to me. I think that's probably because most people in western countries like America or Europe probably won't wait at least 45 minutes to receive a dish. Regardless, the experience was so strange to me and I'm glad that we did it. It was something that we are fairly accustomed to, but here we had an entirely new experience.
The Taberna Patillas was plastered with old photos and newspaper clippings. Every space except the reddish-brown bar was occupied by the remains of patrons past and present. Hanging from these littered walls were various acoustic instruments including several guitars, a mandolin, and a violin. As our huge group ordered drinks, a group of old men entered and sat in the back corner, one of them quietly tuning his guitar. Without warning, the suave, portly man with slicked-back white hair began to sing. The songs he sang sounded like traditional ballads, while the guitarist expertly strummed along. We got the guitarist to play some more modern songs, mostly the Beatles, and we tried to sing along. Eventually, as we tired of the bar, an Irish woman came in with a fiddle and started playing with the gentlemen. She was getting upset at our bar noises, plus we were ready to leave, so we made like a lumberjack and split.
The sound of the tambour drums wormed their way into the cavernous reaches of the cathedral of Covarrubias from the street, filling the cold medieval structure with life. Shawms then joined in a archaic wail as the procession crossed the threshold. Even from my poor seat in the nave next to the dusty bones of a long forgotten bishop I could see the procession slowly approach the altar in solemn composure. King Alfonso X took his seat on the altar with his queen and their whole noble retinue as the last notes of the drums and pipes echoed off of the vaulted ceiling. Although heavily accented with the tones of Castile, even a linguistically inept catholic American such as myself can still follow through the entire mass with little difficulty. It seem very strange to me that I was experiencing something universally understandable yet something so alien as a medieval Spanish Catholic mass. The congregation emerged from the cathedral into a different mass, a foreign one of swirling colors and smells erupting from a medieval festival that had set up shop outside. I threaded my way through the throng, admiring the wonderful crafts that these villagers cobbled together (in one case quite literally). However, I was soon broken out of my reverie by a stone-faced grim reaper. Why somebody would decide to dress up in a all black outfit in the midst of a Spanish heatwave as an embodiment of death is anybody’s guess. Perhaps it was actually the grim reaper there to remind all of those who had opted out of mass for caramelized almonds and leather handbags that they too would one day face their judgement. Gotta love the universality of Catholic guilt.
There was a Medieval festival at Covarrubias near Burgos, which was probably one of the most amazing things so far. There were shops, people dressed up in medieval apparel, a fun parade — we even met the Grimm Reaper lurking around the elderly. Some of my friends and I received a tarot stone reading at the festival as well — it was my third spiritual reading so far on this trip. The tarot stone lady told me that I needed to get to know myself better. Fortunately, the Camino is coming soon, and I have about 100 kilometers and six days of walking to get to know myself. All my spiritual readings have pointed me towards the Camino, which has been encouraging me to get excited about the walk with our lovely new friends.