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DAY 20: from JACA to SALLENT DE GALEGO

On Day 20, we cycle from JACA to SALLENT DE GALLIEGO. Yesterday, we rode through the valley of the mountain river Gave d’Aspe from Urdos to Jaca on the Via Tolosona, connecting to the Camino Aragonès. The Council of Europe's signage made this clear. We've entered the Aragon province in Spain. The Camino Aragonès goes from Somport to Jaca and joins the Camino Francès in Puente la Reina. Due to time constraints – as Floky needs to be in Serviès-en-val by August 6 – we've shortened our journey by three days.


The valley of the Gallego, Biescas


Today, we're cycling through Aragon along the Gallégo river valley from Jaca to Sallent de Gallego near Formigal. The Gállego is a major tributary of the Ebro river, originating at Col du Pourtalet. We're following the river upstream, passing through Biescas and the Bubal Lake to reach Salente de Gallégo.


Between Jaca and our destination, we haven't planned anything specific. It's a 55 km ride, but it's uphill all the way to around 1650 meters. We'll finish the climb to the Col du Pourtalet summit tomorrow morning. We briefly stop in the town of Biescas to get lunch supplies.


Many small villages and towns have lost their charm due to ski tourism development. Just past Biescas, you can see the beautiful rapids of the river, formed as water is released from one of the dams along the road.


Rapids of the Galego, pick-nick at the embalsa de Bubal


Beyond Biescas, the landscape gets rougher and you're surrounded by stunning mountains. A bit further, there's the Embalse de Bubal (reservoir) created to supply water to the power plant of the dam. You can picnic by the reservoir; it's incredibly beautiful and pleasant. We'll stop there for lunch. Then, we continue to climb, but the landscape remains gorgeous. Finally, we reach Sallent de Gallego, another town that thrives on skiing in winter and other tourists in summer. We're staying in the old center of the town at Hotel Centro, which has only a few rooms. The owner is incredibly helpful. Although he initially planned for the bikes to be on the first floor, upon seeing the heavily loaded bicycles, he decides to sacrifice part of his restaurant to store them. So, we'll be dining right next to our bikes. Last year, I slept next to my bike, and now I'm eating with it nearby—why not?

The roughbut gorgeous landscape, Sallent de Galego, the church


I freshen up a bit, and Floris starts working on his daily video. I head out to explore the village. All the old houses (and even the new ones) are constructed using blocks of local stone, giving them a distinctive appearance. The irregularity in finishing and the roofs clearly distinguish the old houses. The new ones, mostly on the outskirts of the old center, are often built in the same style but tend to look alike. They are apartments rented to skiers or tourists. I'm relieved that the village's old character has been preserved and maintained, as they've used the same stones and slate.


I immediately head to the church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Our Lady of the Assumption). It's a late Gothic church built in the 16th century on the site of an earlier Romanesque building. The church consists of a single nave. Two sections have stunning star-shaped vaults. While there isn't a proper transept, there's a small Inside the choir, there's a magnificent gilded and polychromed altarpiece from the 16th century.


Sallent de Galego, N.S. de la Asuncion: polychromed altarpiece, vaults and processional cross


Of course, the central figure is the Virgin Mary. The life of her son, Jesus Christ, is also extensively depicted. Additionally, there are numerous saints, apostles, and prophets. Most altarpieces feature rich Christian iconography, but I'll spare you the details. The Flemish artists who traveled to Spain were always experts in this field. Explaining this altarpiece would be a great exercise for first-year students of Christian iconography at KU Leuven. I took that course a few years ago and learned a tremendous amount from it. The church is adorned with numerous other altarpieces and beautiful statues. There's also a stunning gilded silver processional cross from the 16th century, which depicts a significant sacred history. There are no major capitals, but in a small chapel on the south side, there are seven small capitals that catch my attention. Perhaps they are remnants from the earlier Romanesque church?chapel on each side.

Sallent de Galego, N.S. de la Asuncion: Central statue of the main altarpiece


One of them depicts a mermaid, a symbol often associated with one of the vices, that of impurity. Sometimes the mermaid has a double tail, emphasizing this aspect further. There's also a small capital with a centaur (half-human, half-horse), which could symbolize the duality of good and evil within a person. The centaur is also a symbol of sexual lust and even represents the two natures of Christ: human and divine. And now I'll stop. I can almost hear Magda saying, "There he goes again." Rientje used to say that too.


We've just finished eating together with our bikes: "platos combinados," a Spanish way of preparing dishes that consists of parts from various meals, and I enjoy that. We combined a large mixed salad with squid rings and a fried egg, vegetables, and fries. Additionally, a lightly cooked fresh beefsteak hamburger with another fried egg, vegetables, and fries. I shared most of my squid rings with Floky, and I'm happy to see him enjoy them. I drank half a bottle of verdejo (white wine) and saved the rest in a plastic bottle for tomorrow night. Afterward, we concluded with coffee and milk. During the meal, we talked about the "message" artists can convey through their artworks using symbols. We also discussed the differences between iconography and iconology.


Church and houses in Sallent de Galego, climbing wall


Floky has a religion teacher named Raf, who was kind enough to review our first publication about the 2020 journey that will be released in the fall. He remembered quite a bit, especially about the seven deadly sins and their depictions. His teacher had a lot of interest in "luxuria" (lust)... Today, indeed, I saw the mermaid, a symbol of "luxuria" (lust), in the church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Sallent de Gallego. With these virtuous thoughts, I wish a good night to all who are reading this.


Today is the village festival, and you can hear and see it. There are fairground stalls and a stage where singing will take place later, and a small brass band is already playing. Many people are chatting and drinking. As in many Spanish and French villages, the start of the festival is announced with a few loud fireworks that explode into the sky with a lot of noise.




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