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Having started in Santiago de Compostela, we found ourselves heading down one of the most famous "Caminos" -- The Camino Frances -- in reverse. Well, I suppose all those medieval pilgrims had to walk home too, so we were still following in their footsteps, even if it was backwards! The train route from Santiago to Ponferrada had some construction, and required us to take a Renfe-arranged "bus bridge" for about an hour of the journey. At first we grumbled at the inconvenience, but the ride gave us a different view of the countryside, which remained stunning. As noted in my last trip report, the sheer beauty of "Green Spain" has been a bit of a surprise. This particular leg was laced with bucolic rivers -- the Rio Mino and Rio Sil -- along with rolling hills fresh with rain and Spring. We would seriously consider a return to this region for its pristine beauty.
Ponferrada contains one of Spain's most impressive castles, which is saying something in country that boasts so many. The Castillo de los Templarios has the benefit of added layers of Knights Templar history, which I find endlessly fascinating, probably due to pop culture (Dan Brown, Indiana Jones)! Trashy fiction aside, the history of the Knights Templar is truly exciting, dramatic stuff, including the fact they were charged with overseeing the safety of those on pilgrimage. Ponferrada's Castillo takes a more hands off approach to the history lessons, but it does have a nice gallery of costumes and interpretation, as well as a display of all the world's most famous medieval manuscripts in facsimile form. But mostly it is the wonder of seeing the Knights' multiple layers of defense and fearsome structures with your own eyes.
There was one other stop that was a must-visit for us, for very niche reasons. If you have any interest in vintage radios, the city's Museo de la Radio has an outstanding collection. We've never seen a larger or more pristine collection of circa 1920s and 1930 radios. Stunning. There were two food/drink establishments in Ponferrada that got our attention and Euros. La Bodega de Godivah is directly across from the Castillo. Normally any bar sitting atop a major tourist attraction earns our skepticism, but this one was packed with locals and turned out to be a quirky hoot inside. Chock full of vintage toys, games, Christmas lights, and bric-a-brac, it is worth a stop before or after the castle. Slightly further afield was O’Xantar, a "gastrotienda" that offered delicious food and a wide selection of local beers and wines.
Trip report continued in comments...