Sunday, June 19, 2011

June 19, 2011: Santiago - A Coruña, Lighthouse, Protest

Today we drove to the nearby port city of A Coruña for lunch: yet more delicious seafood. By now I was starting to crave some fresh vegetables, so I asked Eugenio if it was possible to order a salad. Although it seemed like a culinary afterthought to him, there was one on the menu, although a rather sad salad of lettuce, tomatoes and onions. This came as a surprise to me and Mark, since many of the nicest fruits and vegetables we've had from the markets in Grenoble have been imported from Spain. But here on the Galician menus it's pork, seafood and potatoes.

After lunch we visited the local landmark of the Tower of Hercules, a lighthouse originally built by the Romans, more than 2000 years ago in 1 A.D., in the Roman settlement of Brigantium. Over time it fell into disrepair, and legend grew up around its name - the story was that Hercules himself built it to celebrate his victory over the giant Geryon. Eventually in the 1700s efforts to restore it started up, although they never rebuilt the originally spiralling ramp (which you can still see the pattern of on the exterior of the building) - instead they punched holes through the interior domes at various levels, putting in a serious of spiral staircases ascending to the top. It is the oldest Roman lighthouse still in use, and would have been an astoundingly tall structure at the time that it was built (it's height has varied a bit over time, with various rebuilding schemes changing the top portion somewhat).

When we got back to Santiago we joined Eugenio's friends in walking in a day of national protest. It was a fairly loosely-defined protest, more or less signifying discontent about the economy, and maybe the governement, in general. Nobody was too worked up - they brought their dogs and babies, we marched down several streets that had been closed to traffic in advance by the police. All in all it seemed like more of a pleasant communal parade that a protest - I suspect it didn't do much to change anything, but it was a fun event for foreigners to participate in.

A Coruña's main square

I love Spain's love of pork

A great mural on a decrepit building

The Tower of Hercules (the exterior cladding has been replaced over the years, but the interior is all still the original 2000-year-old structure) 

Inside the tower is a statue of Hercules, draped with an actual (bedraggled) lion skin - bizarre!

The foundation of the tower, visible from an underground enclosure

Mark looks down from one of the interior spiral staircases

The view of the ocean from the top of the tower

Mark and I pose on an octopus bench (we had to out-wait a man who was perched on it, looking like he typically asks tourists for money in order to take their photo together)

This young protester's sign reads: "This is not a crisis, this is a scam."

This dog protester's sign reads: "Respect."

Our parade of protest makes its way to downtown Santiago

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