Information about stage 22: Stage from Foncebadon to Ponferrada
- Km 0. Foncebadón (Hostels. Bars. Shop)
We say goodbye to Foncebadón up the street, between fallen walls and the church, whose belfry always receives the first light of day. At the exit we take the path to the left, which in a gentle slope brings us closer to the LE-142 road, our guide for today’s stage (Km 1.5) . Following a path parallel to the road, which advances next to some reforestation grove, we arrive at Cruz de Ferro. Located at an exact 1500 meters of altitude (the roof of the French Way in Spain), it is nothing more than a small iron cross supported by a disproportionate wooden mast. With your back to the cross, it is tradition to throw a stone into the pile that has already been raised. A gesture traced to the one made by the Galician reapers when they went to Castilla to work in the cereal fields and also by the muleteers and transhumant shepherds (Km 2.2). Next to the cross, a chapel consecrated to Santiago Apóstol was erected in 1982 . From this point we resume the walk along the path parallel to the LE-142. Rowans of Hunters ( Sorbus aucuparia ), a deciduous tree easily distinguished by its thick clusters of red berries, cover our steps. Two kilometers and three hundred meters after the Cruz de Ferro we arrive at the Manjarín refuge , the most unusual hostel on the Camino managed by Tomás Martínez, the Templar hospitalero. The ringing of a bell and the smoke signals guide us inside. The indoor environment is best to discover for yourself.
- km 4.5. Manjarín (Hostel. In season Mobile bar between Manjarín and El Acebo)
Just over 7 kilometers separate the Manjarín refuge from El Acebo. Except for some curves that are shortened, the itinerary always runs parallel to the road. During the first 3.5 kilometers it flattens out and even slightly climbs, leaving aside the Military Transmission Base , located under Peña Llabaya and abandoned in 1990. A kilometer further on from the Base the descent really begins with views of Ponferrada ( from a distance a black spot can be distinguished on it that corresponds to the tower of the Rosaleda of more than 100 meters). In this section there is the mobile bar La Parada, which is usually open from April to the end of October!The path is stony and steep (cyclists are advised to go down the road). After those seven kilometres, the Camino comes to El Acebo , the first town in El Bierzo.
- km 11.6. El Acebo (Hostels. Hotel. Bar. Shop)
Juan Uría documents that the residents of this town were free of taxes in exchange for placing eight hundred stakes to indicate the way for travelers. In this nucleus of Berciano surrounded by brooms and pastures, a hotel, a shop where you can buy sandwiches and an inn allow a break in the stage that we have already completed in more than 40%. Leaving El Acebo we come across a graphic sculpture made by Eulogio Pisabarros in memory of Heinrich Krausse , a German pilgrim who died on the Camino. Rest in peace. Previously, it was followed by road for almost two kilometers to Riego de Ambrós. It continues on asphalt but a path has been enabled that is taken 1.3 km after the crossing to Compludo and that avoids a stretch of road. Finally, as in the past, the parallel path is resumed to reach the town. We cross Riego de Ambrós from end to end (this town in the municipality of Molinaseca is about 600 meters long), passing next to Plaza San Sebastián, where the pilgrims’ hostel and the fountain are located.
- Km 15. Riego de Ambrós (Shelter. Bar. Shop)
Slate roofs and wooden balconies lead to a path that descends under the shade of chestnut trees and the coolness of the Prado stream . Once in the open country we come back to the road (Km 16.4) , which we leave again to start a tortuous descent that will leave its mark on our muscles. Next to some poplars, fed by the Pretadura stream, we come to the LE-142 (Km 19.2) . At the foot of the road is the Sanctuary of the Virgen de las Angustias , from the end of the 17th century and which gives way to the medieval bridge over the Meruelo river , through which we enter Molinaseca . This town, the capital of the municipality that also includes El Acebo and Riego de Ambrós, has a good network of bars and restaurants, a pharmacy, a bakery, etc.
- km 19.7. Molinaseca (Shelters. Hostels. Bars. Shops. Pharmacy. ATM)
We cross the town along Calle Real which ends at Avenida de Fraga Iribarne, next to the LE-142. We pass the shelters and leave the road company behind a tennis court. We turn right and take a path that progresses near the Meruelo river . Be careful, because when you reach the highway (Km 22.5) you do not have to continue along the path parallel to it that passes next to the Patricia urbanization. A slightly hidden milestone under the left shoulder of the road points us in the right direction. A track with some slides, annoying at this point in the stage, leads to Campo .
- Km 24. Field (Bar)
Populated already in the Middle Ages, Campo has a Roman fountain , the hermitage of Santo Cristo, the parish church of Nuestra Señora de la Encina and the ancestral homes of the Lunas . We leave Campo next to the fertile plain of the Boeza river , which flows to the right. Several neighborhoods escort us until we cross the river (Km 26.4) and four hundred meters later we cross the tracks to finish the twenty-second stage shortly. Ponferrada and the parish shelter of San Nicolás de Flüe receive us.
- km 27.3. Ponferrada (All Services)
- Demanding descent: The extra kilometers yesterday from Rabanal del Camino to Foncebadón are appreciated today, since the descent is very punishing on a muscular level. Pilgrims who come from Rabanal or from further back also have the possibility of spending the night in El Acebo, Riego de Ambrós or Molinaseca.
- It is recommended that less technical cyclists make the descent to Molinaseca along the LE-142 road. From this town you can take the official signs to Ponferrada .
- In this stage we reach the highest point of the entire French way, contrary to what people believe, it is not at the iron cross, but a few kilometers after Manjarin where we will reach an altitude of 1505 meters.
- Two kilometers from the start of the stage we will arrive at one of the most iconic points of the way, the iron cross , according to tradition pilgrims leave a stone from their place of origin at the foot of the cross, a tradition that is still done to this day from today. There is currently a project to restore the area around the iron cross of dubious taste that would deteriorate the protected area of the road and its essence of humility and austerity. Read an article about this initiative: https://caminodesantiago.consumer.es/actualidad/quieren-abrir-un-bar-dentro-de-la-catedral-de-burgos.html
- In the town of Manjarin Tomas, a “pilgrims hospital” has been open all year round since 1993. A place that leaves no one indifferent and that is possibly the refuge that is closest to what medieval hostels were. It is worth having a chat with him and resting in his shelter, even if it is only for a few minutes.
- At the exit of Molinaseca there are two options to get to Ponferrada , the official road goes through the town of Campo , but you can also continue straight on the road and scratch a kilometer and a half to the stage, this alternative would be by a sidewalk next to it Of the road. Both one and the other are signposted.
What to see, what to do
- MANJARÍN: Since 1993, the Templar hospitalero Tomás Martínez and his family have been in charge of ringing a bell to guide pilgrims to their refuge. At the entrance, some decorated boards inform about the distances from Manjarín to different points such as Santiago de Compostela, Jerusalem, Rome, etc. Inside the cabin there is a small bazaar where you can buy a souvenir that keeps Manjarín alive. While some browse the objects or serve coffee from the thermos, Tomás is in charge of stamping credentials under an atmosphere charged with smoke from the bonfire. Also, a blackboard inside the cabin shows the different jobs that are carried out from its opening to closing and silence: prayer, cleaning, collecting firewood, etc.
- EL ACEBO: El Acebo is an aesthetic town whose popular architecture of slate roofs and the accent of its inhabitants indicate that we are fully in El Bierzo. Calle Real is one of the most picturesque in León. In El Acebo they were exempted from paying tribute to the king in exchange for placing 800 stakes that indicated the Way to the pilgrims. The parish church of San Miguel keeps a polychrome stone sculpture with a tunic with flowers that it is not clear if it represents Santiago, the Savior or San Juan Evangelista. At the exit of the town, a monument commemorates the German pilgrim Heinrich Krausse, who died while riding a bicycle.
- RIEGO DE AMBRÓS: Located at an altitude of 930 metres, Riego de Ambrós is another typical town in El Bierzo, with its slate roofs and wooden balconies. Around it, green meadows alternate with fruit and vegetable products and traditional livestock. The parish church stands out , with a Baroque altarpiece from 1706, the work of Pedro Santín, and the hermitage of San Sebastián.
- MOLINASECA: At the entrance to Molinaseca is the Sanctuary of the Virgen de las Angustias , a beautiful Baroque building attached to the mountain, whose doors were lined with iron due to the habit of pilgrims taking a splinter as a souvenir. Its origin is related to that of a small hermitage from the 11th century and a large part of the current building is from the end of the 17th century. On August 15, the residents of this town of El Bierzo come in procession. The Romanesque bridge over the Meruelo river, already documented in the 12th century and restored for the last time in 1980, guides pilgrims towards Calle Real where the hospital used to be. The bridge has seven arches and its width varies between 2.6 and 4 meters. Some houses are noble and are emblazoned with noble shields. Also noteworthy is the superb temple of San Nicolás de Bari in neoclassical style (those who visit it can stop at the baroque altarpiece with Solomonic columns and the Gothic carving of the Crucified Christ). There is a grocery store, bakery, pharmacy, ATM and a large number of bars and inns where you can eat. The chorizos and sausages have a good reputation.
- CAMPO: Town located in the vicinity of Ponferrada and of medieval origin, although there are vestiges dating from earlier times, such as the Roman fountain built in a vault and with a water storage tank located on the French Way of Santiago. In the urban area, the ancestral homes of the Lunas with coat of arms and the two houses of Los Villaboa stand out , one of them with a tower. In the Plaza de Campo is the hermitage of Santo Cristo from the 18th century. On the other hand is the Parish Church of Nuestra Señora de La Encina de Campo,built in the 17th century and built on the foundations of the old medieval church. It consists of three naves separated by four granite columns and semicircular arches. Among its altarpieces, the one with the main altar stands out, in the baroque-churrigueresque style and which houses the extremely valuable carving of the Virgen de la Encina from the 16th century. Also noteworthy are the two bells from the 16th and 17th centuries and the hundred-year-old holm oak that continues to grow next to the temple.
- PONFERRADA: The last big city -almost 69,000 inhabitants in 2009- before reaching Santiago. The capital of El Bierzo is located in an old fort and suffered different invasions and destructions. During the Roman occupation, its gold mines were famous. In 1082, the wooden bridge over the River Sil was reinforced with iron, a very abundant material, giving the city its name of Pons Ferrata . The Castle of the Templars is a superb testimony of what this controversial order of warrior monks meant in Ponferrada. It is one of the most beautiful examples of military architecture in Spain. It has become a mecca for lovers of the Templars and their initiation rites. The Basilica of Our Lady of the Oak, patron saint of El Bierzo, is from the Gothic-Renaissance transition, has a high tower and the interior consists of a single nave. Other valuable monuments are the Convento de los Concepcionistas and the Town Hall, which can be reached by crossing the Arco del Reloj. In the vicinity of Ponferrada you can visit the Mozarabic church of Santiago de Peñalba, a jewel of Spanish Pre-Romanesque. It offers all the services, including several bicycle shops and workshops that are so scarce along the Camino.
- The Light Factory. Energy Museum: Considered one of the jewels of industrial heritage, the Museum is located in the old thermal power plant of the Minero Siderúrgica de Ponferrada (MSP) which was in operation between 1920 and 1971. During the tour, the visitor will be able to discover how electricity was produced by beginning of the last century, what life was like at the power plant told by the workers themselves and how the use of a natural resource such as coal was the engine of change for a territory and its inhabitants. The restoration of this facility, which preserves the original elements of the plant, has been recognized by the European Union with the Europa Nostra 2012 award for its careful, unique and singular rehabilitation and has also been nominated for the best European museum of the year 2015 in the EMYA awards (European Museum of the Year Award).http://www.lafabricadeluz.org