Photo Friday: Camino de Santiago’s Calzadilla de la Cueza

In this post, I share with you a series of photos taken in Calzadilla de la Cueza, Spain, on the Camino de Santiago. Model: Kimberly 

As the Melbourne weather turns cold and dark, each day I grow more nostalgic for the Camino de Santiago. As I sit on public transportation to and from different parts of the city, I remember what it is to walk these distances. Watching daily life go by from my window seat, I’ve begun to idealize unpleasant parts of the camino: the dehydration and urges to barf, the sticky air and desolate landscape of Palencia, the sexist elderly men and the competitive middle-aged pilgrims.

©Naptime With Yasmine. Calzadilla
A painted sign on the main street indicates where to pick up the camino.

The constant flow of traffic and people in Melbourne makes me forget that a place like Calzadilla de la Cueza exists. Calzadilla de la Cueza, a place generously called a town, is one of the many tiny locals pilgrims pass through on the French route of the Camino de Santiago. According to the last census, it has a population of 52 people. I’m almost certain that the suburban subdivision I grew up in has more residents than that.

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Kimberly walks down the “main street” among ancient building materials. Relics from a past lifetime.

In the article El Camino De Santiago: 8 Things That (Almost) All Small Spanish Towns Had In Common, I explain the phenomenon of affecting small towns along camino: mass migration to urban centers in the 1960s and 1970s and the transformation to large scale agriculture and industrialization. One might even link this to the loss of small town life, the irreversible changes that would change rural Spanish life forever.

But passing through Calzadilla de la Cueza, it’s clear that small town life still exists. And is it small. The eerie, silent streets would be the perfect setting for a horror film. Our arrival to the town was even set up perfectly as such: We walked all day through the hottest part of the day, struggling through a 17km stretch of Palencia’s least beautiful landscape. A hour before reaching the town, both Kimberly and I had run out of water. I was having flashbacks of throwing up at the finish line of the Formentera 8k. No one else was on the trail with us. One lonely farmer in a tractor saw us and waved, but that was around 3 hours prior to reaching it. Just before we might have fainted, we got a glimpse of the top of a church. It was a sign that would give us strength to continue walking.

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New life and old buildings mix.

Upon arrival, we were like limp pasta, at the mercy of whoever would find us there. The first thing we noticed was the absolute quiet. The quiet which was interrupted by my screaming to finding a middle-aged man that we had met two days prior. Luckily for us, there weren’t murderous villains lurking in the abandoned houses. Instead, we found two competing albergues – one with a pool – and new and familiar faces.

Resting long enough to find the energy to take a look around the town before it got dark, we left the comfort of the poolside of the albergue and into the streets of the ghost town. The first person we encountered was an elderly man. He stood at the foot of a door, a cane in his right hand. He saw Kimberly and I walking down the street with a camera. He stared. We waved. He stared. We greeted him: “Hola, que tal? como esta usted señor?”

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The sun shines on the corner of the building.

He stared. “This is weird,” I said to Kimberly. We felt unwelcome, like his attitude towards us was slathered with an air of distrust. As we got closer to him, our irrational paranoia dissipated. He was deaf. He couldn’t understand what we were saying.

We continued walking and still feeling a creepy vibe, we examined the old windows, the straw mortar that kept the buildings intact and the seemingly unnecessary broken street signs. There is something inescapably frightening about walking past abandoned houses, ruble, meowing cats and creaking doors.

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The town still had a schoolhouse. A place that must have been filled with farmers’ children years ago, before the mass urban migration.

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Raise your hand if you don’t think this school house is the perfect setting to be murdered and hidden away without anyone knowing.

Walking down a side street from the main road, we were surprised to come across a middle-aged man. He was short and balding. The type of man that might wear a silver chain around his neck and carries his phone in a carrying case attached to his belt. He was washing a car outside of his house, which turned out to be his parent’s. Just as we were speaking with him a teenager walking a dog passed us. Where did all these people suddenly come from?

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Lending a hand, trying to change the image of modern-day pilgrims.

He lived in Carrion de los Condes, the closest “big town” nearby. He had left years ago. “There is no opportunity here,” he told us. His parents still live in the town, and he often comes back to see them. He reflected on how the camino used to be a very different concept. His early memories of pilgrims were far and few between, often devout Catholics whose presence were special occasions that prompted festivities and ceremonies with the local priest.

He told us about a man a couple of years ago who was accused of raping a female pilgrim. When it came time for the trial, the woman didn’t show up. “No one knows what happened there,” he explained. No one took sides, but it did change the way locals viewed the increasing numbers of pilgrims from around the world. The event sparked a general distrust, just as Kimberly and I had suspected. Today, the camino is commercial, no longer a place where exhausted and hungry pilgrims can knock on a locals’ door and be fed and housed in heartwarming hospitality.

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Having a blast!

The camino has changed, and so has rural life in Northern Spain. But some things, like the town of Calzadilla de la Cueza, haven’t changed at all. Depending on the way you look at it, of course.


Want to read more about the Camino de Santiago? Check out these articles:

Most memorable albergues

8 things I didn’t know about the camino

8 things that almost all Spanish towns had in common

Best graffiti seen along the camino

That article that caused lots of uproar: Leon’s separatist movement

How much fun is peeing outside on the camino

If you didn’t pee outside, you still enjoyed the experience because of these fun bathroom signs


Cows Of The Camino: Because It’s Never Too Late To Appreciate

You know when you’re coming back into the U.S. and at customs have to swear you haven’t been around livestock abroad? You check “no,” but really, you have flashbacks of dodging poop. To seeing curious calves first thing in the morning as the sun comes up over Galicia and stopping randomly to laugh as you see a cow licking another’s back.

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“Lick me or leave me.”

Those flashbacks make you feel guilty for lying. After all, you didn’t just come into contact. You were in the thick of it. In fact, one of the eight things all Camino towns had in common was the poignant odor of manure.

You heard about Moroccan camels and goats, you saw Phi Phi’s biggest legend, you know the wildlife of  my Ibiza home and when I killed chicks. But, what about the cows? How could I forget the cows? I didn’t forget, my appreciation was just delayed.

Throughout the 500 kilometers of the Camino that Kimberly (see here for her beautiful piece on her experience walking) and I did from Burgos to Santiago de Compostela along the French route last June-July, I had never been closer to farms.

camino de santiago french route
A map of the French route of the Camino de Santiago. My friend Kimberly and I did the segment from Burgos to Santiago de Compostela. Taken from

Many of the paths of the Camino went through farmer’s land. Sometimes, the towns were so small (maybe two or three houses) that the pilgrims’ route, farmland, and their private property were indistinguishable.

Snacking on something! Seen just after Foncebadon.

Just like camels, they have darling eye lashes. Their gazes are captivating and their gestures often human-like.

cows 3
I saw them curiously watching us as the sun came up.

Sometimes they saw us walking and would stop for a moment to check things out. Realizing we weren’t going to hurt them, they carried on about their business.

I particularly liked a little one who watched us intently.

“Hey, are you guys tired yet?”

Sometimes, they were naughty.

This woman later came to chase after one.

We were sitting by an albergue chatting with friends in Laguna de Castilla, just before O Cebreiro, when this couple in the photo above were leading their cows to roam.

One precocious male cow decided to go against the herd and came walking towards us. The woman screamed and ran up, whacking a stick at the ground, and often at him, to veer him in the right direction.

cows 2
A woman cares for the calves.

Other times, like in the photo above, the caretakers were more gentle. It was around 8:30am when we watched this woman guide her calves.

When they weren’t in fields or watching us from the inside of a barn, they were sharing the road with us.

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Leaving no one in their wake.

Being guided by a local farmer, they changed locations on the same paths that the pilgrims used to complete their camino. It wasn’t until these moments that I realized how large they were. My suburban life had shielded me from the wonders of these mammals.

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I have the right of way.

They moved quickly and intently, coming close but never too close. “Mooooove along,” they must have been thinking (Oh, Allison!).

According to Spain’s National Statistical Institute’s 2009 census, there are almost 6 million heads of cattle in the country. That’ a lot of cows. Because the majority of the Camino passes through rural areas, it makes sense that cows became such an integral part of our experience.

País Llionés Llibre: Part 2 – Further Information

After observing the graffiti in support of Leon’s separatism from Castilla while walking the Camino de Santiago, I wrote the post “El Camino de Santiago: Pais Lliones Llibre.

I received a record number of readers, and through the praise and criticism I am happy to have opened up a dialog on this issue and shed light on it to readers from around the world who may not be familiar with it.

Many readers found my lack of historical context disturbing; therefore, I wanted to include some additional links and information for anyone still curious about learning more.

It is important to note that Leon has only been part of this autonomous community for 37 years, and as such, questions of politics and finances should be analyzed. I, however, am no person to give opinions or information on internal Spanish politics, therefore, I leave that up to you, readers, to weigh in!

I would like to give a big shout out to those who took the time to leave comments on the original post, and to @SomosLeoneses, @regionleonesa, @Javain_Javakain, for engaging with me on Twitter, and for the many people who retweeted the article. I hope you are flattered rather than offended that I was interested in this topic.

Below, I have links to articles, a youtube video, and photos that discuss the separatist movement and give information on Leon. Please leave a comment or tweet at me (@yasminesoyyo) if you have any more information you would like readers to see. Por si quieren comentar o discutir en castellano (perdon, no hablo leones), estan invitados.

A few extra readings:

Here is a youtube video “La question llionesa” for the Spanish speakers:

Here are a few photos that were sent to me by the Twitter @SomosLeoneses

banderas de leon
The different flags of Leon.
europe of nations
A map of Europe in nations.
infographic of leon
A great visual for seeing information on Leon.
speak leonese
In favor of linguistic rights.

El Camino De Santiago: Pees Along The Way, A Photo Story

One of the most gratifying experiences for someone with such a small bladder is the chance to pee whenever she wants, whenever she wants.

Walking the French Route of the Camino restored my faith that these precious moments still exist.

As a traveler, I often have to suffer long bus rides without toilet access. Bumpy roads and crowded public transportation don’t exactly relax the bladder either.

On the camino, these concerns are nonexistent. I was elated to drop, squat, and release the yellow liquid inside of me to my heart’s content. Do you know what freedom feels like?

I do.

To commemorate the beauty of being able to urinate wherever you want, I photographed Kimberly at different moments along the route.

Let’s just call these photos “Kimberly caught during business time.”

Do you like to pee outside? What was your experience going to the bathroom on the Camino de Santiago?

peeing on the camino
Nothing compares to a beautiful view like the relief of having just peed.
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Day 1 excitement just outside of Burgos
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pee  on camino
Adding yellow hues to a breathtaking landscape
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Do you know where to find happy people? Peeing on thr camino!
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Forests were great spots too
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A nature bed can also be a toilet!
pee  on camino
What church?
pee on camino
The presence of other pilgrims didn’t cramp our style
Kimberly’s phrase “peace, love and sunshine” is apparent in the joy on her face

Travel And The Ever-Present Penis Graffiti: A Photo Story And Commentary


They are everywhere. If you consider that all cisgender men have them, that’s a lot of penises.

They are heard everywhere. You hear people obsessively talking about them. Their size. Their lack of size. Their nicknames. reports:

Simone de Beauvoir called it “a small person … an alter ego usually more sly … and more clever than the individual.” Leonardo da Vinci said it “has dealings with human intelligence and sometimes displays an intelligence of its own.” Sophocles said that having one was to be “chained to a madman.

(Their homelessness: Pastor Mark Driscoll said, “Therefore, if you are single you must remember that your penis is homeless and needs a home”)

You see them being drawn in movies (shout out to Superbad), and unfortunately sometimes in real life, as I did teaching English in art classes in Ibiza.

Yes, people also talk about vaginas. But not as much as those penises.

The visualization of the penis is widespread. I love street art, and I love graffiti – especially if It’s clever.

penis graffiti
Whatever this means. Picture taken near Portomarin, Spain.
But the penis graffiti, man, it is everywhere. This summer while I was traveling, I witnessed penises drawn in every country I visited (Spain, Morocco, Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Turkey).

It’s like an every present big brother police state, genital style.

You turn a corner looking for that bakery you say on trip advisor. PENIS. You are taking your morning walk through the medina. PENIS. You are walking up the mountain to catch the village at sunrise. PENIS.

You get to Santiago de Compostela, a block from the cathedral. PENIS. Watch the video below for proof that I saw tons of penises.

The penis obsession is not just for the American youth or the Spanish youth. Nor is it an obsession of the hypersexualized male. It is an obsession of society that started when… well… Adam? As in Adam and Eve? Probably.

So, why the penis? What does our genital police state signify?

Minna Salami writes:

When it comes to sexual anatomy, some of these myths have to do with seeing a vagina as something more sacred, erotic and gentle than a penis. A penis on the other hand is seen as a symbol of enabling dominant power. At best. At worst, it is seen as a violent weapon with larger-than-life powers. (This is despite that male genitals are perhaps the most sensitive of all human body parts.)

So, that’s great. As if there wasn’t enough problems with sexual assault and male domination, we now get to have physical reminders of that everywhere we turn. Because it’s not enough to have a penis. No, no. You must also draw one every time you leave your house.

The penis is a symbol. A symbol of dominance, and as Jungian analysts claimed, a symbol of life, death, and rebirth.

But we have to inquire, are all of the penis graffiti merely representing a harmless cultural symbol? Hiding sexuality and policing it is dangerous, but we must ask ourselves, what purpose is all of the graffiti serving? Is it educating in a positive way? Is it giving sex positive expectations of what a penis is?

Or, is it reminding half of the world that they are subordinate? Is it showing young boys that without a big dick you are weak, nothing? That penises and a mainstream view of masculinity are the same?

Or, is it drawn by some bored kid who wanted to do something “outrageous?”

Most likely, all of the above. But a critical look at the obsession with the penis is necessary. The patriarchy sure won’t go home without being kicked out!

(On a humorous note, please enjoy this community message board on using penises for countrys’ flags. Oh, people! You never cease to amaze me)

Below are some of the penises I had the *pleasure* of seeing this summer. Did you see penis graffiti? Tweet at me @yasminesoyyo!

penis graffiti
Hey, looks like that penis even has a name! Isma, nice to meet you.
penis graffiti
Violent images of penises. It reads, “This is you, whore.”
penis graffiti
Defaming Camino de Santiago Signs. On a side note, you can fly across the sky on a penis. Did you know?
penis graffiti finisterre
Penis in Finisterre. This one is already famous from appearing in the youtube video! Glad to have you back.
penis graffiti morocco
If you thought Morocco was religious, you’re right. If you thought that meant no penis graffiti, you’re wrong!
You may recall this photo from the recent post on Leonese independence! You're right, it also applies to this penis post!
You may recall this photo from the recent post on Leonese independence! You’re right, it also applies to this penis post!

El Camino De Santiago: País Llionés Llibre

Spain is infamous for its regionalisms. Each autonomous community (and even within each autonomous community) has its own cuisine, way of life, values, reputation, and often, linguistic background.

As an Argentine friend in Ibiza put it directly, “These people all hate each other.” You might think that seems bit exaggerated, but once you start discussing topics of independence, the “laziness” of Andalusia and the supposed coldness of the Basque, you get a sense that to some, none of these people really mesh together well.

Spain's autonomous regions. Taken from
Spain’s autonomous regions. Taken from
Spanish is the official language, but six other regions – Catalonia, Valencian Community, Balearic Islands, Galicia, and Basque Country – have other official languages. You may have heard the most recent movement in Catalonia for independence or the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), the Basque separatist movement known for its terror tactics.

What you may not have heard about on the Anglo-Saxon media (or Spanish media for that matter) was the separatist movement of León, a province in northern Spain that forms part of the autonomous Community of Castilla y León. Not only does Spain have independence movements of autonomous communities, but intra-autonomous community movements.

Walking through this province, we began to see several signs with phrases such as “País Llionés Llibre” or “León without Castilla.”

The French route of the Camino de Santiago passes through many autonomous regions in Spain: Navarra, La Rioja, Castilla y León, and Galicia. León was the only place that from the paths or highways that pilgrims walk on, vandalism, or protest via graffiti in favor of separatist movements could be seen.

camino de santiago french route
A map of the French route of the Camino de Santiago. My friend Kimberly and I did the segment from Burgos to Santiago de Compostela. Taken from
These signs came as a surprise. I had never heard of a separatist movement in León. In fact, it had never occurred to me that a province within an autonomous community might want to be independent.

I commented that I had seen graffiti for independence to another pilgrim from Madrid. He simply scuffed and responded, “I can’t believe this, it’s ridiculous. What do these people want, borders from the 1700s?”

(It is to be noted that AGORA, one of the organizations in León in favor of independence claims that Madrid unfairly centralizes and dominates politics)

Still intrigued, when I returned to the U.S., I did some light investigating, and found a few interesting points about the independence movement of León.

Digging for this information wasn’t simple, but it wasn’t entirely difficult. Unsurprisingly, the only English-language information I found were on Wikipedia (the ever helpful), and most newspaper articles were published locally in the region. Youtube had some informative videos, and great news! You can also purchase your very own leftist/anarchist/anti-capitalist/anti-U.S. T-shirt in support of a separatist movement (you pick the region!) courtesy of (some of the shirts are hilarious and clever. But the irony of consumerism… Like people who wear Che Guevara shirts).

And can’t fail to mention Twitter, wonderful Twitter. It was a buzz with separatist articles, a wealth of information and a candy store for an amateur investigator. I saw hashtags-  #LeonNoEsCastilla and  #Llionnunyecastiella – and apparently those who support León independence have a soft spot for Andalusian political strife as evidenced by the hashtag #GranadaNoEsAndalucia (Granada is not Andalusia).

Independence flag of Leon.
Independence flag of Leon.
“Bandera del País Leonés” by Oren neu dag (talk) – self madeBased on Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons –
Here are a few take-aways from what I learned:

  • Who: Separatists from provinces of Leon, Zamora, and Salamanca
  • What: Separatists are fighting for an independent autonomous region for Leon, Zamora, and Salamanca (separate from Castilla y León, hence the photos below “León Solo”)
  • What organizations are involved? AGORA Pais Lliones and Leoneisist Youth, formerly known as Conceyu Xoven, the  youth wing of the Leonese People’s Union.
  • What political parties support independence? Leonese People’s Union (UPL), Grupo Autonomico Leones, Union of the Salamancan People, Regionalist Party of the Leonese Country. Podemos and Ciudadanos (at least in the last election). Local parties in Castilla y León such as Ganemos and En Comun are of “little certainty” but could potential support the cause.
  • What are the goals of the movement? Besides of course, independence, important topics include:
    • Linguistic recognition (claims that Castilla y León have not upheld the requirements set forth by the Council of Europe of protection of minority languages. Read more about the Leonese language in Spanish here).
    • Worker’s rights and topics of professional training, unemployment and cutbacks.
    • Environment: AGORA reports that “Capitalism produces the using up of natural resources and a progressive process towards the destruction of the planet.”
  • What has the movement achieved?
    • Towns in the Cabrera, a comarca of Leon were able to incorporate bilingual signs, preserving their linguistic heritage (unfortunately, those signs were vandalized soon after they were put up).

Below, see some of the graffiti I photographed while walking the Camino de Santiago. If you walked the camino, did you see anything intriguing? Do you have more information on the separatist movement? Tweet at me @yasminesoyyo!

pais lliones llibre
Someone crossed out “Castilla” and wrote “Leon Solo” (Only Leon).

“Pais Lliones Llibre”

Someone decided to draw a penis next to this independence graffiti.
Someone decided to draw a penis next to this independence graffiti. Leon city.

El Camino de Santiago: Favorite Graffiti Seen Along the Way: A Photo Story

With over 240,000 pilgrims completing the Camino de Santiago a year, the path and its signs see a fair share of vandalism. Vandalism is a strong word, however, because often the signs painted with an inspiring message or a humorous anecdote.

Just as the bathrooms signs brought me great joy, reading what previous pilgrims had written brought me a sense of being part of a greater community of people. In accordance with my philosophy that laughter can solve anything, when you walk for hours in the burning sun a bit of humor is exactly what you need.

Below are photos of my favorite graffiti I saw along the French route from Burgos to Santiago de Compostela.

What were your favorite graffiti? Tweet at me @yasminesoyyo!

camino de santiago
“Te amo. Tu Gitano. Bss. Buen Camino.” (I love you. Your Gypsy. Kisses. Good Walk)

camino de santiago sign
“Agua sin garantia sanitaria”
Drink at your own risk: Water without sanitary guarantee.. hmmm (Not a graffiti but still fun)

camino de santiago
“No Pain, No Gain – Girls” (Gain is crossed out and someone wrote over it, Girls”

“Kriss Millington butters his cat on both sides.” Because that makes sense. Maybe a sexual/Mean girls reference?

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“Everybody start singing, now!”

“Buen Camino, Miao!”

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“It’s business time.”
This graffiti was found on a road in Galicia right before a 10km stretch up hill. Reference to a Flight of The Concords song “Business time,” perhaps?

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Who knows what this is. I don’t know and I don’t care, but I like it.
Ponferrada, Spain.

“Tu vida es una mierda” (your life is shit.) Thanks so much for the encouragement! Seen in Burgos, Spain.

running man
Where is he off to?
Burgos, Spain

“Prohibido tirar pedos y cagar” (prohibited to fart and shit).
You can’t tell me what to do!
Near Hornatas

Ya, we want classes on how to “F***” not high school. Thanks for listening.

pooping on the camino de santiago
No pooping on the Camino de Santiago! Sign seen outside of Moratinos, Spain