For the next hundred kilometres, you will cycle on flat terrain, without a shadow of a shadow. Some walkers skip this part of the road, which, in my opinion, is a great mistake because it is a brilliant part of the Camino. The sky stretches out above your head from East to West and from North to South. It feels a bit like being in the desert. The intervals between towns seem to be longer than before and there is nothing in between. No great art, no beautiful views, only sky to look at. And that, believe me, is truly amazing and very reassuring.
To start you will have to cycle almost 17 kilometres to get to Calzadilla de la Cueza. The track used to be an absolute nightmare, let’s say like cycling on a cobbled street for 17 kilometres. Since the surface was changed the experience changed diametrically. Now it is very pleasant as you ride on bike-friendly fine-grained gravel.
Terradillos de los Templarios. The town used to belong to the Templars and according to legend, the brothers hid the goose that laid the golden eggs here.
Unfortunately, the goose hasn’t been found yet although I have no doubt that repeated attempts were made to find it. This is not the only legend – some years ago in this area, one of the towns firmly believed that their parish priest was a Templar, despite resolute protests from the interested party. As a huge fan of the Knights Templar, I am sorry that buildings belonging to the Order did not survive, but I like this tiny town anyway.
Between Terradillos de los Templarios and Moratinos, the track wanders away from the N-120 and meanders up and down the hills among farmlands. About 3 kilometres further on you reach Moratinos, a small village with humble root cellars standing in a line.
You will see them again on the outskirts of Leon, but those of Moratinos are the ones you will remember.
You now enter the Province of Leon.
Sahagun. It should be emphasized that Sahagun is a capital of the Romanesque-Mudejar style (12th and 13th century). The most beautiful example, the monastery, disappeared off the face of the earth however existing ones like the Church of San Tirso or San Lorenzo are excellent examples of Mudejar. Christian churches built by the Spanish Muslims in the early Middle Ages are rather light constructions made out of red brick. They are lacking a stone vault having a wooden ceiling instead. The brick bell towers have rows of arches and windows and the interior is decorated with horseshoe arches. Usage of the decorative sculpture is rather frugal.
Even though Sahagun’s Mudejar style is mentioned in every art history book, the town hides a more precious treasure – one of the best patisseries on the Camino. The café called “Asturcon” is at the fork in road described above and is run by a lady who not only has a fantastic selection of cakes but also genuinely likes pilgrims. Frankly speaking, if I haven’t much time and have to choose between seeing the Mudejar style in flash or eating a cake in that patisserie I would go for the latter.
Now you cycle for kilometres on a small, most of the time empty, tarmac road passing walkers whose trail is alongside. For me personally, it is truly the Meseta Central begging you – flat, empty, treeless, more often than not overwhelmingly hot, pretty amazing I have to say.
Mansilla de las Mullas (75.80 km from Carrion de los Condes) is a town of Roman origin and was one of the stops on the Empire road leading to Leon where the Roman legion was stationed. The town holds several festivals throughout the year. If you happen to be there at the same time as the day of Saint James (25th of July) you can take part in Medieval Festival complete with fair, tournament and live music. Mansilla de las Mullas (likewise Reliegos in the past) is also known for its tomato production. That’s why on one Sunday at the end of August a Tomato Fair is held which finishes off with a tomato fight. So, if you have always wanted to take a part in La Tomatina but maybe not to extent of buying a ticket to Bunol, you can try your luck in Mansilla.