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Galicia: Spain's Green Gem
A trip to Ourense
A couple weekends ago, I visited Galicia with one of my friends. It had always been on the top of my bucket list of places to visit in Spain. The first time I heard of Galicia was on my first day in Badajoz last year. One of my classmates Laura privately messaged me a warm welcome to Badajoz on WhatsApp. As we got talking, she told me about this northern region that she called the ‘Ireland of Spain’.
What really drew me more to visit Ourense was how close it was to Madrid. Just 2 hours in the AVE train (Spain’s high-speed train) would get you to Ourense, a city in Galicia.
Ourense was founded on the banks of the Minho River, one of the greenest rivers I’ve seen thus far in Spain. In Galicia, they also speak Gallego — what appears to the listener as a language with hints of both Spanish and Portugese (which makes sense given Galicia is right above Portugal).
We reached Ourense in the morning and after settling our things in our hostel (which was close to the old part of the city), we got to exploring the city. The train station and the old town were on opposite sides of the river, but it only look around 30 minutes to find our way to the hostel. Ourense lies in the Camino de Santiago (a famous pilgrimage for Catholics that leads to the beautiful cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia). Naturally this meant we encountered many camino walkers at the hostel. The old town of Ourense was quite small but the cathedral was one of the most beautiful I encountered.
Galicia is known for its pimientos de padrón, and I was beyond excited to have these (one of my favorite Spanish tapas!). These are a type of pepper that are served slightly charred in olive oil with large grains of flaky salt. We went to a beautiful Spanish taberna (tavern) for lunch and I immediately ordered my pimientos de padrón. Galicia is known for its seafood, given it strategic proximity to the Atlantic. I, however, being a vegetarian did not find it hard at all to both ask for and find vegetarian dishes. Both the tavern we went to for lunch as well as our dinner tavern had a variety of vegetarian options including goat cheese croquetas and butter-coated asparagus with parmesan.
In order (top to bottom, left to right): Goat cheese croquetas, me smiling in the AVE train, pimientos de padrón, asparagus with shaved parmesan, and the inside of one of the oldest taverns in Ourense
Ourense was originally a Roman settlement, as evidenced by a beautiful Roman bridge that lies over the Minho river. The Romans particularly loved Ourense because of its thermal springs as well.
My favorite part of the trip, though, was the gorgeous hike we went on the following morning. The trail was not one we actively sought out but rather one we stumbled upon as we made our way to the river. The banks of the river were filled with lush trees and every shade of green we could imagine. We eventually found a spot by the river to sit by and enjoyed the beauty of the Minho. Galicia was also much cooler in temperature than Madrid or Sevilla, making it an all-the-more enjoyable experience.
The greenness of the river Minho and the beautiful Roman bridge
I hope the Camino de Santiago lies next :)