The smile of Santiago

Read first the beginning of the story:
The girl from Pampeluna.

I have never been a pilgrim to Santiago, but I did look like one. Otherwise I had not been asked for the way to the Plaza del Castillo in Pamplona by a young guitar owner who saw me consulting the city plan.

It was very windy at +6• and I covered my head with a black hood leaving only the round of my face visible. So I must have looked similar to cloaked people in medieval pictures. Especially if this happened on the Camino de Santiago, leading through the Plaza Consistorial, the very centre of the old town, with its city-hall, not that big, but harmoniously occupying the whole east side of the smallish square (all photos: click to enlarge).


I was myself on my way to the Plaza del Castillo hoping for a sunny terrace there to take some rest and have a drink after visiting the Cathedral with the current big exhibition „Occidens”, arranged in the impressive cloister.

We studied together the city plan and took the wrong way. Following it we were talking about him playing guitar, which I respect very much, because I never managed to learn playing an instrument. If there is a guitar in sight, I’m first to notice it, and not to leave it unmentioned, really.

I was ready to give it up, but he had an appointment „with a friend” there in half an hour, so we had to ask somebody for the right way. Arrived there I invited him to have a coffee and wait together in a bar. He introduced himself to me as Diego.

Having our drinks I asked him about his being not at school in Madrid at this time of the day. He appeared to have finished his studies but hating „big city jobs” he preferred to wander through the world, to South America, earning some food – no money – with his guitar. I gave him my cookie that came with my latte, saying „So you have earned your first coffee and two cookies today”. He laughed happily, shaking the oversized safety-pins in his right ear.


– Diego, you surely must write your own lyrics to sing them accompanying yourself with your guitar.

He took a file of manuscripts from the pocket of his guitar case. They were in Spanish I cannot read, so he explained they were about most simple things of everyday. I encouraged him to go on this way, because this is where poetry can emerge, authentic and interesting for people he wants to play for. It was past two, and he excused himself to make a call to his girlfriend. She was on her way. So he asked me what I was doing here, if I was no pilgrim to Santiago. I told him the reasons of my coming here on business, one day earlier than necessary, staying two days longer than necessary, and how surprisingly Pampeluna I knew only from a Flemish poem I translated 30 years ago became reality. I told him the outline of the poem without mentioning the details. On a piece of paper I wrote down the name of the poet and the title, so he could find it and look for a Spanish translation, and to sing it, in case he liked it.

Then I noticed from far on the empty Plaza a woman walking in our direction. – Your girlfriend is coming.

He looked around. – No, my girfriend’s hair is painted blue.

I haven’t told him that detail from the poem about the girl who painted blue her parrot’s feathers, and yellow – its legs. So I knew something important is going to happen.

We exchanged e-mail addresses. I made a photo of him, and for the second one he displayed the rebellious attitude, biting the pirate banner while sitting between two sails not yet set:


He promised to send me selfies from his travel.

He asked me to make a selfie together. He made one on his cell-phone, and so I made mine.


Then he noticed that behind us on the square his girlfriend is talking with somebody.

– Diego, I have to see your girlfriend, and please ask her to let me make a photo of her!

We moved from the coffee table. In two seconds somebody was shouting at us: – Hello, hello!

The bartender was running behind us. Yes, I haven’t paid for our coffee yet and was apparently running away. Diego explained in Spanish what was going on, I gave the bartender 50 Euro telling him I would come back. We run.

She was strikingly beautiful.


Her hair had many colours, among them the cobalt-blue.


I forgot to ask her name. She must have told it to me when we shook hands, but I was too struck with her colorful appearence to think about anything but this coincidence. Should I have asked who painted one side of her bike’s fork and the spokes yellow? Like the legs of the parrot from the poem?


I only made a photo of them both, the guitar player from Madrid and the girl from Pampeluna, they happy to be together on the stage of the Plaza del Castillo, and me glad to actually have experienced the finishing of a poetic story started 90 years ago in Flanders.


© A. Dąbrówka, photos 25. March 2015, text 1 April 2015


Informacje o Andrzej Dąbrówka

Tenured professor, Institute of Literary Research (Polish Academy of Sciences), Warsaw.
Ten wpis został opublikowany w kategorii art, books, conferences, literature, Netherlands, personal, photography, poetry, Poland, Spain. Dodaj zakładkę do bezpośredniego odnośnika.

4 odpowiedzi na „The smile of Santiago

  1. Gerald Erichsen, Spanish Language Expert:
    ‚James’ and ‚Diego’ May Share Common Origin



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