Via de la Plata

Hiking through the region Extremadura

The name of the region reveals that Extremadura is an area of extremes, not only historically but also geographically. During Roman times, Merida in Extremadura was the most important Roman town on the Iberian peninsula. A network of Roman roads connected it to other cities. As the Via de la Plata follows the Roman road to the north (Calzada Romana), it leads to towns with a lot of Roman architecture. After the Romans left, the area lost its importance and was falling into poverty. For several centuries, Extremadura was the main region of emigration to S-America. Francisco Pizarro and Hernan Cortez came from this region.

Extremadura is known for the large Dehesas, which are huge pastures were cork oaks and holm oaks provide the “bellotas” (acorns) especially for the very high prized Iberian black pig.

Without much infrastructure, the long stretches of walks between settlements can be a challenge for pilgrims walking the Via de la Plata through Extremadura (nearly 400 km).





Between the stone walls

not yet alone anymore

a little black bug




This beautiful horse was checking me out.




Castillas de las Torres (13th century) built by the knights of the order of Santiago. They provided safety for pilgrims and also for the drovers leading animals (mainly sheep) on the Via de la Plata. The Canadas Reales (walkways for animals protected by the king) followed the Via de la Plata.




It had recently rained and some pastures looked like meadows in springtime


My first destination in the region of Extremadura was a town called Monesterio (got its name from a monastery founded by the knights of the order of Templar), but the monastery is not there anymore. Instead, the town is the most famous center of the highly prized “Jamon Iberico de Pata Negra”. Just before entering the town, I walked through a forested area with a dead, rotting pig – an interesting introduction to the town.




Rotting, dead pig beside my path



It was rainy when I arrived in Monesterio and I followed the instructions of my navigator to lead me to the recommended Albergue municipal. It was closed! I could not believe it!

I had a bad headache (maybe by not drinking enough water), needed urgently to use a bathroom and wanted to just have a place to rest. I called several places, but everything was closed.  Finally, somebody who could speak English recommended Hostal Extremedura. They had a room for me – what a treat! I had a private room, a bed with pure white cotton bedding, a bathtub and a wonderful, big towel! Being grateful for simple things is something I had learned on a pilgrimage.  The owner also recommended an actualised app for pilgrims looking for accommodations – very helpful!




A loyal watchdog guarding a herd of sheep



Although seemingly boring, I loved the walk on the wide open fields of the Dehesa for the next two days (about 50km).  On the High Plateau, endless fields of brown, warm earth stretched to the horizon and merged with the sky above. Sometimes, only broom bushes were growing beside the road, speaking of spring when everything is in bloom. Now they were resting.









Every so often the dried blossoms of thistles merged with the dry, golden grass beside the road, enjoying the beauty of the fall season.




Olive orchard in the distance




A long time ago, a goat was caught in the fence, but even the skull was beautiful!




However, not really visible by seeing but by hearing and smelling, was the industrial food production in this area. Pigs were kept in large halls and even from a far distance, I heard their heartbreaking cries. Sometimes, the smell of manure was unbearable. It was probably spread on the fields.




The route of the pilgrimage is well marked, especially in Extremadura. It would be dangerous to get lost without any water source or settlements for miles and miles. These granite cubes show not only the direction of the way (yellow arrow and shell), but indicate also if the route follows the former Roman road (yellow-green square).


However, after walking so many miles on a flat surface with my barefoot shoes, I felt that my left foot was starting to hurt, but I was dedicated to make the pain my friend and walk with it.




Pain in my left foot –

how about we are good friends

one step at a time



When I arrived in the village of Calzadilla de los Barros, my friend, Mr. Pain, occupied my entire attention and did not stop bothering me. I had to do something and was lucky – I passed a pharmacy! I bought medicine suggested by the owners. They also recommended a hotel in the next town, Zafra.



Despite the healing creme, the pain became nearly unbearable. I tried to put weight on different parts of my foot and not stiffen up. It helped a bit. My speed of walking was extremely slow. By the time I entered the town Zafra, I could not walk anymore. I booked a room in the Hotel Palmeras, a beautiful old hotel in the center of the city, and stayed there for two nights.




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Born and raised in a village along the Danube in Austria, Traude Wild soon ventured out into the world. After a two-year program for tourism in Klesheim/Salzburg, she spent nearly a year in South Africa and Namibia. By returning back to Austria, she acquired a Master of Economics at the University of Vienna. After moving to the United States with her four children, she studied Art History at Arizona State University and stayed in the United States for fourteen years. Here, she was teaching Art History in several Universities like Webster University and University of Missouri-St. Louis. Now, she lives partially in Arizona and Vienna and works together with her husband for the University of South-Carolina, Moore School of business as Adjunct Professor organising and leading Study tours in Central Europe. She also teaches at the Sigmund Freud University in Vienna. Since 1999, she is practicing Zen meditation in the lineage of Katagiri Roshi. She loves to hike and to write and is a student of Natalie Goldberg. During her often many weeks long hikes she brings her awareness into the Here and Now, describing her experiences in an authentic way. She loves to walk pilgrimages. The longest hike so far was the 1,400 km long 88 Temple pilgrimage in Shikoku, Japan in 2016.

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    • How great that you walk with me! I appreciate that very much, dear Billie! Maybe, next time we will be able to walk with our physical body part of the pilgrimage route from Barcelona to Santiago – with you now living in this area. Let’s plan it! Love, Traude


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