Egeria: the traveller from El Bierzo you’d love to meet

Recently, Spanish journal El País published an article about one of the firsts travel writers who has ever existed: Egeria. She was a peregrine and travelled most of the known world to Jerusalem describing what she saw, where she was comfortable or rather where she wasn’t. As the article says, it’s a kind of like tripadvisor! She wrote, always according to the news, in Latin using plenty of “Hispanic vulgarisms”. That happened already in the 5th Century, more than seven hundred years after Scipio arrived for the first time to what nowadays we know as Spain. Therefore, Egeria’s Latin was (step by step) evolving into a primitive Spanish. This is pretty important too, for this is key to understand how the Latin languages evolved.

And the newspaper added a strange word for many people: “el Bierzo”. What’s that? And what is even more relevant: how is this -Latin, Roman…- any important?

El Bierzo: geographic situation

Monasterio de Carracedo. Jacinto Gutiérrez

According to experts, Egeria was born in the Roman Province Gallaecia, which is the root of the nowadays Spanish word and province Galicia. Gallaecia became the “End of The World” province for the Romans in the 3th Century B. C. It was in the North of Lusitania (current Portugal), North-West of present Spain. El Bierzo would be the South of this province. A beautiful linguistic mess was the result of the location of this province: due to the mix of influences, the actual Galizian language is quite close to both Spanish and Portuguese. El Bierzo is a shire of León and also the closest one to Galicia.

As if this weren’t enough, there’s another quite special place in the North-East frontier with El Bierzo: Asturias. And as if being surrounded by the ancient Galicia and the ancient Kingdom of Asturias weren’t enough, it is also bordered by the ancient Kingdom of León in the South-East.

Why the notes by Egeria are so interesting to nowadays “Latin speakers”

So, we’ve got a root: Latin. We also have a language in the North-West: Galician. In Asturias we’ve got an official dialect that many people consider a proper language. Finally, in León we’ve got Spanish. How do you think the people from El Bierzo speak? They speak a beautiful Spanish full of Galician and Asturian influences. They also have a gastronomy which combines the best of the three cultures. These circumstances resulted in El Bierzo’s creation of a culture of their own, really worthy to be experienced. This is why Egeria’s way of writing, from thousands of years ago, is so very interesting for everyone who speaks a language that comes from Latin (Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian…).

In short, just like they say in El Pais article, Egeria’s writing is key to understand the evolution from Latin to the languages we speak nowadays. And, in the case of Spain, how in a not-that-big country, there are three different official languages which come from Latin (Galician, Catalonian and Spanish) and, finally, Basque, whose origin remains unknown.

Visit us!

We don’t do guided tours in el Bierzo yet, but we do in Madrid! If you’re up to visit the beautiful Spanish capital, check our page Tripadvisor  and follow us on Instagram and Facebook!

We’d like to thank Jacinto Gutiérrez for letting us use his pictures. The main one for this article is also by him. It’s taken in Toral de Merayo, a wonderful village 4 km. away from Ponferrada. You’ve got to visit it!

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