Visiting the Oldest Operating Lighthouse in the World in A Coruña, Spain
In the northwest part of Spain, a section of the country most people visit by a cruise ship, is a city called A Coruña that took my breath away when I visited.
To put things in context, there is a raw, craggy coastline that looks out at the almost unforgiving ocean in front of you. Because this was a dangerous area for sailors, the Romans had the foresight to build a Tower of Hercules lighthouse on the peninsula itself; it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Center and the oldest operating lighthouse in the world, admirably still in use.
And these Romans knew a thing or two about maps and exploration. They believed that Cape Finisterre, the spectacular rock-bound peninsula about an hour away from A Coruña, was the end of the known world, a place that looks so outlandish that for a moment I thought Jurassic creatures might have once roamed and flown. St. James is believed to have preached the gospel here.
Unfortunately –or perhaps fortunately, as I feel my pulse still going strong--- I did not get a chance to actually visit Cape Finisterre (the “Costa da Morte” or “Coast of Death”), but I marveled instead at La Coruña’s famous houses with white galleries that allow a dazzling amount of light into the rooms; as well as the floral clock tower lovingly replanted each day by locals.
If you come to here on a cruise, the best way to see the city in an hour or so is by bus. My guide, Dario, was a glowing ambassadors of the city’s spirit. “This is one of the four main cities of Galicia,” says Dario, “and half the fish eaten in Spain comes from this province.”
The city's oldest church, Santiago de Compostela, lies on top of a cobblestone path not too far from the main street; the church is believed to be the burial site of St. James the Great.