FISTERRA, Galicia — Back in the late 1970s, I remember Elvis Costello’s first album, “My Aim is True,” which I bought as soon as it came out. One of my favorite tracks was “Waiting for the End of the World,” which is a perennial whistling favorite.
I don’t have to wait any longer, as I have seen the end of the world and it is magnificent. Fisterra (in Galician or finisterre in Spanish) literally means the end of the earth. It is not unique to have a “land’s end” — there is a Finnisterra in France and a Land’s End in England, and this one shares with its namesakes the breathtaking beauty to be found standing high on a rock looking across the Atlantic Ocean to… well, to what? To nothingness, maybe?The ancient Celts who conquered Galicia eons ago believed that west across the vast sea was an island called the “Land of Youth,” where no one ever dies and happiness was a guarantee. These beliefs were connected to the sun’s disappearance into darkness every day.
The discovery of St. James’ tomb in Santiago de Compostela, some 86 kilometers away, attracted pilgrims to Galicia, many of whom continue to Cap de Fisterre.It is well worth the visit, although when one can drive up to within a few hundred yards, I fail to see the appeal of dragging oneself up the long steep 5-kilometer hill. But I am just there for the view and not on some quest for enlightenment — I suppose to each his own.
However, there is an amazing feeling when one stands on the edge of the world and stares into the aquatic void. One is buffeted by the wind and the sound of the ocean is fantastic. True to the aforementioned Celtic influence, a lone bagpiper played and the sounds echoed around the corner to the rocks.
Even though the end of the world was populated by several dozen tourists and pilgrims, it was possible, when looking out to sea, to feel completely alone.
My partner, Ramona, said that it must have taken great courage to look out across that endless vista and say, “I think I’ll sail that and see where it ends up.” It does take a special kind of person. My bravery consists of standing on the edge of a rock expecting the wind to blow me into the sea. That’s brave enough for me.
Besides, I know where it ends up — I live there. I made my own trip from England and found my contentment across the wide ocean. It’s not exactly the “Land of Youth,” but it’ll do for me.
Next up: More about the pilgrims.