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Joaquín Fernández, tour guide: «I've been asked everything from why we moved the Tower of Hercules to whether the traditional hórreos (granaries) are mausoleums»



Joaquín Fernández lleva 14 años trabajando como guía turístico por toda Galicia.
Joaquín Fernández lleva 14 años trabajando como guía turístico por toda Galicia.

«Santiago always lives up to expectations, while San Andrés de Teixido always exceeds them», remarks the local tourism expert

21 sep 2023 . Actualizado a las 17:34 h.

—How has this summer been for you guides?

—It’s been a very, very good year. Peak season starts in spring, around Easter time, and lasts until October. In other words, it pretty much coincides with the summer.

—And what about the outlook for autumn?

—For us there is no let-up once the autumn starts. In fact, September and October are among the busiest months for tour guides. There is a lot more work than in July and August, which are oddly a pretty quiet period for us. During the summer season more people travel on their own, while organised trips tend to take place in spring and autumn.

—What is the top attraction among visitors to Galicia?

—Santiago de Compostela is the star attraction and what everyone wants to see. The cathedral is like the region’s calling card, the symbol of Galicia. Santiago never disappoints, though the cliffs and shoreline in the northern part of the province of A Coruña, running roughly from Ferrol to Cape Ortegal, never cease to amaze visitors because of just how spectacular they are.

—And your favourite place?

—San Andrés de Teixido. Everyone we take there says how incredible it is. It’s the real Galicia and never fails to impress. The horses and cows roaming around there are a source of constant amazement!

—What image do tourists have of Galicia when they arrive?

—They tend to think that Galicians are rather old-fashioned, traditional folk. As soon as they visit any of the seven cities here in Galicia they are surprised at how modern and liberal everything is and how friendly and open we all are.

—What’s the strangest question you’ve been asked?

—From what an apostle is to what a century is. One of the funniest was on a visit to the Fonseca academy in Santiago. I was asked, in all seriousness, if the statue of Alfonso de Fonseca, who sits with his head resting on his hand, much like The Thinker, was actually chatting away on his mobile phone. Let’s not forget that this statue is some 500 years old!

—And the question that comes up again and again yet never ceases to amaze?

—Whether our traditional hórreos (granaries) are in fact mausoleums. Perhaps it’s because they often bear a cross, but not once, not twice, but on many occasions have I been asked if we bury our dead in our gardens here in Galicia. I also get asked a lot if there are any dangerous places to avoid. I always try to explain that the criminal elements here do not target tourists. You won’t run into any problems walking through the centre of any Galician city.

—Any tourists you haven’t been able to win over?

—One lady was quite adamant we had moved the Tower of Hercules. She was convinced that she had been here 50 years ago and had sat in front of the lighthouse dipping her feet in the sea, no matter how much I explained to her that it must have been at another lighthouse and that the tower had been in the same place for 1,800 years.

—Any funny anecdotes?

—Oh, too many to count over the years, though I do recall one involving an Italian lady on a trip to Santiago. She told me that she didn’t believe a word I was saying about the remains of James the Great being in the cathedral. But it wasn’t due to a lack of faith or because it seemed implausible: “How is it possible that he’s not in Rome?”, she proclaimed indignantly.

—A golden rule in your line of work?

—Never, ever talk about politics.