As you walk along the Camino in Galicia in northwestern Spain, you come across curious primitive one-story structures on four posts. Appearing to be a shrine or cottage for the wee people, this roadside architectural phenomenon is a horreo, or a type of raised granary or storage larder. Horreos are also known in Galician as a canastro, piorno or paneira.
Horreos are wood or stone structures raised up on pillars to keep the contents (corn, fruits and other harvested crops) dry and protected from rodents and other predators. There are two types of horreos, the extended rectangular-shaped typical in Galicia and the square-shaped found in Asturias, Leon, Cantabria and eastern Galicia. The utilitarian horreo, perched on pillars (esteos) ending in flat stones, has a single door on one side, a gabled roof and is well aired through ventilation grooves in its walls. Several have decorations of geometric or Celtic carvings, crosses and colorful paintings.
The survival of the horreo is a testament to the continuation of the small-scale agrarian way of life of Galicia and Asturias. Horreos date back to the 15th century and they have become the unofficial cultural symbol of the region. Many of the over 20,000 horreos that dot the countryside lie abandoned, yet others have been restored as folk monuments. You will also find the occasional one used to store firewood, bicycles, cars or whatnot. Horreos are as much a part of Galicia as its lush green scenery, remarkable wines and delicious seafood.