Continued from Part 1.
We reached Santiago around noon and I was surprised how big the town actually was. We walked for a few kilometres before we reached the Cathedral, too late to see the the Botafumeiro though. The square in front of the cathedral was full with people – taking photos, laughing, sitting/lying on the ground, thinking, speaking, greeting, hugging. The cathedral itself was splendid in its style, details and size. Santiago was bursting with life – pilgrims, students (there is a university), tourists, locals. Very lively atmosphere, with gorgeous architecture and cozy, narrow streets. Lots of bars, restaurants, all sorts of places where you can sit and enjoy life. I was desperate to leave my rucksack somewhere, anywhere, change my clothes and soak in the sun. So much impatience! Probably that is why I had to wait a few more hours, lesson taught, whether learnt – still to be determined.
So first we went to the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago in order to present our credentials and receive our Compostelas. We waited in line for at least half an hour, maybe even more, the queue was almost on the street, covering all the inner yard and climbing the stairs. Waiting patiently in line I overheard a conversation right behind me about a pilgrim bitten by bedbugs in Santiago. Up until this point we had not had any encounters with these notorious creatures and I preferred our relationship to stay exactly this way – from distance.
We took our Compostelas and continued on to look for the Tourist Office in order to get new Credentials for the remaining part to Finisterre, a map of Santiago de Compostela and hopefully a list with the albergues. Afterwards, we set on a quest for albrergues with free beds. The first one we walked in - The Last Stamp Albergue seemed pretty attractive (18 E/night), but we decided to give our search skills a chance and see whether we could find something more appealing. We could not…so half an hour later we were back and checking in. The place is definitely one that I’d recommend. It is stylish, clean, has lockers and the large room is divided by sliding doors in small sections of 4 two-storeyed beds, providing a feeling of privacy. No bedbugs. The location was all we could ask for – merely a 5-minute walk to the Cathedral and a view of the domes from the window (which was magnificent at sunset). The only drawback I can recall is that it got a little noisy at night as the nightlife was thriving down on the streets. In fact, many pilgrims book hotels in Santiago de Compostela and spend a couple of days in the town like proper tourists . Sounds like a pretty good idea to me.
We, however, had 3 more days of walking so went to bed earlier than most pilgrims in Santiago do (well later than usual anyway – we reached our beds at about midnight). But, considering the next day we had just a short section of about 22 kilometres, not crowded in the least, I was feeling really calm and relaxed and expected 3 easy days. I was only partially right.