Speaking of accommodation, there are several options one can choose from when walking/cycling the Camino. Hotels, hostels, and, of course, albergues. Note, however, that in some smaller villages, albergues are the only option available, sometimes only 1 or 2 of them to choose from (for example the village of Gonzar).
Albergues are an inseparable part of the true Camino experience. The socializing aspect is at its best there and for me the spirit of the journey can be predominantly felt there. Due to various reasons, some people choose other types of accommodation, but since I completely focused on albergues, I’d like to share some information with you and hopefully you will not have my confused expression when I first walked in an albergue and wondered how should things be done.
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.
Day 9 was one of those days which have not left a very memorable trace in my mind. But there should be days like that, just getting in the routine of walking, which isn’t bad at all. It was a flat, long walk (over 30 km…again) with grumpy weather but considering we had to reach Santiago de Compostela the next day (already?!), we preferred to walk more that day and treat ourselves with a pleasurable short walk for the last day.
This stage was a pleasure. Only 21 km. to Triacastela, mostly descending, beautiful scenery, the weather was warm and sunny, who could ask for more? Anyway, people having knee and ankle problems would perhaps tell a different story, as descent, especially one spreading over several kilometers is a huge strain precisely on these parts of the body.
We almost ran out from the municipal albergue. At about 6.30 o’clock everyone was up and it was resembling an enormous bee-hive with everyone trying to get ready and put their stuff in order in the dark. I really appreciate the fact that many people (I followed the example) actually arranged their backpack outside the bedroom and spared the others all the rustling, whispering and flashlights in all directions. Outside the air was amazingly fresh (I forgot to mention O Cebreiro is located at an altitude of 1300 m) and we started descending through the dark mountain.
Day 1 of our Camino walk started at lovely Astorga. After spending the night on a bus travelling from Barcelona, taking about 11-12 hours (blissfully spent in sleep), we finally reached our starting point. It was dark when we got off the bus and immediately began looking for a place to take our credentials from. We found the first albergue very easily, it was so close to the cathedral, however, the hospitalero was not willing to spend any of his time on us. He was speaking to us in Spanish (like so so many people on the Camino), but it became clear he was welcoming us at 11 o’clock. 4 hours? No way.
One pilgrim on the street showed us the municipal albergue and we decided to give it a try. We were lucky because right after holding our credentials in hands, it closed as well. What followed was a memorable breakfast – cafe con leche (it is amazing that while in Spain even in the smallest of villages I enjoyed fantastic cafe con leche-s) and churros - the sole thought is mouth-watering.