Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Pilgrimage Day 22: Villadangos del Paramo - Astorga
Today's plan is to walk a little under 30 km, all the way to the beautiful city of Astorga. It is in Astorga many pilgrims begin their journey to Santiago de Compostela and from there they have less than 260 km to walk. I'm starting on my hike early once more this morning. I walk first to the village of Hospital de Órbigo. Here I find an absolutely beautiful bridge from the 1500's, the most impressive one I've seen so far on the whole journey. I stop here and take a small rest and something to eat.
But it doesn't take long before I get a visit from two Spaniards who sit down next to me. It turns out that the couple live near the picnic area and when they saw me, they wanted to know who I was. They are farmers here and own the land I'm sitting on. They are clearly proud that I have choosen to sit on "their bench." They cannot speak English so it is with difficulty that we communicate with each other. They want to know where I come from, and when I say Norway, they almost will not believe me. Norway is a country they know well where is. They said everyone knows that Norway is the country next to Sweden and where baccalao comes from. They are impressed that I have walked from France. They themselves have never been outside their village and envy me the freedom of being able to walk as I do. As farmers, they must always look after their land. They say I have a long way to go before I reach Santiago de Compostella. I ask if I can take a picture of them and they say yes quickly with a big smile. The man sits closer to me and poses, and his wife stands behind him. They both leave me with a solid handshake. This was a nice start.
I go on to Santibáñez the Valdeiglesias. Here I come to a stone cross, where I can almost see Astorga in the distance. After that I come to San Justo de la Vega. From here it's a nice, light way to Astorga. The nearly 30 km today went exceptionally fast. I think the days are starting to go much too fast. Suddenly I'm in Astorga, a city that is very important on the pilgrim road. I have now walked 560 km. Here the "Silver route" from Seville mets with the "French route" (which I have been following). There is a great and mighty wall surrounding the city. I walk into the city and visit Gaudi's Bishop's Palace, which now serves as a pilgrim museum. There is a Disneyland-like apperence over this castle, but I am still impressed. It is amazing to walk around in this city. Perhaps the most beautiful city I've ever been in. There are large open spaces, fantastic buildings, narrow streets, small cafes. Yes, -this is indeed a city of my heart.
In all this I find myself a hostel in an alley. A cozy hostel with room for 50 people, and it is full here tonight. The bedrooms are on the third floor, bathrooms on the second and a kitchen on the ground floor. It cost me 5 euros to stay here. This hostel and this city is a memory for life. I go to bed early in order I be rested for a new pilgrim walk tomorrow.