At last we made our way to Santiago de Compostela, the third most popular focus of pilgrimages after Jerusalem and Rome. The camp site was a short bus ride from the centre of town and very cramped but it was well worth the effort as we have dreamed of coming here ever since we became aware of it's existence when we visited various towns on the pilgrimage routes.
On Saturday morning we caught the bus to town and when we got off, looking a bit puzzled about which direction to take, a very kind lady also on the bus, took us up some steps, past the market and through some narrow streets to show us the way to the cathedral. We stopped for a coffee first and found ourselves surrounded by pilgrims celebrating their arrival and greeting people they had met along the way. A bit later we saw a group of musicians setting up ready for a concert so we sat and listened for a while before going into the huge cathedral.
The interior was amazing, lots of gold decorations and little chapels all around the outer edge with a huge completely gold crypt containing the relics of St James in the centre next to the nave. The seats were filling up with people, many of them obviously pilgrims with their scallop shells hanging from their bags. There was a censor hanging on a very long chain suspended from the ceiling which is swung during the masses every day, however we didn't get to see it in action as we didn't stop to partake in the service but we heard about from some people we met on the campsite.
After a delicious tapas lunch in a lively bar we sat on the steps at the back of the cathedral to watch the world go by. I sat and sketched the view from our seat and listened as people came and went, greeting friends and promising to keep in touch, while Bob chatted to a Frenchman who sat next to us. I wondered what the crowd of people I had been drawing were doing so we investigated and discovered they were queuing to get their final stamps on their passports for completing the Camino and collect their certificates.
The atmosphere in Santiago is amazing, full of happiness and camaraderie, so many people have made journeys of a lifetime and found new friends as well as discovering themselves spiritually.
For a little while Bob and I considered doing the Camino and even looked at backpacks and walking boots but common sense soon prevailed as we both have rather creaky knees and a 10 kilometre walk is about the best we can achieve these days. We met a lovely German girl later at Santillana del Mar who was doing the walk alone, with a 15 kilo pack including a tent and had had to break it into 2 or 3 legs with a rest at home in between. As an extra challenge she was taking the coastal path which is hillier than the path through the centre crossing the plain.
Next time we're back by the sea so I'll see you again in a few days.