I walked through Santiago few days ago. After almost a month of walking I finally reached my final destination. Okay, I started to write this post really only few days after Santiago. Now it’s more than a week and I can look at that day with some distance.
Last night before Santiago
Pilgrims have a chance to walk the whole day and finish their camino in Santiago in the afternoon. The main square and church is already very crowded at that time. I was little bit worried of this huge amount of people all of sudden, so I decided to spend my last night only 5km before Santiago in this great albergue. Even though it’s the largest one on the way by far (more than 400 beds), we were only 25+- pilgrims there. It’s run by a Polish church and I couldn’t choose a better place to stay last night before Santiago. They also serve delicious pilgrim’s menu for 8€.
The albergue is well situated on Mt Gozo overlooking Santiago. This is where you get your first glimpse of the place, which seemed unreachable.
If you spent the last night in Mt Gozo albergue, Santiago cathedral is only 5km away. It’s an ordinary well marked walk in the morning. You will get to the main square in no time. The Santiago cathedral is truly magnificent and huge. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel any strong emotions when I arrived. Maybe, my expectations were set too high, maybe I thought about that moment already too many times before on my way. The truth is, my mind was probably kind of set for walking and not staying in a big city.
What to do in Santiago
You have multiple options, what to do, after reaching Santiago. Luckily, there is very little people in the morning hours. You can enjoy your moments to celebrate or go inside the church without waiting in queue. There are multiple masses throughout the day. The main one is at 12:00 and is held in Spanish. If you would like to enjoy the mass in different language, there are smaller masses at different times in some of the side chapels. There are masses in French (9:00), Polish (9:30), English (10:00) and many others.
Don’t forget to go to Pilgrim’s office (map) and pick up your certificate. It opens at 8:00 and if you are in the top 10 first pilgrims to arrive, you will get an invitation to Parador restaurant, right next to the cathedral. So maybe worth the walk:) I probably could have been in the ten lucky ones, as I reached Santiago around 7am. There were only two things that ruined the free meal for me.
- I didn’t know about it.
- I was sitting before the cathedral on the ground and for two hours before going to the pilgrim’s office.
Around 9am the area starts to fill up with a lot of tourists. It’s also a time, when most of the souvenirs shops open. If you feel like looking for some treasures to bring home, this is the time. Sadly, most of the shops offer pretty much the same things all over again.
If you plan to continue your camino to Finisterre (Fisterra) or Muxia, you might consider just skipping shopping as you surely don’t want to add more weight to your, already heavy, backpack.
I continued to walk only couple of hours after reaching Santiago.
Santiago de Compostela is a beautiful city, no doubt. However, us as pilgrims, are not going there to see the nice architecture, buy lots of souvenirs or taste the local food. I believe, you had something different in mind, when you decided to do the camino. I was the same. This trip is not about tourism, you are not a tourist, you are a pilgrim and staying in the city doesn’t feel right. That is why I left Santiago only couple of hours after my arrival.
As I already said in 6 Reasons Why I am going to Santiago via the Northern Way, I planned to continue walking to Finisterre. The end of the World during middle age. I’ve already had a chance to visit another End of the World, during my travels in Patagonia. I decided not to go there back then, even though I was only couple hundreds km away from it. I won’t let it happen again. Plus I can walk all the way there, it’s only couple extra days of walking (100km).
What I’ve learned so far
It seems like we are always rushing towards the end, but once we get there, we don’t actually know, what to do. We don’t realize that it truly doesn’t matter to get there little bit sooner or faster. We don’t have to do things on 150% just to come to a conclusion it didn’t really matter. And that’s what I learned on my camino to Santiago. It took me more than 650km so far, but I think I understand it now. Rush gets you nowhere. Travel slow, live slow.