Friday, June 22, 2012

In Santiago

In Santiago

I arrived in Santiago yesterday, and despite weather predictions, it was sunny all day. I am now ensconced in my own room in a pension, in the historic part of the city, only about 100m from the Cathedral. I am enjoying the space and the privacy after many nights of dorm living! And I probably won't get out of bed until at least 9am!!

After walking the last few kms into the city, I got my Compostela from the Pilgrim Office. Those of you who follow the Santiago Forum will know of Johnnie Walker. Well, he was the one who put the final stamps on my credentials, and who wrote out my Compostela and gave it to me. The timing for meeting him there was extraordinary. I had absolutely dawdled into town, thinking about those I had known last time I walked into Santiago, and I even diverted to the bus station en route. The initial queue had gone when I arrived at the Pilgrim Office, and I had no sooner walked up the stairs than who should bound in, but Johnnie Walker himself! If I had been any earlier I would have missed him.

Then I went to the Pilgrim Mass. They tell you to go early if you want a seat, so there ends up being this extraordinary time before Mass of people seeing others they met along the way, and greeting them or embracing them. In and around the Cathedral in the next few hours, I met nearly all the people I most wanted to see. And we all had reason to be thankful to a group of bus-a-grinos I think, as the botafumiero flew, and was spectacular. They put a huge amount of incense into it: the smell of olden-day pilgrims who didn't have albergues every night with showers must have needed quite some overpowering!

And as I sat in that Mass today, I was thinking about the heroism people had shown to get there. It did require a lot of perseverance at times, and I guess everyone had respect for the effort others had made. I also thought about everyone at home.

Afterwards I found a local restaurant for a lunch menu that included delicious Gallego soup and even a plate of shellfish. Then I wandered, just enjoying the sights and sounds of the city in the sunshine. I saw pilgrims out shopping, in the process of turning back into 'ordinary' folk. At 4pm I saw a Virtual tour of the Portico of Glory, which is mostly still covered up in the painstaking process of restoration. And at 6pm I stumbled on a concert in one of the squares adjoining the Cathedral. The city came alive in the early evening, full of people out in the streets.

Sent from my iPod

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