Thursday, 6 August 2009
Santiago...Otra Vez, y Por Fin!
Thursday July 23rd: By the time I wake up absolutely everyone has left and I am not to see them again. I spend an hour cleaning up while waiting for the rain to stop, which, thankfully it does and I can't help thinking about three wet hombres de la provincia Vasco.
Today was a difficult walk in many ways. It wasn't the distance: it was the distance to... I wasn't ready for Santiago and like Miranda, I wanted to turn around and go back in the direction I came from.
The first view of Santiago as you approach from Milladoiro to the south is above a new bridge over the highway. The cars, oblivious to the pilgrim photographing them from above, are going very fast, you are still going slow, slower if your feet are still swollen and blistered as mine are. But from there you can just about make out the Cathedral in the distance.
As I enter Santiago I manage to get the Camino back and by the time I walk up to the Alameda I am in my sitio otra vez. One of the first things I see is my book in the window of Encontros bookshop in Rua do Vilar. It is a very welcome sight and helps to reinforce the feeling that I am where I should be, doing exactly what I should be doing.
I enter the Cathedral by the south door off the Placa de Platerias as a good Portuguese pilgrim should. I go to see Susana, I go to see "Priscillian/Santiago". I go around the front to the Placa de Obradoiro, and I "lose it" once again.
I am a day early. Many I have shared space with will have been and gone by now, but that was never my intention. I have been a slow pilgrim: talking to every dog, photographing every flower, church, roman bridge…it has been a joy.
I probably should have gone straight to the Alameda, but the Seminario Menor called me like a homing pigeon. I have written about my experience there on the Camino-de-Santiago forum and so will reproduce it here if you are not a member. Do check it out though: friendly people and good topics:
“Seminario even more Menor than before...”
(Menos means less in Castellano, Menor means lesser)
I swore I would be positive on this Camino. I would fight against "Righteous Indignation". I have done pretty well all considered, but there are exceptions. Read on...
Last time I was here in April of last year I posted that the Seminario was closed for renovations. So having got here a day early I thought I would check out the changes for one night before going to the little hostal I always stay at.
The Seminario Menor is a cold, sad place to end a pilgrimage at the best of times. Groups disperse and many people find themselves without the people they have walked with and this is not the place to make new friends. People talk in whispers, and limp. But then, there are the "renovations"...
Oh the windows are new and apparently the fire alarms etc have all been updated on the orders of the Xunta at a cost of 250,000 Euros. The walls have been painted and so have the iron headboards. Blankets now come wrapped in nice, and presumably not-to-be recycled plastic covers along with the not recyclable "sheets and pillowcases" as part of the anti-bedbug squad (terrible lack of recycling in the Albergues in Galicia!). But the vending maching is expensive (20 cents for hot water!), there is no kitchen or refrigerator, half an hour of Internet is 1 Euro and call me a prude, but I Really Do Object to having to share my intimate moments with urinals!
Yes, still communal, as are the showers.
Couldn't part of that 250,000 have gone on making life a little bit nicer for tired pilgrims who have, after all, come a very long way?
Oh, and it will cost you 12 euros (10 in the "off season”).
There is also a preponderance of tourist literature from a certain private travel company beginning with a "V". I was to find out later that it is a travel agency located on the corner of the Alameda. You can take a day trip to Finisterre complete with Spa Package if you like, though there seems to be something of a monopoly as to your choice of travel company.
Being the Shit Disturber that I am, I asked: is the Seminario Menor now a commercial enterprise?
The nice young man on the desk (and he really was nice) looked more than a bit discomfitted at my question. He explained that the expenses demanded by the municipality were only covered partially by a grant and the rest - he wasn't sure if it was 40 or 60% - was paid for by this travel agency. Now this was kind of them, but I have to add "with interest". I noticed that my receipt clearly indicated a profit-making concern as IVA of 16% was added.
So if you choose to stay at the Seminario "Belvis" (now a Pension Residential with 1 star, though where that might be I can't imagine) just know that the reason you are now paying 12 euros a night and not 5 euros for three days as before is so that you can sleep secure knowing that the fire alarms work.
Personally, I’d go for the Alameda or the Hostal Suso everytime, that is unless you like sleeping in 1930’s era hospital wards...
(Oh, and just a quick P.S: The fireworks shortly to be discussed and organised this year by an Italian company cost in the region of ...250,000 euros...but they were oh so nice I have to admit.)