Saturday, October 1, 2016

Adventures from Bulgaria: El Camino de Santiago, Part VII (final)

Still further!

By Valeria Idakieva

[Part VI, “Santiago on the horizon,” was published on July 27.]

Santiago de Compostela is a grand city. Last night I had time only to have a shower and dinner, but now it was time to see some of the city’s splendor. The pilgrims’ mass would be at noon, as it was every day in the Cathedral of Santiago, so I had the whole morning to wander through streets that manifested the strength and beauty of more than a thousand years of history. Only a few minor tasks awaited my attention, such as buying a train ticket to Madrid and printing out a confirmation letter from a hostel in Madrid where I had booked a bed, but these were not going to spoil my walk of pleasure.

    The morning hours passed quickly and I headed for the cathedral to attend the pilgrims’ mass, where, to my surprise, I saw a huge line of people waiting to enter the cathedral. Having waited for 20 minutes in the line, all the while telling myself that it was mission impossible, I noticed that some people went to the front of the line and quickly disappeared into the cathedral. Then it dawned on me – how could I have been so stupid? – it was a pilgrims’ mass and pilgrims were permitted to enter the cathedral without queuing. But of course my pilgrim’s passport was in my backpack in the hostel and I could not prove I was a pilgrim. I ran through crowded streets to the hostel and back and managed to enter the cathedral shortly after the mass started.

    Although I could not understand most of what was said, it sounded grand and deeply moving, and the air was full of the feeling that the people gathered there had achieved something valuable after a lot of days on the road. Some representatives of the pilgrims gave speeches in different languages and shared insights from the Camino, prompting me to look back nostalgically and filling my mind with reminiscences that were already becoming only memories.

Like the pilgrims of the Middle Ages, who exclaimed “Ultreia!” (Still further!), I decided to continue my pilgrimage to Fisterra-Muxia. Fisterra was believed to be the end of the world and that’s what its name means: land’s end, the place from which pre-Roman people believed souls ascended to heaven. It is the final stretch of this symbolic and mythical itinerary, which follows the trail marked by the Milky Way. Muxia is another place of great symbolism: legends claim that the Virgin Mary had come to this place in a stone boat to provide encouragement to Apostole Santiago on his preaching mission through the northwest of the peninsula.
    Although it was a hot day and the sun was high in the sky, it was only 21 kilometers to Negreira, a town of medieval origin, where I was going to stay for the night. After having lunch with my Bulgarian friend I had met the previous day, I left Santiago. The road took me through eucalyptus and pine tree forests providing shade and comfort for walking

…and magnificent views over the river Tambre.
    I was so exhausted when I reached Negreira in the evening that I had to force myself to have a shower and go out for dinner. Dragging my feet back to the albergue, I was unpleasantly surprised by the sight of the dark and locked building. It was 10:10 p.m., and the sign on the door informed me that I was 10 minutes late. Sleeping outside that night did not appeal to me. I started banging on the door and fortunately one of the pilgrims inside opened the door for me and I slumped down into my bed.

I started early the next morning. It was an easy walk of only 33 kilometers to my next destination. Lush green fields delighted my eyes, and abundant fresh air filled my chest. I was on the road again – back to normal – savoring the last days of my pilgrimage.
    I reached the village of Olveiroa in the afternoon and decided to take the necessary rest, do some washing, and avoid staying out late and having to bang on locked doors again.

The next day started with a beautiful morning and a path weaving along the picturesque river Xallas.
    The ocean was nearer and I was enjoying the variety of views.

    I was intending to jump into the water and then lie on one of the beautiful beaches I had read about, but the water was cold and the beaches empty and lonely, so I continued to the town of Fisterra.
    Having checked in to an albergue, I headed for the lighthouse of Fisterra, the end of the world for the people in antiquity.
    No luck again, the sky was covered with dark clouds, and the beautiful sunset that I was hoping to see over the ocean was meant for some other day and some other pilgrims. After dinner I met some of the Italian pilgrims from the previous days and had a nice chat about the Camino. The weather forecast for the next day was for rain. Walking to Muxia seemed more appealing to me than staying in the albergue and watching the rain, so I decided to continue walking in the morning.
    And the day started with rain. Walking in a raincoat with water dripping all over is not pleasant, but the hope that the clouds will disappear and the sun will shine again keeps you going. And sooner or later it happens.

    Clouds and stormy waters were waiting for me in Muxia.

    Finding a place for the night was not that easy, because there was some kind of fair in town and a lot of people needed a bed. I was lucky to have one, and even some time left for sightseeing.

The next morning surprised me with blue sky and white clouds. I had to find out where buses to Santiago de Compostela departed, so I could go back there in order to take the night train to Madrid, from which, in two days, I would fly back to Bulgaria.
    Sitting in the bus to Santiago, the Camino finished, I asked myself whether I had gained the spiritual insights that a lot of other pilgrims reported getting while walking on the Camino under the Milky Way?
    I must confess: I cannot say the Camino was the road of self-discovery for me. Maybe I do not have such potential. What was it, then – only a walking route? Did making the trek change me at all?
    Actually, yes. I became stronger, richer in culture, picturesque views, and wonderful memories. I had met interesting people and visited many interesting places. I was ready to take up the next challenges life had in store for me.
    Buen Camino!

Copyright © 2016 by Valeria Idakieva


  1. thanks, Valeria, i do not plan to do this walk, but i appreciated "sharing" it with you

    1. Right, me too! Isn't Valeria amazing? "Only 21 kilometers" to the next town, so let's go!

    2. Dear Susan, thank you for sharing my Camino.
      Buen Camino in all the walks you plan to do and the ones that you do not plan!