Sept. 27- Burgos: 16 miles, six hours
The path starts flat, then gives way to loose rocks on blacktop, then flat again on the river route and it seems to last forever.
Burgos is the oldest city in Europe and is known for its medieval architecture and its unpleasant climate (luckily except for May and September).
We have to walk all through Burgos to get to the Hotel Mesón del Cid in the old city. We’re hot and tired, but when we turn the corner and see our first view of the Cathedral, it takes our breath away.
Initially built in 1221, this Gothic Cathedral is one of the largest in Spain and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. As soon as we freshen up, we head over to see the church. A German pilgrim tells us that the admission is free for pilgrims. We spend lots of time looking in every nook and cranny and admiring the art and artifacts.
We are concerned that our feet are throbbing as if they have a heartbeat, until we meet up with some pilgrims for a glass of wine and they all feel the same; blame it on the cement.
Sept. 28- Burgos: Rest Day!
We awake early, but it’s nice to be able to lounge around. I am so excited to have a hairdryer, but the funny thing is my hair looks just the same.
After breakfast, we head out to explore the city. We decide to stop back at the hotel to grab jackets and wind up taking a nap. We later visit the Castillo de Burgos, an old stone castle recently renovated after being damaged during the Napoleonic wars. We enjoy the wonderful views and the heat brings out the smell of the pines.
Later, we sit in our hotel’s courtyard, enjoying a beer and staring up at the Cathedral, marveling at how they were able to build such a structure all those thousands of years ago and how it was so fortunate that it has remained intact since then. We meet some other pilgrims and continue the discussion.
We run into our pilgrim friends from Connecticut and join them for a glass of wine on the plaza. Across from us, a musician serenades us with his Spanish guitar.
Sept. 29- Hornillos: 13 miles an, four hours
We are feeling great after our rest day. We enjoy catching up with our pilgrim friends from Connecticut over breakfast, then take off at a good pace. There is little shade on the meseta. Endless fields of barley and oats surround the path. It’s peaceful, quiet and very still. We enjoy a wonderful conversation with a young woman from Oregon.
Not much has changed in Hornillos over the past centuries. It’s a lovely medieval village with a population of 60. It’s a nice treat to have a room on the first floor at La Casa del Abuelo.
We take a walk over to see the Gothic Church of San Román. There’s a remarkable difference between the warm outside temperature and the cold church interior. We are humbled by the beautiful artwork and the ornate vestments on hangers at the back of the church.
One of the most important rituals that we look forward to each day is eating. Spaniards are not big on breakfast; a hunk of bread from the local bakery (hopefully with chopped tomatoes and olive oil) or a slice of a tortilla, an egg and potato pie, gets us on our way. We make a sandwich and share an apple for lunch and take a break along the way. Dinners are reasonable and plentiful. A three-course meal with a bottle of wine costs from 10 – 16 euros. So far, our favorites have been Paella de Marisco, shellfish with rice flavored with chicken broth and saffron, Arroz Negro, shellfish with rice flavored with squid ink, Cocido, a thick soup made with beans and chorizo (Spanish sausage) and bull stew (the best pot roast we’ve ever had).
Sept. 30- Castrojeriz: 13 miles, 4 and one-half hours
Another important daily ritual is putting on our hiking boots each morning. Our feet must feel snug, but not too tight. We get to the point when we can tell when the delicate balance is just right. We’ve seen other pilgrims with feet so sore, they are hiking in flip flops, so we are very grateful for minimal foot problems.
It’s make your own breakfast this morning at our Casa Rural and a German couple is kind enough to show us how all the European appliances work. We then return the favor and pass on our newfound knowledge to the next group of pilgrims.
It’s 48 degrees and we are bundled up, but 15 minutes later the sun is out and the jackets come off. It’s back to the meseta again. It’s a rougher path than yesterday and when it narrows to single file, no one is talking and the only sound you can hear are the hiking poles as they hit the ground; very Zen.
Castrojeriz is a sleepy little town, though it was a major Camino stop during medieval times. We have to walk through the whole town before we arrive at Hotel Iacobus. A knight in armor greets us at the entrance near the carved wooden staircase. A lovely antique armoire is the focal point of our room. We eat lunch on our terrace and then go exploring around the property. We feel as if we are in Old World Spain. The parlor is decorated with elegant period furniture, interesting books, art and the owner’s personal mementos. We meet a fellow pilgrim from California, dine out on the terrace and fall asleep feeling sorry that we have to leave here tomorrow.