Tuesday, September 17, 2013 Awaking all by myself is such a luxury after over two weeks of hearing the morning machinations of, oh, between six and sixty other trekkers while it’s still dark outside. I am alone and don’t have to pull the covers over my ears or get my backpack ready in the dark so as not to awaken those who are even more reticent to get out of bed in the pre-dawn hours than I am.
But still, I think I am fully conscious by about 8:00 anyway. I actually have a hair dryer in this room, so for the first time since I left home on August 28, I might look like a decent human being as I walk out the door to greet the day.
Rick and Gay (remember, from yesterday’s tapas/pinchos dinner?) had told me about the bar across the plaza from the one we visited, and that it actually served fried eggs on the menu for desayuno (breakfast), so I am already thinking about them as I walk toward the Cathedral, where much of the action happens each day.
Eggs! Yum . . . and fresh squeezed orange juice, cafe con leche, and the requisite bread. After all of that, I head back to the hotel to pack up and to get a box ready to send to myself in Leon, having sorted and re-sorted the things I picked up yesterday at the post office. I also have a long and lovely conversation with the hotel employee, Teresa, who loves peregrinos. She stashes my pack and poles in the back room until later in the afternoon when I will pick them up and move them to my next sleeping quarters, the Hotel Entrearcos. But I leave now with the postal box that will get to Leon long before I will.
I think I can find the way out of the myriad of plazas, but I turn right instead of left and it takes me awhile to reroute myself along a beautiful tree-lined park that is in evidence on both sides of the Rio Arlanzon which cuts through the city. Finished with my shipping duty, I see that the Museum of Human Evolution is directly across the street from the main Post Office, so I decide to make a stab at soaking up the official culture of Burgos before I meander back to the Centro and the massive Church I will visit later in the day.
This museum is quite an accomplishment and the city of Burgos, the country of Spain, and the scientific world in general has great appreciation for its existence, as evidenced by a display of publications such as National Geographic, Scientific American and others whose cover stories tell of Burgos’ contribution. The exhibits are well-put together and uncluttered. The path from one to the next is clear, and each one has explanatory panels in both Spanish and English, so I wander through the three levels of video, interactive cubicles, samples in glass cases, and some pretty amazing sculpted pre-human and early human figures, male and female.
Unfortunately, my brain has a fairly limited ability to absorb museums, and this one is no exception. Always feeling guilty, I pay quick homage to each section and duck out just before the doors close for siesta. A very kind young attendant explains to me that if I have my receipt stamped, I can come back for another three hours when siesta is over, and I think him profusely. But I won’t see him again, I know.
Heading back to the old center gets easier each time I do it, and though I’ve been here less than 36 hours, I’m nearly exactly sure of where I’m going. I have to retrieve my backpack at the Hotel Norte y Londres, so I have a quick something to eat (probably more bread), and retrieve my belongings.
It takes at least thirty minutes to get into my room for tonight. The owner, who said he would be in attendance all afternoon, has disappeared, so I chat with a couple who is waiting for their room as well. British man, perhaps forty, though it’s hard to tell. He has a boyish air about him, but also is a bit stiff. Says he and his girlfriend are “Medievalists”, and that she is an academic, from an eastern European or Scandinavian country, but I forget which. Finally the hotel owners returns, we are each settled into our own “habitacion” and the Cathedral is now open again.
Pilgrims get a discounted entry fee for this church, and the audio guides are free. They want you to listen to twenty-seven sections of information about all the special side altars, who is buried in what sarcophagus and why (well, why?), the gold everywhere, the hundreds (thousands?) of years it took to put this gorgeous behemoth on the earth, and I feel especially heretical as I walk out of the Cathedral after perhaps 45 minutes, thinking of all the poor people who could have been fed their entire lives on what it cost to build yet one more monument to the Catholic Church, the Cardinals, the high-end politicos of the time, etc. It’s the same thought I have whenever I visit a work-of-art Cathedral, Duomo, Pallazo, world-renowned. It’s definitely what I feel when I visit the Vatican. So shoot me. Someone the other day commented that now this “expense account on the backs of the poor or ordinary” doesn’t build churches, it builds high-rolling CEOs of big corporations, which don’t even have heaven and salvation to offer. Ah, but I politicize . . . no fair walking the Camino with these ordinary, disruptive thoughts. Shoot me again.
As I leave through the ticket-office door, I see a familiar face from a few nights ago (one of the “rescue-me-from-the-bush” group heading toward Villafranca). It’s Maggie, frantically trying to get the Cathedral ticket attendant to help her find a room. They don’t do that. They just deal with the church. Maggie is tired, since she and her group took two days to get here, while I zoomed in on the bus, as I happily reported in my last post.
I point her toward the real tourist information office, tell her where I’m staying, say hello to Roy, another member of her informal group – the real bush rescuer -, and then head for the “breakfast egg” bar to get a coffee and a sandwich for my early dinner. I’m glad I’m not as stressed as they seem to be . . . but then I got a good night’s sleep and am heading for another one.
Tomorrow morning I will walk out of Burgos, no easy feat, since the Burgos city fathers don’t depend only on peregrinos for their daily bread (no pun intended), so the yellow arrows are, shall we say, less than abundant or clear. This I’ve read, this I’ve been told, and this I will discover soon enough for myself. For now, it’s early to bed, early to organize in the morning, and kiss my privacy goodbye for another week or so. But I’m ready to be out of the city and back on the road. Itching to be walking . . . that I am.
Brierley’s book says this for tomorrow’s stage: “Today we leave behind the built environment and enter the relative wilderness of the sublime Meseta.” He goes on in his lyrical way to talk about the “peace and quiet of the endless crop fields.” Then he twitters on about a shepherd and his flock or an occasional fox or the birds that keep you company.
“There is little or no shade on the meseta . . . ” and his book’s summary map inside the front cover shows two stages for this turf. So I figure tomorrow I’ll walk until just before the Meseta begins, stay in an albergue at the edge of this mesa thing, and get the whole of the wheat fields done in a day. Well, he forgot to say that this goes on and on and on. His word “endless” won’t hit me for a few days. At this point, I’m in the ignorant blissful state, proud of my planning and ready with the weight of water in my Camelback. Ha!
The Meseta awaits. Laughing. It will show me.