SAN MARTIN DEL CAMINO – ASTORGA
Today is the last day that our group will walk together. Gloria, Javier, Raul and his two children will stop in Astorga to continue their Camino at another time. Monica will spend Easter weekend in Astorga and then walk further to Santiago, while we will continue walking tomorrow. Carl from the USA and John from Ireland are also somewhere on the road and we hope to see them again today.
It’s Good Friday today – Easter is celebrated in many countries around the world this weekend (and even more so in Catholic Spain). There were so many pilgrims on the road today; many of whom is our old Camino friends, but we also noticed new faces we have not seen before. There is just something special about being on the Camino during Easter weekend. We were told that the processions in Astorga promised to be spectacular and we were looking forward seeing the last of these on our Camino (because Astorga is our last big city during Easter weekend).
Leaving San Martin del Camino early morning and now on our way to Hospital de Orbigo
It was only a short stint, about 7km, before we reached Hospital de Orbigo. We decided to enjoy coffee and sweet pastries at a café just after we crossed the magnificent medieval bridge.
One of the longest and best preserved medieval bridges in Spain, dating from the 13th century. This bridge leads into Hospital de Orbigo
A group photo in front of the Puente de Orbigo (taken by Berto)
I don’t know whether it was because it was our last day together as a group or the beautiful scenery, but months/years later, when I’m thinking back to our Camino, I always remember this day very clearly. There were days that it was great to walk alone, but on a day like today, it was magical to share with other pilgrims.
The road was exactly as I have pictured the Camino all these years. Long, winding dirt roads with almost unreal calmness and liberation.
The beauty of the Camino – on our way to Astorga
We walked on farm roads and Diego could not resist getting closer to the farm animals
This road between Hospital de Orbigo and Astorga was pure Camino with its beautiful paths
Just before we got to the cross overlooking Astorga, we stopped, at what could be described as a ‘farm stand’. The owner sets up this unique resting place along the Camino where pilgrims can get something to eat and drink in exchange for a donation. Many pilgrims were gathered here and it was wonderful to chat and rest with our Camino friends in nature.
‘Donativo’ farm stand before walking into Astorga
At Cruceiro Santo Toribio, we could see Astorga down in the valley. According to Brierley’s guide, this stone cross commemorating the 5th century Bishop Toribio of Astorga who supposedly fell to his knees here in a final farewell, having been banished from the town.
Cruceiro Santo Toribio (Astorga in the distance)
We walked through a couple of small suburbs of Astorga, before finally reaching the city just after 14:00. The albergue, Siervas de Maria was at the entrance of the city and we decided to overnight there. It is a big municipal hostel with over 160 beds. Once again, we managed to get a dormitory for our little group – our last night together.
Albergue Siervas de Maria in Plaza San Francisco (Astorga)
After our beds were made and everyone enjoyed a hot shower, we explored the city of Astorga. There were so many tourists in Astorga and the streets and restaurants were filled with people. One could see it was holiday in Spain and people from all over were celebrating Easter (and the long weekend).
We found a great restaurant with big hamburgers and even bigger beers!
Town Hall of Astorga in the Plaza Mayor – according to Brierley’s guide, an ornate clock strikes the hour as two mechanical figures strike the central bell
Episcopal Palace of Astorga
Towards the evening, we enjoyed a last few drinks at a bar where we shared our memories of the last couple of days on the Camino. Although we only knew each other for 5 days, we shared something very special and will always remember the bond that was formed between us … thanks to the Camino.
A bunch of special people
Later that evening we saw the last of the processions for Easter weekend in the streets of Astorga.
The processions (and parties thereafter) continued until late into the night, even long after we went to bed.