We started the pilgrimage for real on 10 September after having arrived in Madrid on Saturday afternoon and having spent a day in town and the night on the train.
The first bit of the journey – the flights was long but it is the true meaning of our trip is to be on the road. It takes one to know one – we met the first pilgrims at the airport in Frankfurt. They were an elderly couple from Norway heading to their first pilgrimage too.
We found Madrid splendid. It was a hot Saturday evening. We had a lovely stroll in town. Went to Plaza Mayor and just walked the streets. Had an aperitif and then dinner. There was a thunderstorm that we welcomed as it was so hot. It was an early night for us having woken up very early in the morning. The hotel was located near the museums we want to visit. We saw Guernica live in Reigna Sofia. And then some other sights and parks. The great Spanish bicycle race, La Vuelta, finished in Madrid on Sunday and the city was full of bikers and spectators.
We took the 22:30 train to Sarria the starting point of the journey. It was an experience. We’d booked the tickets already in May! The train clattered on and at times I thought we’d changed to rectangular wheels. It was extremely hot in the tiny sleeping cart for four. We were squeezed in with our back bags. Finally, around 7 am the train stopped in Sarria and we hopped off.
It was pitch dark and cold. The station cafe was open and we got directions to a place where we could collect our credentials, the pilgrim passports.
Two hours later and after two wrong stops we finally got our credentials and first cellos (stamps) at convention de la Merced. No questions asked, no queries on the purpose of our pilgrimage. The waiting time just as the train journey were already part of the journey. We met two young ladies in the train, from, Spain and Poland, who were heading on a quick journey and who gave many practical tips. As we were waiting in the first wrong place we met a helpful young Spanish couple. It made us feel better to learn that they had not understood the advice given at the station either and that the local dialect was very difficult. We’ll we don’t speak any Spanish… At the second wrong place we met a Canadian couple whom we then later would meet and dine with in Melide 60 km later.