Sunday, June 15, 2014

My week walking The Way of St. James: day 5

On Friday the 13th of June, we started the final leg of our pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Our tour group walked together, for the most part, and we went about 18.5 kilometers in total. 
It was a very hot and sunny day to be outside, but we and all the other pilgrims that we passed could taste that we were nearly there. The bikers who passed us were speeding down the path and shouted "buen Camino" at us as they rode past. 
We spent a lot of time on paved roads, so it was not very picturesque, but the people that we met really made our day.
The poem above was written on the wall of a tunnel that we passed through, just a few kilometers away from the city. I thought it was really beautiful and had a lot of meaning for every pilgrim who passed by it, so close to the end of the pilgrimage.
Above is me celebrating at the Monte do Gozo, or the Mount of Joy. In medieval times, pilgrims were able to see the city and the spires of the Cathedral, and were overjoyed; hence, the name of the mountain. I certainly felt glad to be there, especially because of the vistas and nice breeze.
Whether it was your 5th day on the Camino, or your 45th day, every pilgrim gets the same feeling of relief as he or she crosses into the city limits.
The city of Santiago is a place that I would really love to visit again. It seemed like a mix between Prague and Mont St. Michele (don't mind me, being a travel snob), and definitely deserves a few days of exploration. It is a city full of tourists, but they're the right kind of tourists, if you know what I mean. Essentially, everyone there has shared in the experience of the Camino. 
When we got to the main square, every pilgrim gave a synchronized sigh of relief. The most beautiful thing that I saw were the bikers and pilgrims laying on the cobblestones out of joy for having made it to the city. 
We then went into the Cathedral and got our seats in the front row in one of the side aisles for the Pilgrims' Mass, where the Bota Fumeiro would be swinging above our heads with incense. Above is the priest blessing the gigantic censer and the six men holding the rope to swing it.

This is the Bota Fumeiro, swinging high above our heads. It looked like it would crash down on us, but I trusted the centuries of experience that it has had, going back and forth above pilgrims. 
And here we are with our Compostela certificates with our names on them in Latin: Angelam, Mariam, and Joel.
We also got special certificates that commemorated when St. Francis of Assisi walked the Camino, 800 years ago. 

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