The 10th and 11th days of the Camino was a time of transitions. Leaving vineyards and cornfields, finishing a string of lovely days rolling through beautiful agricultural land punctuated by interesting hilltop villages (most of which towns are over a 1,000 years old and most of which had much larger populations when the Camino was in its original “hayday.”)
In Villafranca Monte de Oca, for example, I had lunch in the courtyard of a former “hospital” (remember, “hospital” means essentially a place for the pilgrims to rest, obtain some basic food and aid, and often, medical care on their way to Santiago), which is now an upscale hotel. The hospital in that town (current population = 147) hosted as many as 18,000 pilgrims there a year in 17th century. A few of the larger villages – like Belorado – have been settled since Roman times and have remarkable traces of a more glorious commercial (the home of a large wool trade fair 500 years ago) and pilgrim history (as many as eight pilgrim hospitals in this town at one time).
The hiking was not dissimilar. 25 to 35 kilometer days. Perfect sunrises. Cool mornings, sunny days and warming in the afternoon. The walking continued to be a mix of level and hill climbing, but distinctive on Day 10 was the long, straight 12k path through the woods between Villafranca to Ages – an area that robbers used to disrupt pilgrim journeys in medieval times.
We also transitioned into a new political subdivision – Entering Castilla y Leon (the largest autonomous region in Spain on the Camino). For the modern pilgrim, this had little notice other than prominent signs otherwise reminding us of that fact. The large city of Burgos also helped to bookmark this transition.
As you might imagine (and as I have discussed briefly before) it’s difficult to approach any larger city without walking through less interesting suburbs and unattractive light industrial areas. Fortunately there is an alternative “river route” that minimizes the unpleasantness and allows one walking the Way of St. James to enter through a green corridor. The city is big enough that there is a sense that you will never get to the center city and it’s magnificent jewel – the Burgos Cathedral. Obviously though I did make it and on Good Friday. With Spanish on holiday for the Easter weekend, the city was quite alive. Not only did I visit the cathedral but there were significant religious processions through the city at different hours.
The theme of transition is complete because as the pilgrim departs Burgos
on its west end he is fairly quickly met by a landscape with a new look and a different feel – a region of Spain called the Meseta.