Arrival in Santiago de Compostela
The arrival in Santiago de Compostela, after walking from Porto, Portugal, for nine days, was fascinating. We had one of the most prolonged and intense days, walking from dawn until we reached Santiago at night. The weather was in our favor, with light rain, cloudy skies, and low temperatures throughout the day, perfect for walking.
Our hostel was located on the outskirts of Padrón, and since it was early, everything was closed except for a gas station, where we only found nuts and dried fruits. The first part of the walk was not very efficient as we preferred to avoid the highway, which, although the most direct route, was monotonous and boring. We ventured through narrow streets that sometimes seemed to go in circles. We passed some curious baths where water flowed into small pools with comfortable concrete chairs. I imagine they must be wonderful in summer, but with the freezing water of early spring, they were just a curiosity.
Crossing Fields and Villages
The path took us through fields and small villages, and we finally found a place to have breakfast very late in the morning: the traditional freshly squeezed orange juice and bread with tomato and olive oil. From then on, our main problem was not so much the lack of food but the fact that there were no facilities, and the area was populated enough to find a forest.
In the afternoon, we arrived at a restaurant where we could rest and eat. There, Don Manolo, the owner, sat down with us at the table and shared not only his own story but also many anecdotes about the pilgrimage.
The Last Stretch
After leaving the restaurant, we crossed some hills until we reached a viewpoint where we could see the city. So close, yet so far… That’s what I thought. There was still climbing and descending, crossing streams in the valleys and several chains of hills. In the last stretch through the forest, we found countless white handkerchiefs tied to the still bare branches of the trees. I couldn’t find an explanation for their meaning. Some were so high or even on such fragile branches that I was surprised someone could have tied them there. Like many others, this custom may be replicated by people without knowing its meaning.
Santiago de Compostela
Once in the city, fatigue overcame me, and my 21-year-old son, with his intact physical strength, also took my backpack. We wanted to reach the church before nightfall, but it was uphill, and that last stretch was the most difficult one, despite not carrying the backpack’s weight. Walking fast, uphill, and after 12 hours of walking was exhausting. When we arrived at the square, I was immensely moved, but we were not allowed to enter the Cathedral because there was a mass, and backpacks were not allowed inside. We would return the next day, rested and with our energy renewed.