Here’s a riddle for you:
What do call a false noodle?
Let me get one thing straight. I’m not walking the whole Camino de Santiago this time. I’d love to, but I only had a week. Making the most of my week, but this is a kind of a snapshot of what one might expect of this pilgrimage.
Because I joined later on in the pilgrimage and am not walking all the way to Santiago, I’ve had to get over some feelings of being an imposter on this journey. One way I’ve done this is to simply immerse myself in each day of walking.
People come on and get off the Camino all the time. Nobody’s got the time or wherewithal to judge what you’re doing, anyway. Too much else to busy one’s self with anyway.
You get in from a day of walking and often by the time you’ve hand washed your sweaty clothes and figured out what to eat, you collapse on your bunk.
For everyone who’s been here, the next part is now second nature, but for those of you following at home? I’d like to introduce you to the world of albergues.
While you can call ahead and reserve a room in a hostel or even a hotel along the way – again: no judgement if that’s the way you choose to do this – however, most pilgrims choose to stay at an albergue.
Some are run by the municipal government in the villages along the way, while others are housed within the town’s monastery or a convent.
In Santo Domingo de la Calzada last night, we slept with the nuns. Don’t take that the wrong way, though, because it’s the Cistercian nuns who run that albergue.
How do you get a bed at one of these places?
First you’ve got to have a Credencial del Peregrino, which is a little passport like booklet each pilgrim starts out with. Upon arriving, and it’s a first come, first served basis (no reservations taken), you get your Credencial stamped with a decorative stamp.
How do you know you have a bed in the next town before you get there? Well if you’re staying in albergues, you don’t. It’s possible you try a few places and finally a bed is available. If everything’s full, you might be walking on to the next village. Hasn’t happened to me so far, but I’ve heard plenty of stories of woe.
It might sound a bit too improvisational for your taste. Here’s the thing, though: part of this whole experience is that there are some things quite simply out of your control. How one rolls with the punches could determine the quality of one’s entire journey.
Oh, back to how I started:
What do call a false noodle?
Update: for reasons of factual accuracy, I feel I need to make it clearer about the different types of albergue.
Here’s how a friend described it:
The deal is this: there are municipal albergues, parochial albergues and private ones. Only at the private ones can you reserve in advance which some people do but it takes away from the spirit of the Camino which is essentially to walk as long as you can on any given day and then check in where you end up at the end of your walking day. That, of course, depends on what kind of condition you’re in and how far you can walk, which is something you can not necessarily predict in advance.