They wait for hours in line to hug the Saint,
A practice some consider rather quaint.
And then they all go down into the crypt,
For here the relics of Saint James are kept.
For some reason the lights went on automatically at a quarter to six, so no one was able to sleep in. Perhaps the authorities wanted us to arrive in Santiago nice and early. So I set out before dawn, and after a few kilometres through a forest of Galician gums, I looked out onto open fields.
Further forest paths, a couple of sawmills, a few hilly villages, and then the outskirts of the City.
Some pilgrims have been known to fall down on their knees and weep at the first glimpse of the spires of Santiago Cathedral. Not I, but it was a welcome sight, after 1,007 kilometres, according to the official document I picked up at Pilgrims' Office this afternoon.
I took a turn around the cathedral, of course. The Galician bagpipes were still wailing in the tunnel, and guitarists, steel drummers and electronic pianos were doing their best to attract the tourists' tips as well. Beggars were more direct, circulating among the diners at the tables on the terraces.
At one o'clock, pilgrims poured out onto the grand plaza in front of the cathedral. Even this early in the season, the church must have been packed. Among the groups of twos and threes I noticed larger groups of younger people with matching tee shirts, Spanish church groups,I think.
The scaffolding still hides most of the two towers, but the part that is now revealed has benefitted from its cleaning.
Inside, the never-ending line of pilgrims walked up the steps behind St James to "embrace the apostle" and then walked down again. I swear that one or two were trying to take a selfie with the Saint, because I noticed an outstretched hand holding a phone. He didn't seem to mind but I'm sure the pilgrims waiting in line did, for the steady pace was interrupted.
I wonder whether other saints have been subject to selfies, or the Holy Family themselves?
I stayed at the Hotel Windsor, just below the base of the old town, near the Parque Almeida. It's a nice area, largely given over to pedestrians, with a single car lane down the middle of the streets with signs indicating that people on foot have priority. Very modern, very enlightened. But in the older parts of the city there is the usual graffiti, so common in Spain, and indicative of the large number of disenfranchised people.
I have to say that my Grisport boots have served me well. They are showing less wear than any other boots I have worn on a Camino. In fact, the soles of my pairs of Scarpas and Asolos were completely worn down after shorter walks than this one.
In fact, I am more worn down than the soles of my boots.