It’s a monumental weekend. Many of those Peregrinos who started with us in St Jean Pied de Port on September 6th are walking in to Santiago today. And Jeff is among them.
The past two weekends he has walked with our friends. First, for a few days over O Cebreiro. Then from near Arzua to Santiago. I’m glad he got to hang with them. He says saw others we knew, too.
It’s a huge weekend in Spain. The bridge holiday for Spain’s National Day on September 12. The country will be embroiled in a big party for four days. And Santiago is packed with locals, out-of-towners on holiday, and Pilgrims walking into the city from near and much farther away. For those walking in over the next four days it will feel like the city is throwing a party just for them. Bands are everywhere and Spanish music fills the air.
We have reached greater than 150,000 Pilgrims in Santiago in 2021. Something that seemed impossible at the beginning of the year. Last year, at exactly this time, Jeff and I drove up from Portugal and walked one day from Palas to Melide. We spotted what would be our house with the sign still on the gate. Then headed onward to lunch at our friend’s restaurant. Conchi told us we were the first Americans she had seen all year. What a difference a year makes.
It’s not the 350,000 Pilgrims of 2019. Jeff and I were counted among them that year. A lifetime ago. But it demonstrates recovery is coming. And more and more this Fall they are from outside Europe. The other day we were eating in Melide. Half of the restaurant was speaking ingles. Jeff commented on how odd it felt to hear it thrown around so liberally. Unheard of back in May.
The contagion rate is so low due to vaccines (9 per 100,000) that we, in Galicia, are at the new normal. Albergues can open at 75% capacity, if asking for the Covid certificate, just like in France. So bed shortages are a thing of the past. And restaurants are recovering too. Life is truly returning to normal, with a lightness and joy in the air.
The Xunta de Galicia has done an amazing job reactivating all routes running through the province. With coordination from private and public agencies and the hospitality industry. The Guardia Civil has been instrumental in seeing to the safety of all Pilgrims along the Way. Serving more than 3,000 people in mobile offices stationed throughout.
I sat in a cafe this morning waiting for them to arrive. There is a hoard of other pilgrims standing around waiting for their Camino friends to come in. Necks craned. Checking phones. When I suddenly heard my name shouted out. An American we met just last week was arriving too. It truly is a small world. I was glad I was here to greet her. No one should walk into Santiago without being welcomed after such a long journey.
For me, today is a celebration of friendship and remarkable achievements. Very real physical hardships overcome. And of perseverance, when moving forward seemed impossible. I know our friends, Chris and Amy, faced them all and didn’t blink. Truly inspiring. After all they have been through in the past month I will use their example when I begin again next Spring.
Congratulations Chris, Amy, James, Katrina and all the others making their way into the Square – no matter how far you walked to get here. Everyone walks their own Way in this life. No one’s journey, King nor pauper, is greater than another’s. Each is a celebration of finding our way back to ourselves. Then home.