Saturday, 22 November 2008

The Wrong Sort of Pilgrim?

I've reached Astorga. Once again the pilgrim trail has gone all commercial and rule driven. I was denied a bed in the pilgrims albergue for no good reason. The place was far from full, but I was sent to scumbags albergue down the road.

Scumbags albergues are church run night shelters for the homeless that offer a meal, bed, shower and even clothes. Usually run during day by young church going volunteers with a caretaker sleeping overnight. On less well known pilgrim routes these hostals double as pilgrim albergues. They're fine. Usually very clean and warm if a little basic, but they often fill with big drinking, heavy snoring street folk.

Looking after the unfortunate is a big part of Spain's culture. Very much a family oriented way of life and generally most can rely on family for help, but some lose family and slip through the state safety net. It is law that a free meal and bed is offered for one night only. A system that also gives vagrants an incentive to move on to the next town and not 'litter' the streets of course. But, it's also a service that anyone following old, rarely walked pilgrimage routes will find very useful. Especially during winter.

Off to sketch and try to make enough for a safe bed in Leon for a couple of days. I've met some great people in this part of Spain already. Bending over backwards to help me in anyway they can and a couple of contacts in Leon. A short bus ride from Astorga, I'm told it's an exceptionally beautiful city. Back to pilgrimage on Tuesday.

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