We embarked on our longest trek of the Camino so far (except for the first day) on our way to the city of Burgos. This is the first big city (population of almost 200,000) we have visited since we left Pamplona. In order to get a jump on the day, we started our walk about 45 minutes before sunrise, using our hiking headlamps for illumination. We had been warned that there was an 80% chance of rain for the day and the forecast proved accurate. We encountered a light but steady rain that lasted until about noon when we dropped down from a mountain range and onto the beginning of the flat area of Spain known as the Meseta. Our backpacks have built-in rain covers, but we supplemented that with our rain ponchos and were able to stay mostly dry.
After hiking through a series of small towns we began entering the outskirts of Burgos. Although the routes leading into the city center go through some of the seedier and more run-down sections of the city, we eventually found ourselves hiking alongside the Arlanzon River that also runs besides the city. This pathway has been turned into a lovely city park with paved walkways for strollers, joggers, and bicyclers, who we saw in abundance. In contrast to these active, fit citizens we must have looked a bit like hobos. But, the locals are familiar with the Camino and the peregrinos that pass through each day. So, we didn’t get too many strange looks. In fact, as in many other places in Spain, we were often greeted with a friendly “Buen Camino.”We passed by a monumental statue to the Spanish national hero, El Cid, and eventually made our way to the spectacular Burgos Cathedral. This cathedral is the second largest in Spain (after the cathedral in Seville) and was built in the 13th century. It is one of the most beautiful of Spain’s many cathedrals and has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The municipal albergue was located just to the rear of the cathedral and we checked in for the night. This is a large and modern albergue (150 beds) with all the modern amenities – even elevators between the floors! The only amenity that was curiously missing was a place to hang up freshly washed clothes to dry. We had a place to wash the clothes but no place to dry them. Very curious! I’m glad we discovered this before we did our washing chore for the day and had a pile of wet clothes.
After getting settled in and finishing our daily chores we ventured out to visit the cathedral. On the way we stopped at the adjacent 15th century Church of St. Nicholas which has a magnificent altarpiece carved entirely out of stone – very unusual and very beautiful.
However, our main destination was the cathedral. After paying a modest entrance fee we received audio guide players and began our tour. To say that this cathedral is magnificent just doesn’t do it justice. This is a building with countless jaw-dropping art masterpieces and 21 separate chapels – each one a masterpiece in itself. At the transept crossing, underneath a huge star lantern at the heart of the cathedral is the tomb of El Cid himself and his wife, Jimena. The rest of the cathedral is filled with religious art and artifacts, almost to the point of sensory overload. It’s almost too much to take in at one time, but it is not a site to be missed. Tomorrow we head on back into the countryside with a somewhat shorter route with our destination of Hornillas del Camino and a walk through the Meseta.
Here are just a couple of photos from the cathedral. There were just too many to include more here. I will be happy to share more upon my return to San Diego.