Last night we arrived in Burgos, the seat of Franco’s government until 1938 and also the birthplace and burial place of the Spanish hero El Cid (1040-1099). We are staying in a pilgrim hostel in a restored 16th-century building.
Today we wandered around the city on the first of two days of rest that are highly recommended to any pilgrims who are walking much or all of the trail. To go such distances without a day off would mean continuously tearing the body down without giving it any chance to recover. (Also, Vic’s friend Charlie flew in from Victoria, B.C. to meet us here and finish the walk with us. The three of us leave Burgos early tomorrow morning.)
Burgos has a long, glorious history that predates the Middle Ages, and it is filled with amazing architecture, the centerpiece jewel of which is the stunning and enormous 13th-century cathedral, Catedral de Santa Maria. It is one of the largest and most beautiful in Spain, and the medieval streets that surround it have been designated a World Heritage Site.
El Cid and his wife are buried in the cathedral.
The incredible Cathedral of Santa Maria, as seen from in front of the pilgrim hostel. Below is a different view.
We sat through a service inside that lasted about half an hour, and as I looked at the people seated in front of us, I found myself wondering what sorrows they might be carrying in their hearts and heads and hoping that their Catholicism would truly bring them comfort and wasn‘t just something they did under obligation. Looking around at the extremely ornate interior of the massive church also reminded me of the impact just one man–in this case Jesus, but we could also apply this to Buddha, Gandhi, and even Gutenberg–can have all over the world for centuries. How many churches must there be in the world? As large as this one is, it is just one, and through it we see the almost incalculable influence exerted by just one humble man and his twelve supporters. Because any one of us, with an idea or approach that grabs others, could have this kind of influence, I hope none of us underestimates the affect we can have–to do good, I hope–even though each of us is only one person.
Nearby the cathedral is the truly beautiful Plaza Mayor, ringed by pastel-colored buildings of various hues, giving it a look almost like a blend of Amsterdam, St. Petersburg, Vernazza, and typically Spanish urban style.
Just a block or so from it, we had a lunch at a restaurant called Bocaos, in the midst of which the owner came over to our table to thank us for being the first customers in the restaurant’s history; it had just opened for business about 15 minutes before we walked in! This is the second experience of this type that Vic and I have had. We were the very first guests to stay at a hostel back in Estella a few days earlier. Strange coincidences or moments of synchronicity keep happening to us, including meeting two Austrians who had studied with Sri Chimnoy, whose inspirational words Vic listens to (he once interviewed him for a radio program) every day. Vic quoted Sri Chimnoy to the two Austrians and they were flabbergasted that he had quoted from the very sage with whom they had studied. It was a remarkable moment; one of the Austrians, who was standing when Vic said he had once interviewed Sri Chimnoy, had to sit down to deal with the impact of the coincidence. Things like this happen all the time on the Camino.
To have come this far, about halfway, with no blisters means we must pay homage to “The Power of 47.” In an earlier blog post I mentioned Vic’s system of 47 minutes hiking followed by a 10-minute rest. When we rest, we remove shoes and socks, inspect our respective feet, restore their veneer of Vaseline or coconut cream if necessary, apply preventative pads if any spots seem to need them, put socks and shoes back on, drink plenty of water, stretch a little, and then step back on the trail. 47 has become a magic number that has kept us from exhausting ourselves and kept blisters away. Just as important is its psychological effect: when the way is steep, either up or down, or difficult in some other way, we can tell ourselves that we only have to endure for 47 minutes, and anyone can do that. If we take on any task small piece by small piece, we can accomplish anything, we can overcome anything. If things are going wrong for us, we usually just need to persist just a little longer to make it through. I couldn’t resist chuckling to myself because my mind connected this new motto “47 is a Magic Number” to De La Soul’s famous song “3 is a Magic Number”; I chuckled because “De La Soul” means “of the soul,” and most definitely the magic and power of the number 47 for Vic and me help to sustain our souls along this challenging route. For any one of us, there are magic numbers all around that can help us not only endure but flourish.