May 19, 2007

5/19/07 Leon Spain

"Our hearts grow strong at the broken places." anonymous

Before bed last night, storm clouds were building in the east. We had lots of thunder last night but no rain. At least here.

I thought with Leon only being 12km away, that maybe everyone would leave in a relaxed manner. No. Just like clockwork, folks started packing before 6AM, so they could race the Camino. Lucky for me, my feet won't allow me to go too fast.

Just a little bit of the country...

...only to walk the highway into Leon

Made it to the outskirts of Leon about 9:30. At least the traffic was reduced because it was Saturday. There are two refugios, one new and modern, the other older run by a convent where I stayed last time. It was near the center of the old city, so I decided to stay there.

In a repeat that is becoming the norm, by the time the hospitaleros open the doors, the crowds of pilgrims stampeded to get the beds. This is not a pilgrimage. There were plenty of beds, 120 in fact. It's like we're just part of the tourist hordes heading to some place talked about in the brochures.

Lined up and waiting for the doors to open

I talked with the hospitalero this afternoon and he said Leon is a popular place to start the Camino because of it's location, the airport and trains, but also as it is the capital of Leon. Plus he said the weekend sees the majority. He looked exhausted but still smiling with only a few days left of volunteering.

Not sure what to do. I've met so many good people, and made some new wonderful friends. But these problems with the crowds hang over us every day. I am thinking of doing something else, getting off this migration of tourist hordes. Just not sure what to do.

Over the door at City Hall

The Cathedral

As you enter

I was waiting to go with everyone to the convent next door for the evening service and pilgrim blessing when I saw Alexandra walk through the door. I was so happy to see her. With the dark thoughts of the day, she was full of light.

She told me not to give up. That in every pilgrims way, there is a time when the body is in pain, and the mind is tired of everything, and the heart is almost broken. But, it will pass. I knew the words but it was what I needed to hear.

She told me how she ended up in Leon. She's still having so much problems with her feet. She got new shoes and spent most of the day with a physiotherapist. She's going to take the bus ahead tomorrow and try to keep her mileage shorter.

Alexandra joined me at the service at the convent which runs the refugio. At one point this frail elderly nun got up and I now have an idea what angels sound like. It was amazing the hymn that came from her.

So, I go to bet with storm clouds raging outside but with a quieter place in my heart.