The Camino to Santiago

Beguiling Burgos


Bridge over the River Arlanzon, Burgos. Image: Sue Teodoro

Burgos turned out to be a pretty decent place to be unwell for a few days. I now think of my first Camino as ‘before Burgos” and “after Burgos”.

After taxi-ing through from Santo Domingo, I holed up in a cheapish place right in the historical centre – the creaking Hotel Norte y Londres with its ancient plumbing and intimidating wooden furniture. Not that I saw much of the historical centre for the first few days. The main attraction here was the bakery within a 100m walk of the hotel’s front door.

View of rooftops from Hotel Londres Y Norte. Image: Sue Teodoro

Luckily I had brought a small medical pack from New Zealand, including antibiotics for respiratory infections from my lovely doctor. This, together with the truly awesome pharmacists in Spain (of which there are many along the Camino) turned out to be a very good thing. Instead of trudging the streets looking for a doctor, I could instead simply pop the antibiotics and watch spaghetti westerns with Spanish sub-titles – and drag myself intermittently to the (very good) bakery for supplies.

Burgos Cathedral. Image: Sue Teodoro

However, my cheap-ish place suddenly became a violently expensive place as the weekend drew near. The slightly intimidating receptionist explained that weekends were always up to three times more (due to weekending ‘city breakers’ from around Europe) and this weekend was worse because there was a festival.

Not feeling up to hitting the road, I moved about 800m away from the centre to the Hotel Bulevar. In fact, this was pretty much the only place available on Amazingly, this monolith of a hotel was less than half the price of the dusty Londres Y Norte, but was actually much much nicer. Clean and modern with a truly shiny bathroom, and even a TV with English-speaking stations. On top of all that, it had an actual view of the cathedral. These are things that become very very meaningful on the Camino, believe me. I started feeling better immediately.

So much better that I began to notice what a lovely city Burgos is. Its location on the river Arlanzon, its beautiful cathedral, it’s wide boulevards. Add to that appealing restaurants and cafes lining atmospheric cobbled streets – and the Summer holiday buzz. I started to understand why people would stay at the horribly overpriced Hotel Norte y Londres for a weekend.

Boulevard along the river Arlanzon in Burgos. Image: Sue Teodoro

However, of all the things to do in Burgos, a visit to the Museum of Human Evolution has to be number two to the Cathedral’s number one. There you can see the bones and find out about the early hominids who populated the region. It’s an excellent museum, well laid out and easy to navigate. Also, the building has very good air-conditioning, which – being a convalescent- I appreciated quite a lot.

Of course, the Cathedral is a must-see. I have to say, on a 800km Camino full of beautiful cathedrals, Burgos Cathedral was – to me – the most beautiful. The stunning glass windows, the impeccably restored side-chapels, the polished stone. And more.

All in all I was in Burgos for seven days. Initially fretting that I was losing time – I wasn’t keeping up with my walking companions, I was falling behind, I was getting left out. Then slowly, I began to see what a city I had landed in. I couldn’t walk more than about 200m without needing a break, so I was forced to take the time to get better. Then, the feelings of frustration started giving way to acceptance. My walking mates had gone on ahead, but there would be other people. I wasn’t 80km up the road, but here I was – looking at an ancient skull I would otherwise have missed. In a city having a festival I would have missed.

And at that time I think my real Camino started.

Chocolate offering in Burgos. Image: Sue Teodoro








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