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Peace and humility in Grañón

P1000387We never knew when we set out in the morning where we’d be sleeping that night and albergues varied enormously in terms of the facilities and comfort they offered. Some had washing machines, some had kitchens, others provided a meal on the premises, some even had separate loos for men and women! The prices ranged from 6-10 euros so you didn’t complain and readily accepted whatever was available. “The Camino provides” was the philosophy.

Grañón stands out though. It was basic, not just because you slept on the floor, but washing facilities were P1000384limited and cramped. And I’ll never forget hanging my laundry alongside rags on crowded lines up in the ancient bell tower, avoiding the piles of guano and the barely guarded drop to the ground far below. But it had an atmosphere that was unique and steeped in history.

We prepared the food communally – dozens of people along a table chopping vegetables and preparing apples for baking with cinnamon – then went to the mass downstairs. The lady sitting beside me led the singing with a strong beautiful voice then pilgrims were invited to go forward for a blessing.

The meal was cooked in big ovens at the village bakery and we all went and watched in the street as those who could sing performed for our supper, with the villagers and tiny children all watching the daily spectacle. We shared the delicious food, the washing-up was made light by many hands, and I fell exhausted into my sleeping bag on the floor.

P1000390There was no fixed charge here, just an honesty box for a donation if you could afford it. And if you couldn’t, there was an invitation to take what you needed from the money left by others.

In the few minutes before sleep came that night I felt this was the closest I had come to finding the original spirit of the P1000397pilgrimage. There was a history, a simplicity and humility to this place that couldn’t be captured in the modern albergues we enjoyed elsewhere. I was resting my head on the same floor as thousands of others over the ages: I was becoming a pilgrim.

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