Stages 17 & 18: Atapuerca to Burgos to Leon

27-29 Sep 2019

I don’t want to give the archaeology work at Atapuerca short shrift – we went through the local museum and it was fascinating – so here’s a link to more information: Unesco Atapuerca

We stayed at the Albergue El Peregrino in Atapuerca, sharing a double room for 17.5 euros each. Over dinner, we met some interesting women in our age group who insisted I had to go to Bali. I’ve been getting lots of suggestions for future destinations and noting them down.

It was really dark during our pre-dawn climb (of course) out of Atapuerca, and we clambered over some really rocky trail sections by headlamp. After sun up, we passed through a few quaint villages and pine forests on our way to Burgos.

The last 8 Kms into Burgos go through an industrial area and it’s amazing that the guide books don’t mention that this means no food, no water, no bathrooms, and not even a place to sit down on a roadside bench. C’mon, don’t the people who work in these factories and warehouses have to eat? How about a bus stop with a bench?

This means I have no pictures of our entrance into Burgos. If you’ve seen one Volvo truck plant, you’ve seen ‘em all.

We finally made Burgos, found the Old Town, and got checked-in. After the usual Pilgrim Routine, we headed out for a late lunch:

Still my favorite: Ensalade Mixta

Claude and I are going our separate ways tomorrow; he with a day off in Burgos and then some Camino route variations, and I by catching the train to Leon. We decided to celebrate and found this “Irish pub” in the Old Town:

Note the Guinness sign

And we decided to have a Gin & Tonic. I was really surprised when the bar tender delivered this tasty monster:

We were both surprised and, of course, had to have another one to be sure the first one wasn’t just a fluke. It wasn’t. And, of course, that led to Claude suggesting we go to Burger King. Isn’t this how all these weird things start?

So, we Google Burger King and find one nearby. We go on over and examine the menu full of “Master Burgers” (not “Whoppers” but looked similar) and the touch-screen-only ordering. Cue the sensory dislocation due to cultural differences (plus G&Ts) and, after much dithering and screen-poking, we place our order and eventually we get our food and sit down.

It’s only then that we notice that 98% of the clientele consists of girls aged 10-14. The sound track was a dead giveaway: shrieking, OMGing, and loud cell-phone-on-speaker mania. It was spooky. Claude and I ate up and got out as quickly as we could. You think two old guys stood out in that crowd? And, no, the food was not that good.

The next morning, nursing a bit of a hangover, I packed up and went along to the train station and caught the 12:34 train to Leon. You may remember I have a full-size, 40-liter pack and a day pack. On the Camino path, I carry one or the other and ship the other one ahead. Not this time – I had to carry both and it was really awkward. I almost took a header down the steps getting off the train. The train trip itself was uneventful and there were a lot of pilgrims on board. We crossed the flat, hot, shadeless “Meseta” wheat fields and I was not unhappy about skipping the area.

Leon is a big, big city and I had a day off there the next day (Sunday – September 29th). There was a big parade of “Pendones” right past my hotel the next morning.

The Pendones are the big banners

I may not have this totally correct, but it looked as the banners were carried and accompanied by groups, social clubs perhaps, from different cities in the region. There’s some connection to military events in Spain’s past.

As you can see in the picture, one person carries the pole holding the banner by clipping it into a belt that’s much like a weight-lifter’s belt. As they march, they do a balancing act, sometimes aided by someone working a rope from the top of the pole. Other pole carriers, with their own belts, stand ready and jump in to switch off frequently, without lowering the pole. I saw no banners go down, which is remarkable because the tallest poles were about 50’ high.

Some groups had coordinated outfits, including women in very traditional dress, with castanets. Some had musicians with them:

This group included Spanish bagpipers!

The parade went on for hours and I finally decided to see where they were going. I followed the jammed sidewalks down to the huge cathedral, where the banners were being presented and displayed.

Picture doesn’t give a clear idea of how jammed the plaza was

Once you get into the Camino frame of mind, being in a big city is somewhat disconcerting. I was happy to leave Leon behind the next morning and get back on the Camino path.

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