May 16: Ciruena to Viloria de la Rioja: 21.2 km/13.2 miles
One does not step out quickly, when a private room is taken on the Camino. Perhaps assumed wrongly, the exit hour is not as enforced in the private hostels versus municipal/association. A second bath was savored. My legs rejoiced.
The day was overcast again as we headed out. A morning coffee is a mutually shared ritual, so the first step of the day was to locate a bar or café that was open and with espresso maker. Only then does the day truly begin.
The village of Santa Domingo de la Calzada is named after St. Dominic, who played an important role on the Camino in the 11th Century. He helped build up needed infrastructure projects and improved the Camino route by building roads and bridges. A hospital he built here has since turned into a hotel, one of the swanky, historical Parador chain.
There is an old legend in this village, regarding a miracle with a maiden, a boy and a cock that didn’t die, but one must visit the church in the town square to get the full story. A live cock and hen are still kept in the church in their memory, supposedly descendants of the originals.
Within the church lies the revered tomb of the Saint. A stop at the church is worth the Peregrino discounted price, not only to see the buildings elegance, but also, get a glimpse of the start of a progression of splendid churches to come on the Camino.
Several quaint villages passed through today. Met up with an Aussie man whom I’d encountered on and off, since Zubiri. He was sipping wine with a Kiwi woman in a small square in Granon. They were planning to stay the night in the donativo hostel above the church. He said everyone would be cozily sleeping side by side on mats on the floor. We stopped to have a Rioja as he reminded us that we were leaving this great wine making region and entering Castilla y Leon.
We continued onward, and ended up in a hostel that was run by a couple that believed passionately in the old Camino ways. The meal was donativo, meaning you pay what you can. This was the norm back in the day. Pilgrims would take up to a year or more to walk the Camino and had little in hand at the end due to illness or robbery. Remember, they had to walk both directions, as there was no train or bus service in those days. By wearing the traditional scallop shell they could take refuge in churches and hope for gratis meals en route. The scallop shell also served as a hopeful shield against robbers and thieves.
This was my kind of hostel. Doors were replaced with heavy cloth and thus no noise produced when opened or closed. The front door was locked until 0700, so as to ensure everyone received a good night’s sleep. There was a cozy sitting room with wood stove and a cabin-like ambience. Kashi felt that we were about 15 years or more late in walking the Camino. Many traditions had changed over the years.
The friendly Arizonians, who had stayed at the same hostel last night, also ended up here. In the evening everyone broke bread at the long table and ended up singing songs in different languages. People really do just want to get along. Seemed a far cry from the politics that were steaming up in the presidential race back in the States.
We were gaining some altitude so the temps were a bit cooler tonight, but great for sleeping.