once we regained the usual Camino, we made our way through a series of towns clearly devoted to serving peregrino purposes. for the first time I saw a sign indicating facilities were for guests or customers only. slightly off-putting considering the generally warm welcome we received virtually everywhere else along the Camino; but then, a lot more people travel this stretch of the Camino. busloads of people; people who might not have spent the previous month trying to be good stewards and respectful travelers.
in any case, just before we stopped before breakfast at a lovely stone casa rural (where the proprietor was cleaning up after the previous night’s guests and not quite ready for those inclined towards breakfast) we passed through Lavacolla where medieval peregrinos stopped to wash and purify themselves before making the final trek into Santiago. in the Middle Ages, average Christians bathed infrequently and peregrinos pretty much not at all. whether mandated or a matter of personal preference, peregrinos used the stream to bathe. apparently, purification practices differed in their complexity and thoroughness, from washing only portions of the body to cleansing all the dirt from the journey and changing clothes. (both the modern name and Latin name of the town refer to simply washing ones privates. I’ll leave it to the truly interested to translate Lavamentula [Latin] and Lavacolla [medieval Romance].) those peregrinos were often accosted by advance men for taverns, inns, restaurants, and other services in Santiago, warned of the scarcity of lodgings in the city and encouraged to hand over a deposit or full night’s payment to secure a bed. unscrupulous tavern shills offered samples of wine that never tasted quite as good in Santiago.
after Lavacolla, we passed the studios for TV Galicia (the highest point of this day’s hike, as lamented by our now-derided guidebook) and ascended the Monte de Gozo (Mount Joy), so named for the euphoria peregrinos experienced as they reached the summit and looked down on Santiago de Compostela. eager to get to the city, we kept going and got into a leap-frogging pattern with a group of day-trip Germans until just outside the walls of the old city. and just before we caught our first glimpse of the Cathedral at the heart of the city …