All Camino's and there are many different routes end at Santiago De Compostela, Its where St James the Apostle's remains are said to be buried in the Cathedral, It should be the jewel in the crown so i was somewhat taken back when i entered the Cathedral only to see it was in dire need of renovation, The Cathedrals at both Leon and Burgos are fully restored, Santiago on the other hand had flakey ceilings and plants growing out of the walls, The outside of the Cathedral is just about to have renovation started and one of the towers was already covered and i do not think it will be long before the whole of the front is covered, Its a great shame as photographically is worthless, I was even more disappointed as the most impressive part of the Cathedral for me at least was the Portico Da Gloria which was covered in scaffolding and difficult to see properly, I have no idea how long the renovations will take but i would think it could be years rather than months,
Santiago is very touristy compared to the rest of the Camino with hundreds of gift shops selling anything from cheap tourist trinkets to expensive silver, Most were the former, The streets around the Cathedral are narrow and busy, The 'old' town is very nice and well worth a weekend to explore, Competition is fierce so prices are competitive, I stayed in the Azabache hostel twice and they allow more than one night which is great, 14 and 16 euro beds and being 1 minute from the Cathedral make it an excellent place to be, I did have a couple of nights luxury when my Camino had finished and stayed at the Hotel Rua Villar, Another perfectly placed hotel right opposite where everybody gets their compostela at the end of their Camino, I met many people that i had walked with whilst looking from the bar, Not cheap but well worth the money,
12 mid day and every Pilgrim will go for the Pilgrims mass in the Cathedral, With luck the huge incense burner or Botafumeiro will swing, I have been told that it does not swing every time (it should) but both masses that i attended it was used and you can hear the excitement rise when the monks in the burgundy velvet outfits arrive to swing it, It turns the mass into a show and everybody applauds after,
When i arrived in Santiago the first time i was alone, It was pouring with rain and the only people in the many square were beggars of which the are many or somewhat 'dodgy' looking individuals of which there are a few, If i did it again i would try and arrive early on a Sunday morning, The place is very busy and it has that 'buzz' that was not there when i arrived, The busiest mass is also unsurprisingly on a Sunday.
There are a few tours and one that i took was the Cathedral roof tour, Well worth the 12 euro's for the views alone, I do not like heights but soon acclimatised,
Yours truly in the afternoon after my arrival, The rain finished and the people arrived
My next blog will cover what i took and how i would change it if i ever did another Camino