Monday, October 24, 2011

Day 25 - Pilgrims and Pilgrimages

If there's one thing reliable in a pilgrimage, it's the inherent unpredictability of each day. Get up, walk, stop walking, sleep. These are the only commonalities. With each step being into new territory, there's something new around each bend.

A few days ago, walking along a quiet paved road - something I'm adverse to, but the best way to dodge bullets and errant pellets during hunting season - three men in a Mercedes passed me, turned around passed me again, did a u-turn ahead of me and drove toward me in the shoulder lane... jeeze, trouble afoot? Before the car even came to a halt, the passenger door opened and a Frenchmen jumped out: Don't worry, we're pilgrims, too! (In a Mercedes??)

The incalcuably small probability of another pilgrim to Jerusalem passing me by on that stretch of road midway between Toledo and Cordoba was realized. His pilgrimage began in Auschwitz, and being an EU citizen, he was unhindered to pass through Syria. He and his pals were out field-testing a potential pilgrim route connecting Cordoba and Toledo. Incredible odds, really. Another long-distance pilgrim... (in French).

The very next day, I entered a village after the requisite kilometers and sought out the priest for lodging. While waiting in a cafe-bar, I got to talking with the affable barman and a barfly, a successful pilgrim to Santiago some years past. When I finally got to the old priest, he gave me a stern, and unnecessarily loud, lecture telling me that I'm not a pilgrim because there is no traditional pilgrim route between Toledo and Cordoba... no pilgrim route, no pilgrimage, no pilgrim. He shouted his outrage that I should sullen the pilgrim tradition by willy-nilly making my own route. He reached into a drawer and pulled out first 15€ then a pause and then another 10€ and shouted louder that I should leave. I quickly asked for a stamp for my credenziale, but he fumed all the more - no pilgrim route, no pilgrimage, no pilgrim, no stamp! ¡Vamos!

Stunned, I returned to the cafe-bar for solace. The fellows laughed at the situation saying that the sour old priest has been part of the village for 35 years and that only the old ladies go to Mass. A beer was served and directions to find the local hostel where a clean and well-appointed room could be had for 18€ and a full meal for 6€. With a hot shower and clean sheets on a comfortable bed, I really made out well despite the clerical reception. All's well that ends well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I chuckled to read of this grumpy and off-the-planet priest. Nobody said they had to be nice. Many are not, despite an alleged belief in their god.

And it's the sort of crap that comes to us out of the blue, unpleasant as it is, on long walks. We've all encountered varieties of such life deniers. Good to see you recovered your balance,as expected. You wouldn't let one horror put you off, amidst many human kindnesses.

Keep on keeping on.....