The way is partly dangerous and currently not recommended, locals tell me when I proudly announce that I want to continue hiking to Santiago de Compostela. From Ribadeo on the Atlantic coast I cross the coastal mountains inland into the Galician interior. Due to the continuous rain of the last three weeks, many paths and also the typical Camino de Santiago over the mountains are very softened and partly slipped in some places, so that they have to be repaired first in spring before one can safely walk over them again. First my facial features were frozen. Well, what would be a planning without rescheduling, especially as I had actually not planned at all: I say goodbye to the Camino del Norte and change by BlaBlaCar in hail and constant rain to the Camino Francés, starting from Sarria, the famous Galician pilgrimage town, where many people first start the Way of St James, as it is not only the easiest and safest way, but also fulfils the distance of at least 100 km to Santiago required for the pilgrimage certificate – the Compostela.
I stay in Sarria for a few days and start by getting ready in the Peregrinoteca https://www.peregrinoteca.com/, the pilgrim shop par excellence, not only because I have to buy a new backpack. It’s 2°C and wet. A full rain protection poncho is needed because the one I brought with me proved to be insufficient. Now I have a quite robust, waterproof, knee-length poncho with long sleeves and metal coating on the inside for heat insulation, almost a space suit or full body protector with backpack hump, because it is pulled over the backpack. I also sprayed my wonderful trekking shoes with half a can of water-repellent impregnating agent after they had been fully cleaned. They probably have the characteristics of a pair of rubber boots now.
Sarria seems to be very much geared towards Jacob’s pilgrims. Everywhere signs and references to the Camino. Scallops are modelled on scallops in shop windows, on paths, on railings, even garbage cans, paper baskets, fountains and other drinking places have the shape of scallops. In summer thousands of pilgrims walk and stay overnight here every day, I am told. At every corner you can see Albergue de Peregrinos, Bodega, Taparia, Cantina, but at the moment little frequented. In summer, it is almost impossible to get a place without having reserved a long time in advance. Thus, the inhospitable season has not only disadvantages for me. As in Ribadeo, most of it is bilingual, Spanish and Galician, but there is even German pilgrim literature in the shop window.
As I walk over the Río Sarria pedestrian bridge, I take a very serious look at the heavy geese that keep me awake here at night because they are constantly sounding the alarm. But also my for-one-dead-or-lively-Christmas-goose profile-photography doesn’t seem to impress them at all. In “A Cantina Pulperia Luís” (https://goo.gl/maps/tgX23S16Ffnc5DPK8) I find a typical Galician lunch canteen. Somewhat helpless I stand around after the entrance before one of the waitresses takes care of me and leads me to a place. “Polbo á feira”? “Si, por favor!” I would have said “Si, por favor!” to everything, no matter what she asked me. But I trust that she probably meant the squid, which is also the name giver of this lunch canteen as a tribal meal for the locals. There is hardly any red wine growing in Galicia. That is why people usually drink a white Ribeiro or an Albariño. Since everyone at my table has red wine bottles in front of them, I also order a “Tinto Verano”, because pure red wine would be a little too strong for me. Promptly I see a whole bottle of Rioja and lemonade in front of me to dilute it. The Polbo/Pulpo with salt, paprika and olive oil tastes fantastic. All very fresh! Afterwards there is of course the typical “Postre Queixo/Queso con Membrillo”, a mild soft cheese with quince paste, very tasty. Crisp white bread is served with everything. The usual rule here: “All you can eat”, i.e. eating and drinking without quantity limit at a flat rate of 12 € is not good for my reduction diet! It’s time for me to get going again!