Written April 23, 2013 at Najera, Spain.
The common lodging for a Peregrino is known as an Albergue. Some are sponsored by the municipality, others by religious organizations, and still others are private-for-profit facilities. The Municipal Albergues tend to be the simplest and least expensive. Cost for a night in an Albergue varies from a donation to from 7 to 15 Euros per person.
An Albergue is a shelter, nothing less, but sometimes more. You are guaranteed a bed. It may be single tiered (rare), two tiered (common), or three tiered, which we have only encountered in Viana. You may or may not have a pillow, sheets, or a blanket. The sleeping room may have as few as 4 people, or over 40. The rooms are usually shared by men and women, with space at a premium. Privacy is the gift that your neighbor gives you as she turns her head while you change your clothes. Etiquette calls upon you to reciprocate. All Albergues promise a sink, toilet, and shower. What constitutes “hot” water may be a bit ambiguous. The better Albergues provide at least one toilet and shower for each 6 Peregrinos, but we have “enjoyed” sharing a toilet with as many as 20 other Pilgrims.
As with the sleeping rooms, bathrooms may be unisex. The feet in the stall next to you may belong to a woman or a man. I have learned that the “fairer sex” can empty a bladder much quicker than a 61 year old man! (Too much information?)
While all of this may sound a bit Spartan, we have come to enjoy the camaraderie, sense of family, and shared sacrifice. One does appreciate the special “luxuries” of fewer bedfellows, larger bathroom facilities, adequate heat, no snoring, no bedbugs…
Life is Good, and my Wife is Great. Love to you all. Have Fun, Do Good, and Be Safe. Buen Camino. Pete (and Chris)
June 8, 2021 at Kansas City.
I thought to draw upon a few images to highlight the stark differences that one may encounter at various albergues.
This first images are of the sleeping room at Villafranca Montes de Oca. The owner of the exclusive Hotel San Anton Abad has walked the Camino. In order to “give something back” to fellow Peregrinos he set aside a wing with 24 beds and ultra-modern facilities for Pilgrim accommodations. The price was 12 Euros per person for the night. We were welcome in the sumptuous bar/lounge and dining room where we were treated by those guests paying hundreds of Euros per night as something of celebrities.
At the other end of the spectrum our albergue in Rabanal del Camino although clean, stretched tolerance by providing a dormitory room with 38 closely spaced bunkbeds. A unisex bathroom with two showers, two toilets, and two sinks made for challenged personal hygiene.
Australian Pilgrim, Jack Webster related to me that as he was showering in a stall in the unisex bath of an albergue he happened to gaze down onto the dark wet polished stone floor. His eyes drew focus on the reflection of a woman who in turn was gazing at his reflection in the floor from the adjoining shower stall. The reality of the situation seemed to strike each of them simultaneously. Jack, being unflappably pragmatic, smiled and waved to the image at his feet. She took the cue, grinned and waved back. They each then went about the task of finishing their showers.
Peace Everyone, and Buen Camino! Pete