On the 4th - 6th June the Galician government hosted a conference to which all the "amigos" or "friends" associations were invited. I accepted the invite and arranged to walk to the conference, while Kevin came over from Adelaide, bringing some respectable clothes for me and a hard copy of the speech I had prepared and Emrys had printed in a large font! The conference was very interesting, giving us all a chance to share and hear about what other groups were doing.
I had prepared a 10 minute speech according to the brief I was given and each speaker was simultaneously translated into French, Spanish, German, and English, depending on the language of that speaker. There were approximately 300 in the audience, though throughout each session this was fluid as the locals thought nothing of getting up and wandering out (perhaps for a smoke, or chat) and then meandering back in, clambering over all and sundry to get back to their seat, with phones regularly ringing throughout speeches.
It was really good to meet our colleagues from around the world and a special treat for me to catch up with my friend Austin, the very first Pilgrim I met on my first pilgrimage in 2005 on the second day out of Toulouse, where by chance we had both started. We were both lost, we separated to find our own way, only to meet the next morning and walked together for almost two weeks. Austin speaks fluent French so he was my translator, but I saved him many times from heading down the wrong path!
On Sunday, before going to dinner I, and a couple of friends, watched the Corpus Christie procession. The streets were decorated, and everyone was out in their best clothes. It was actually one of the few warm nights I have experienced this year.
Sue, from Adelaide, had arrived a few days earlier and we had spent some time together and after dinner I took her to hear what I think is one of the little treats of Santiago. This is the men from a group called Tunas Compostellanas. In the summer they perform, from what I can gather, on most evenings in the arcade opposite the cathedral. They are real entertainers, singing, cracking jokes, involving the audience with clapping and dancing and of course, selling their CD's. My friend Nicole was reluctant to go as they don't start performing till 10pm, but I persuaded her, and she loved them so much she bought a CD!
There are now a couple of new services for pilgrims in Santiago. There is now a mass held each morning in English and as I walked past on my last morning in Santiago I noticed it was standing room only in the small chapel where it is held. Father Joe, who leads the mass, is a retired priest from Cork with a wonderful warmth and sense of humour, telling pilgrims that in this mass there was to be none of the usual standing or kneeling as it creates a racket, and that was the last thing needed! An offshoot of the Camino Chaplaincy as this is called has a house where pilgrims can go and meet, have a coffee and print boarding passes etc. I used the pilgrim house to print off my tickets and the papers I needed for the journey home.
The group Tunas Compostellanas entertaining the crowd after dinner.
Departure time, Nicole and I waiting for a taxi to the airport. My pack is huge as it has over double what I arrived with because I have purchased non Camino clothes (can't do the jump, but "oh what a feeling!"), and I have many papers from the conference. It weighed 19.8kgs on the scales at the airport! Fortunately I only had a kilometre or so to walk to my hotel in Munich.
I left Santiago yesterday heading towards home. I have two nights in Munich, visiting with friends, and then four nights in London. I was nervous about leaving Spain as I have been four months here in the Schengen, but saw no one from customs. There was no need for them as the flight (via Madrid) was from one Schengen country to another. The test will be tomorrow, when I actually leave the Schengen for the UK, but I have my letter from the German embassy in Canberra telling anyone who might query me that we have a long forgotten bi-lateral trade agreement from 1952 which allows me to spend an extra 90 days in Germany, over and above what I spent in the Schengen. I only spent about 80 days in the other part of the Schengen, so I'm hoping I won't have to answer any questions. I didn't get my Australian passport stamped, but I do have dated stamps in my tatty looking Pilgrim credential.
I have made a few notes on the past year that you might be interested in. I will post that shortly.