Santiago de Compostela
Updated on Tuesday, 24 August 2021 – 09:19
After the bolt by the Covid, it recovers the strength of 2019, when all the records were broken. The hotels in the old town of Compostela have achieved occupancies of up to 100%.
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The tunos have once again intoned their hooligan tunes with an enthusiasm that had not been heard in the Obradoiro since the pandemic started. They receive the pilgrims who complete the Santiago’s road. The unmistakable sound of the tuna is diluted at every moment in the shouting and chants of those who enter the plaza. On the corner with Ra Franco, a reinforced police checkpoint exercises the discreet surveillance typical of any summer. But this is not a summer for so many.
Although the numbers of infections certify the persistence of the fifth wave of infections by the coronavirus, Santiago lives oblivious to these circumstances, as if he were on another planet. The city has recovered its usual flow of visitors, after a year and a half that seemed endless. The reasons are disparate: it is Holy year and to travel the Camino de Santiago is to spend a few days away from the crowds that register other destinations.
Doing the Camino is putting land through a possible contagion. You walk alone or in groups of cohabitants, although the data indicate that the Jacobean routes record a daily increase in pilgrims. Unique paradox: a few days in search of solitude that lead to an avalanche of personnel, who take over a city where it is difficult to find accommodation and where you have to queue to have a bite to eat.
The flow of pilgrims and tourists arriving in Santiago de Compostela this August has experienced a constant increase since the end of the last state of alarm. In the first six months of the year, the Pilgrim’s Office registered only 1,000 more pilgrims than in 2020. It was devastating, let’s open for a couple of hours and until March, we sealed just over 90 credentials, although later they began to increase little by little, they recall in the reception center for pilgrims where, since the beginning of August, they seal some 1,500 passports to the day.
On the weekend of July 25, the feast of Santiago Apstol, more than 2,000 travelers stamped their credentials each day. Figures identical to those of 2019, the year before the pandemic. So it is not difficult to venture that those that are sealed this August will be close to – or perhaps exceed – those that of the same month of that year, when a absolute record with 62,814 pilgrims. This Sunday, for example, 1,768 pilgrims stamped their credentials.
A walk – it is a saying, that these days you have to make your way through the crowd by dint of putting your elbows – along the ra do Francos, the main part of the old town of Santiago and the obligatory path of pilgrims to the Cathedral, it is a journey through a universe of bars and restaurants that occupy one premises and another as well. At its doors and in the interiors a clientele crowds so much life to drink and eat, as its waiters and managers in demanding that it keep a few security measures which, from what you see, are more than difficult to comply with.
In the week of the Feast of the Apostle, the average occupancy of the city’s hotel establishments was 80%. In the old town the data was better. The hotels in the central almond were 100% occupied, not a single bed was left. This level of occupation is maintained throughout the month of August, says Thor Rodríguez, president of the Hospitality Association of Santiago de Compostela.
The number of walkers on the Jacobean route last July was 33,883 pilgrims, more than 1,000 people per day, according to the Pilgrim’s Office. This represents 65% of those who arrived in the same period of 2019. The data so far in August increase this percentage by 10 points. In August 2019, 53,319 pilgrims came to Santiago. Will they get over this year?
On Godfather, an important Jacobean point where three Caminos coincide -the Portugus, the Traslatio, and the Original Way- the pilgrims’ hostel shines the full poster from the early hours of each morning. Pandemic restrictions have limited capacity to 30% and in the Xunta hostels we do not accept reservations by phone. You have to do them when you arrive, warns Neli, the hospitaler, while giving the last free bed to Isaac, an American from California. Last year I had to suspend the trip and this one, although with fear, I decided to come: the security measures make me feel safer, he acknowledges.
The launch by the Xunta of an anticovid insurance has been a boost for pilgrims like Isaac to dare to take the Camino. With access to a shelter, be sure takes care of any expenses and measures in case of contagion of a pilgrim, including medical expenses, quarantine and repatriation, says Luis Gutirrez Perrino, president of the Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the Camino de Santiago.
As in Compostela and in most of the towns through which the main branches of the Camino pass, in Padrn it is difficult to find accommodation despite the fact that this Galician town has 1,000 beds between hostels, hotels and rural accommodation. Traveling the Jacobean route is a way to escape for a few days from the crowds that other tourist areas register, they point out from the Tourist Office. Fear of the pandemic and celebration of the Holy Year.
The protective Apostle against the Covid, contemporary interpretation of Santiago and closes Spain that the Christian troops shouted in the Reconquest when they faced the Arabs.
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