The House of Gods

DAY 21: June 23rd, 2016. Villavante – Astorga, 22 km

We stopped for breakfast in Hospital de Órbigo, a lovely town that I had already had the chance to visit earlier this year with my studends and friends. After spending a crazy amount of money for a tortilla con chorizo, we followed the advise of a Spanish guy I met yesterday in a bar and took the detour uphill instead of walking alongside the street.

The guy told me: “When you will reach the top of the hill, you will see something and be like – Awwww!”, but he let me discovered what that was.

I was talking to José when I reached the top and suddenly understood what the guy was talking about. A colorful stand called “La Casa de los Dioses” was there, in the middle of nowhere. Full of colors, the stand worked only thanks to the pilgrims’ donations. We could take whatever we wanted: watermelon, cherries, peaches, nuts and organic fruit juices were there for us. 8 km away from the city, surrounded by nothing, here was the House of Gods.

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The first idea of establishing a stand on the way came to a Catalan guy five years ago. Andreij, from Romania, has been managing it for the past two years. Together with him there was Giusy, an Italian girl of 28, from Apulia.

Giusy joined Andreij two months ago. She had walked the Camino de Santiago but, once she was back home, she realized she didn’t belong there anymore. She felt changed, therefore she needed to change.

So she left. First, she went to Spain, helping out a couple she met on the Camino to build their house. Then she went back to Italy and stayed with a friend. Then she met Andreij and she decided to stay there.

They were both sleeping inside what looked like the base of a house under construction. There was nothing like a roof, nor a floor, let alone a bathroom. Giusy and Andreij were both living in the middle of the Spanish meseta, putting organic food at the pilgrims’ disposal.

Despite my urge to reach Astorga as soon as possible – I hadn’t visited it on purpuse during my year in León, leaving it for the Camino – I was so curious that I let the guys continue to the city, while I stayed there talking to Giusy, together with Diego.

She told me about her living day by day without real plan for tomorrow, letting the destiny guide her. It’s a lifestyle that I somehow admire, that of being able to live with just food, water and the few donations from the pilgrims.

“What do I need? There’s a water spring 1 km from here. We buy food with the donations… I do not need anything, except for hair conditioner: that, I really need!”, she told me laughing.

Long, curly black hair and deep green eyes, her Mediterrean complexion has been darkened by the sun. All she has with her are one bra, a pink t-shirt, a pair of black leggins and a pair of flip flops. I wish it was that easy in “normal” life, not worrying about matching shoes with the purse and all that bullshit that we love so much.

I do not agree on letting destiny lead you: we are the masters of our destinies and should shape them accordingly, deciding today what tomorrow will look like. Still, it’s a lifestyle that I’d like to try. And maybe I will, soon, in Latin America.

Giusy gave me a postcard with a picture she took with an analog camera that someone once gave to her. A heart drawn on a window while raining. “El camino del corazón, The way of the heart”, it says.

Diego and I continued towards Astorga, each of us immerse in our thoughts. We met the others at the Albergue Municipal Siervas de María, big but nice. I am sharing a room with Diego, Joanna and a Southafrican woman that will start her Camino tomorrow.

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I waited to visit Astorga for months, almost closing my eyes when I passed it by car on the way to the usual Sunday hike. I was looking forward to the Cathedral, but especially to Gaudi’s Episcopal Palace, one of his only three buildings outside Catalonia. And I am still looking forward to it, since both Cathedral and Episcopal Palace are closed on Mondays and today is… Monday, of course.

After a tour in the Chocolate Museum though, I managed to tick something off my Astorga bucket list: the Cocido Maragato. One of the most renowed dishes of the local cuisine, the Cocido Maragato is a local stew served in reversed order: seven kinds of meat first (including the famous cecina from León), followed by vegetables and legumes and, finally, the soup.

We had a delicious Cocido at Astor in Plaza Mayor. We managed to get 6 cocidos for 9 people, ending up paying 15 € per person (much cheaper than usual), and it was delicious! The wine was flowing, making our dinner a real feast. The night ended with a crazy summer hailstorm.

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