Day 1 Caminha – Pontevedra (22.March)
Now I am in Galicia – known for a lot of rain, green forests, delicious bread and above all hiking pilgrims. Santiago de Copostela, the world-famous pilgrimage site in the heart of Galicia, is for many the end of a long and arduous journey. In every hostel, every restaurant, every church, pilgrims collect stamps in their pilgrim passports. If they are complete and have sufficient stamps, they will receive the coveted pilgrimage award at the end of their journey in Santiago. For me the passport is uninteresting for this reason, because I am quasi backwards on the way, but since it allows me to stay in the cheap pilgrim accommodation I will also buy such a booklet.
Today I make it over some hill chains, through the windy, steep city Vigo, with the ferry over the bay to Cangas and further to Pontevedra. In the evening I am exhausted and stop in the picturesque old town in a small hostel. Here I meet the first bunch of real pilgrims. There is the Australian, who always leaves at six o’clock in the morning and arrives early in the next village to rest. Or the nineteen-year-old from Ireland, who walks the path for the second time already and who thinks that the personal change of his soul is only noticed much later. I feel particularly sorry for the young German, who has been mastering his path for 100 km with open blisters on his feet. Bloody and swollen, he shows me his toes. In the evening, all pilgrims treat their tired, maltreated feet and tape them with special plasters. Then route descriptions and experiences are exchanged. Together they go out to dinner. I’ll stay in the room. I’m not one of them.
Day 2 Pontevedra (23.March)
The Australian has already marched out at 6 o’clock. The other eight pilgrims also leave after a short breakfast one by one. I’m the last one. I want to enjoy every minute in the hostel, it is expensive enough. When I leave, it starts to drizzle. I’m rolling through the old town towards the cathedral. Here I buy a pilgrim’s pass for two euros, hooray! When I step outside again, the drizzle turned into a real shower. I’ll take shelter. I’m cold. A few chilly minutes later I dare to try again. I just made it across the bridge, but again it’s absolutely bucketing down. Frustrated I decide to return to my hostel. There’s no point in getting soaked to the bone. Where is the pleasure of travelling?
More pilgrims arrive in the afternoon. Similar conversations, same foot care, related experience reports. I withdraw and ponder mainstream individualism…
Day 3 Pontevedra – Santiago (24.March)
Nine o’clock. It’s not raining. But now. Right after breakfast I head off. Of course I’m the last one again, but I catch up with all the pilgrims from last night after the first half hour. The funny colours of raincoats and capes, backpack covers and umbrellas run along the roadside like on a string of pearls. A colourful march of pilgrims. I rattle through cold and wet puddle ditches into a quiet mystic forest. Everything around me is dripping. Trees get lost in the thicket. Moss covers the stones, the ground, the trunks. Rivers splash along the stony path. Everything shines, is clean, watered. Birds are chirping happily. Saturated green abundance. No one but myself and the lush nature is close by. I am glad that it is not pouring and enjoy the lush, juicy forest. But soon I leave the pilgrim path and continue on the road. I make better progress on the tarmac. I’ve got a lot of hills to climb. Again and again short, heavy rain showers whip down on me. The wind is blowing strongly from the north. Santiago lies behind a nasty chain of hills. Sad villages have to be overcome. And then it happens again. First I get annoyed, then I slowly get grumpy, finally I get angry, lose my temper and scream at the elements angrily. The fucking hill, the hacked suburb, the fucking wind and the pissing rain. I already know it! The steam is out, I feel totally stupid, but I’m relieved. Then it goes on. Eventually I reach my current hostel soaking wet and exhausted – the huge Seminario Menor, a former training centre for Catholic clergymen (priests?) To celebrate the day that I reached Santiago, I treat myself to a single room. The prospect of spending the night in a gym-like dormitory with dozens of giggling young people does not delight me at all. I drag my five heavy bags up to the third floor and along an almost endless corridor. My tiny room is like a cell. But everything I need is there. A bed, a closet, a small washbasin and a window overlooking a part of Santiago.
Day 4 Santiago (25.March)
The way to the cathedral takes less than ten minutes. I can’t get there dry. The weather’s gone completely mad. I stand in the blazing sun and behind me the sky turns to its darkest violet with rage. He sees me, points, opens a lock and – splash!!!! Hit! Frustrated and wet I have a coffee in one of the nice bars. Again and again I have to think of Hape Kerkeling’s descriptions, who couldn’t find himself in „Ich bin dann mal WEG“ to continue and rather drank another cappuccino. Finally I reach the center of Santiago. Colourful umbrellas dance across the square in a snake performance and disappear into the cathedral. Hundreds of people rushed past me with the tip of their umbrellas ahead through the clattering rain. I join the crouchers under a stone arcade and wait for the next sun window. That’s open about twenty-two and a half minutes. Time enough to collect a few impressions, take pictures and look for the nearest bar. Conclusion: Santiago won’t knock me out! The weather is partly to blame, but my motivation is also different from that of the pilgrims who have finally reached their destination after long days and exertions. For me, a new stage begins here on my way home. It’s going east from now on!
Day 5 Santiago – Miraz (26.March)
From now on, pilgrims only come towards me. I’m practically going backwards. With a tail wind and a good mood (it’s not raining yet!) I leave the city towards the north-east, back to the Atlantic Ocean. In the afternoon there is a constant drizzle. It goes up and down through an enchanting landscape. Everything is covered with moss and lichen. Dark brown horse bodies steam on wet pastures. Their snorting and neighing is both sad and comforting. Birds rush through the thicket in low flight. The trees crawl their gnarled branches into low-hanging clouds of water. Huge wind turbines roar invisibly through white mist. I cycle through a magnificent watercolour painting of flowery deep yellow, moss green and iridescent stone grey. In the twilight of the evening I reach a quiet hostel, which offers pilgrims a roof over their heads in a tiny village called Mirza. Three Britons run the accommodation on a donation basis. How lucky I am, I find out at breakfast at dawn. The winter break has been over for two days. I’m one of the first guests this year.
Day 6 Miraz – Ribadeo (27.March)
As soon as I am back on the street at eight o’clock, I meet a little man dressed in white. He waves a truck into a driveway, sees me, purposefully crosses the road and starts a conversation. In almost impeccable English he tells me his life story. He lived near London for twenty years, but his wife, son and daughter wanted to return to Portugal. Now he works as a chicken farmer day in, day out at his farm, watching his family spend their hard-earned money again. His wife was NEVER satisfied. He shakes his head. What a miserable life he leads. I’m getting cold. My feet are absorbing the moisture of the asphalt, I’m starting to tremble. Finally the man in need of sympathy has pity and releases me after twenty long chat minutes with good advice for my onward journey. It’s starting to drizzle. This is not much fun, as the path runs along a noisy main road for a few kilometres. Finally it goes again into the forest and from now on the thick clouds tear up and the sun shines again. The wind comes from behind, my clothes dry, it goes downhill. Lovely. In the early evening I reach the coast. Then it starts raining again. I quickly buy wine, bread, cheese, ham and chocolate and then look for the pilgrim hostel. It’s a tiny little house right on the cliff and looks pretty closed. When I shake the door, it opens and a blond woman looks around the corner. Gaby from Cologne. She is happy about my company, because she is alone in the hostel and is a little creepy. We do it as well as we can in the barren atmosphere, feasting wine and sandwiches and chatting late into the evening like two old friends. A wonderful encounter.
Day 7 Ribadeo – Vilapedre (28.March)
The wind has freshened up and the clouds in the sky are not promising anything good. After breakfast with Gaby we say goodbye and go our separate ways. The wind almost blows me over the railing of the bridge. Well, this can be fun! It will be. I can’t do much more than twenty kilometres further when the rain comes down on me as if I were his prey. The wind is pulling at me and my heavily loaded bike. I can hardly see the way in front of me, I see a desolate train station and save myself. It smells like piss. The timetable, which is hanging in shreds, informs me that there is NO train running today. Half a bar of chocolate comforts me temporarily. Simply delicious! These are the little things I am learning to appreciate more and more! I’m waiting. The rain’s raining. Half an hour goes by, the rain is still raining. I search the Internet for a hostel nearby and find a bed & breakfast less than 2.5 km away. When I find the given address – it is of course on a mountain – I am soaked to my underwear. A dark red villa, car in front of it, the engine still cracks. I knock on the door, peek inside. A cat stares at me. In the corridor there are wet shoes, handbag and rain-jacket is lying on a bench. Nobody opens. It pladders without stopping. Finally I see a huge ship’s bell on the wall of the house and ring strongly back and forth on the rope. A window opens on the first floor, a woman looks out, shakes her head and says that the pension will not open until May. Then she invites me for a cup of tea. I don’t know if I should cry or laugh. She opens the door, I push my bike into the hallway and follow her dripping into the spacious kitchen. It’s cold in the house, she says. The season has not yet begun, the rooms are not yet ready – black or green? The tea? Oh, uh… black, please. There’s bio biscuits and steaming Earl Grey. The nice woman is fifty years old, is called Isabel and has long black hair. Her eyes look with slight melancholy. Grey and yellow shadows frame it. We talk and after a few minutes we are already absorbed in the role of the woman in Spain, the society led by politicians who promise a lot but still do nothing. Isabel has lived here for twenty years – originally from Madrid – but no neighbour has visited her house yet. The people of Asturias are very secretive. You work, live and love only in your closest friends and family. Newcomers stay for a lifetime. Isabel is a restorer. The longer I listen to her, watch her, cuddled in a caramel brown stole, with her golden rim set glasses and her warm, shy smile, which exposes a gap in her teeth and her slightly yellowed crooked teeth… the longer we sit there and chat excitedly, the greater my wish to stay here. But Isabel feels uncomfortable, because everything is not tidy and much too cold. I better stay in a hotel. She’ll call the next town and reserve a room for me. Before I leave, she shows me her house. Every room is a beauty. Everywhere you can find bookshelves with art books and literature classics, old restored furniture, carpets, pictures, masks, apparatus, mirrors, jugs, clock faces of old clocks, potted plants, sewing machines, wooden stools, harvesters and whatnot. Everything has its place, nothing is jumbled up, each piece is put into its own scene. Nevertheless you are not in a museum, no, quite the opposite, there is a cosy atmosphere. I would love to grab a book and let myself fall into an armchair while the rain is pattering outside. A real artist has been at work here. My host explains that she renovated and restored everything in this house herself. For the last ten years. Her life partner died then, that was her mourning. At the end she leads me through her studio. It smells of solvents and paints. An ancient still life is emblazoned on an easel. The layman can also see clearly where she has already cleaned the picture. A huge table is used for work, cardboard, paint, brushes, cartons, etchings, lithographs, tools of all kinds lie around. An old printing press sits enthroned in the middle of the room. Printer cabinet and typesetting boxes are on the wall. I can’t get out of my astonishment. Oh, I wish I could stay here! At the end we say goodbye, take each other warmly in our arms and press ourselves firmly that I perceive a flow of energy again…. should I become an esoteric soul wanderer on this journey after all?! Isabel waves out the window for a long time and I slide to my hotel. Here the heating fails this night, there is no Internet and the television does not work either. And all this for the bargain price of only 35 € (two full day budgets!)
Day 8 Vilapedre – Cudillero (29.March)
The coast really is a paradise for serpentine up and down lovers. It’s not me! Today it’s called gritting your teeth. Tomorrow is the Easter weekend. I want to stay in a small hostel and rest there for a few days. Rain, sun, rain in the most beautiful alternation. I can’t stop so often to dress on and off. But as soon as the sun shines, I threaten to evaporate in my rain jacket plastic bag. Shortly before closing time I stock up with food and reach my hostel. Three days of inactivity await me. Wonderful!
Days 9, 10, 11 Cudillero (30.March– 1. April)
Walk down to the village, which crouches in a niche on the cliffs as if spat on the rocks. Back to the hostel. Reading, writing, sleeping. No Easter eggs found.
Day 12 Cudillero – Gijon (2. April)
Mir ist, als würde jemand an meinem Gepäckträger ziehen. Ich komme heute gar nicht von der Stelle. Mühsam schiebe ich lange Ziehwege hinauf und ächze gerade so bis Avilés. Der Ort ist nicht wirklich schön, Industrieschlote ragen ins Himmelgrau, lassen weißen Dampf ab. Enge Kopfsteinpflasterstraßen mit dichtem Verkehr machen das Fahren spannend. Ich komme am Bahnhofsgebäude vorbei und denke darüber nach, bis Gijon im Zug zu fahren. Leider gibt es keine menschliche Seele sondern nur eine spanische Ticketmaschine. Das ist mir gerade zu kompliziert. Ich will sowieso erstmal Oscar Niemeyer einen Besuch abstatten. Der brasilianische Architekt hat sich in der wenig reizvollen Umgebung von Avilés mit einem internationalen Kulturzentrum verewigt. Das war 2011, ein Jahr bevor er starb. Die futuristisch anmutenden Gebäude strahlen Ordnung, Ruhe und Humor aus. Genau der richtige Ort für eine kurze Verschnaufspause. Ich entschließe mich, weitere 30 Kilometer bis Gijon zu radeln. Das Wetter bessert sich, ich fahre an einer wenig befahrenen Landstraße vorrangig bergab und genieße die hügelgrüne Landschaft, mit kleinen Bauernhäuschen, Kühen und Traktoren. Sieht fast aus, wie in Süddeutschland. Gijons Peripherie ist wenig einladend. Neubauten und Tristesse empfangen mich. Es gibt hier keine Herbergen für Pilger. Ratlos fahre ich zur Altstadt und rolle den weiten Strand entlang. In einem Restaurant gönne ich mir einen asturischen Kartoffel-Fleisch-Gemüse-Eintopf und beschließe, einen 5 km entfernten Campingplatz aufzusuchen. Das stellt sich als Glücksfall heraus, denn hier gibt es für nur 6 € ein Platz in einem winzigen Pilgerzimmer. Eigentlich hatte ich mich schon auf eine Zeltnacht eingestellt. In der Nacht beginnt es allerdings erneut zu regnen und ich bin froh, im Trockenen zu liegen. Einer meiner Zimmergenossen ist Franzose, der in Brüssel lebt und in höchsten Tönen von dieser Stadt schwärmt. Er rät mir auch, unbedingt in die Bretagne zu fahren. Dort soll es wunderschön sein. Ich liebe diese Tipps von anderen Reisenden. Aber mal sehen, ob ich diesen Schlenker wirklich mache. Hügel, Wind, Regen…. ich weiß nicht.
Day 13 Gijon – Piñeres (3. April)
Weather and way mean well with me today. I enjoy cycling and make good progress, passing the coastal towns of Las Islas and Ribasella and wondering more and more about the mountains, which grow into the sky not far from the coast. From a distance I spot snow-capped peaks. This is the Cantabrian Mountains, the western extension of the Pyrenees, which runs 480 km from the Basque Country to Galicia. What I can admire from afar in the next few days is the Picos de Europa mountain range, whose highest mountain is the Torre de Cerredo with 2,648 m. The Camino Primitivo – the most pristine route of the Way of St James leads somewhere there and is currently partly snow-covered. In the evening I reach a beautiful hostel with a small garden and two other nice pilgrims. We sit in the evening sun and talk. Dan, the young American from Chicago is in a good mood and full of zest for action. Refreshingly contagious. The efforts of the last few days are a thing of the past.
Day 14 Piñeres – Comillas (4. April)
Dan tells me that there is a very nice pilgrim hostel in Comillas. He doesn’t know if there are enough beds, but there are two floors. I shouldn’t have any trouble getting in there. Well!
The day begins friendly, but no reason to praise him before the evening. In Llanes I roam a little through the old town and then have to push up an endless mountain. The path runs along the motorway. Not pretty. It rains sometimes, then it stops again. I’m getting dressed. That sucks. The landscape reconciles me however, because the mountains and the lush green with the visibly erupting spring is really beautiful. Finally, I have a nice way down a long hill into the picturesque San Vincente de la Barquera. However, my joy does not last long, because I see a dark gray-blue thunderstorm wall, which draws in from the sea and storms the sky in lightning speed and pours a terrible shower over the just still blossoming colours. The luminous mountain idyll becomes a grey-in-grey shade blurring in a white mist. Of course things are going uphill again. Panting and soaking wet, tired and bitterly annoyed, I fight for centimetres before finally being rewarded by an enchanting giant rainbow. Everything’s spinning, everything’s moving. Rain is followed by sun and then rain again. I reach Comillas with my last bit of energy. I am astonished to discover that this small town seems to be a kind of open-air museum. Everywhere, highly impressive palaces and villas rise out of splendidly maintained gardens and parks. The hostel is on a hill – I apologise for repeating myself, but that’s the way it is! Groaning, I push my cargo over rough cobblestone pavement and enter the reception area dripping wet. Patiently I wait until the woman behind the counter has finished her phone call. „I’d like a bed.“ „We are occupied!“ she replies. I think I misheard. Sure? I’ll ask. I can also sleep on my mattress, I have everything with me. „No! I can’t!“ she shakes her head. No smiles, no regrets, no kindness. I’m stunned. She’s sending me to the tourist information. It’s already closed, of course. What now? Weary I push my cargo through the narrow alleys of the picture book city. It is a tourist destination. Cheap rooms are out of the question. A crumpled pension costs 30 € for a stinking room without heating. I have no choice. I surrender to my fate
Day 15 Comillas – Santa Cruz de Benzana/Santander (5. April)
The next day the world looks a little friendlier. I still look around a little bit in the nice little place, but do without park and palace visits with costs and the visit of El Capricho – a villa built by Gaudí. I still have many kilometres to go and, above all, meters in altitude. In the sky, the wind draws a watercolour: blurred cloud white over milky sky blue becomes a contourless blue white at the end. The east wind ruffled my beautiful thoughts and I slowly start to find this coast silly. Ten kilometres before Santander I reach a small house, which is not exactly idyllic between the motorway and the country road. This is my hostel for today, at least I hope so, after yesterday’s defeat. A little woman with lively eyes and a brown curly head welcomes me. She introduces herself: Marie Niége. I’m sure she has a bed for me. „Come in, here you have a glass of water, sit down and rest!“ That’s how hospitality works…. I almost forgot! My bike is also allowed in the parlour and I get to know the other guests. A friendly mixture of French, Belgian, Dutch and even Australian. They all know each other already, because they run the same route during the day. Little by little, in the evening, the same people arrive at the accommodation that one wished for „Buen Camino! The house is old and full of life. A fireplace crackles. Pictures from South America and masks from Africa hang on the stone walls. Photo walls show cheerful groups of pilgrims, some in faded Kodakcolor from the seventies. In a small barrel there are dozens of hiking poles, the sofa is equipped with colourful cushions. Everything is made of wood, stone, ceramics. Very cosy.
There’s food for everyone at 8:00. The husband cooks. Tortillas, salad, fruit, red wine and honey liquor for dessert. They tell beautiful stories and laugh a lot. The eldest in the group is estimated to be in his mid-seventies… maybe even eighty years old. A cheerful Frenchman whose weather-beaten face is full of laughter lines. He moves very slowly, has a small hump and huge hands. How many times has he run the Camino?“ Oh,“ he says, waving his bear’s pride away, „I forgot about that!“ He laughs and then devotes himself to his red wine with relish. The next morning, he’s the first one out of the house.
Day 16 Santander – Guemes (6. April)
Marie Niége gives everyone a warm goodbye and quickly takes a group photo. I have the feeling that I am not one of many, but an individual whom I meet with interest. Things are going to be different this afternoon. The much praised pilgrim accommodation in Guemes is my destination today. But first things first. Safe clouds of veils are moving across the sky as I roll into Santander around nine o’clock in the morning. It is still too early to visit the cathedral, but the café of the brand new’Centro Botín‘ invites you to have breakfast and a view over the bay. Magnificent. The museum opened in June 2017 and is the first building by the Italian architect Renzo Piano in Spain. However, I am not looking at the current exhibition. I’m not ready for art so early in the morning. Instead I take a quick look inside the cathedral and take the ferry to the other side. Today I travel 23.5 km in the best sunshine and hardly any headwind and reach the often recommended hostel Guemes already in the early afternoon. In my room assigned to me the two-metre-human Erwin from Eckernförde welcomes me, the little chubby Claire from Yorkshire and Francesco from Verona. Erwin is funny and loud. He likes to leave early and, if possible, quickly in order to arrive early. Of course, he has always booked his hostels in advance. Travelling by train or taking a day off are taboo for him. He is a pensioner and rides 50 km of bicycles at home every day. No, no… what a question… of course this is not his first Camino. He has walked it many times and has been to this hostel many times. Next year, his wife is retiring and will join him. „Then it’s over“ drone Erwin. Gradually more pilgrims arrive. I withdraw into the garden and contemplate the wonderful landscape. The coastal strip of northern Spain, which stretches from Galicia to the Basque Country, is not called „Costa Verde“ for nothing. Green tones are available in all shades and since it is not raining at the moment, but the sun is shining, the colours glow richly and vigorously. The laundry flutters in the wind, the cow bells ring, on the large meadow you can see tired pilgrims stretching their blisters into the breeze. Two Germans count their mileage and light a cigarette with relish. A boy jumps across the meadow – he is estimated to be eleven/twelve years old. His parents look like siblings. Well-read academics. He wears ponytail, she wears glasses. Native Israelis living in London. The boy is the centre of society, which makes his father particularly happy. His ambition is obvious. His son later becomes a great one… I wonder if the son likes the Way of St James and if he really feels comfortable among all the adult pilgrims. Dinner is not served until the pilgrims arrive in the meeting room and listen to the manager’s talk. Without charm and humour, he describes the philosophy of the company and its founder in a very chanted lecture. On prepared blackboards he points to faded pictures, quotes idioms, explains projects. All this in Spanish, which is translated by a young man who speaks little good English. I feel like in elementary school, and imagine what would happen if I just jumped up and screamed very loudly HUNGER! I guess all twenty-three pilgrims would cheer me. The manager who obviously has an attention deficit would probably kick me out. Finally he ends his speech and I pray to the universe that no one will respond to his invitation to ask questions. Then there’s finally something to eat. An excellent potato soup with meat, with red wine. The conversations today are less funny. I guess it’s because of a greater self-portrayal potential in the group. Nevertheless I am happy, because I get to know many different sides of the Way of St James and its pilgrims on my unintended pilgrimage backwards.
Day 17 Guemes– Portugalete/Bilbao (7. April)
The day begins like a dream. I’m rolling downhill through dripping woods. The leafy bark of the eucalyptus trees hang down frayed. Ivy rises up over trunks shaded by scales. Brown, rusty, gold and wet, the thicket shines on the right and left of the road. Small columns of smoke move straight into the mercury-coloured sky. A good sign – there is no wind. Birds squeak, sing, whimper. The sun is occasionally blurry, like behind a frosted glass pane. I’m happy. The path winds through a shallow, swampy wetland to another ferry. On the other side of the shore, I’m unloaded on the beach. I laboriously torment myself on solid ground. I clearly have too much luggage. Then I cross the village of Laredo. On an ugliness scale of 1-10, the city would score nine points. Imaginationless skyscrapers that have had their best years for a long time. Loose building, dull, washed-out facades, loose pavement slabs. The beach is lined with a sad promenade reminiscent of Sovietschick. Occasionally, strollers come towards me. Every second person holds a leash at the end of which a dog the size of a handbag shakes. My mood is clouding and adapting to the weather. At the end of the bay begins a climb that is unparalleled. I’m pushing, because driving is out of the question. The road continues, behind every bend, I hope for an end, but it goes upwards, upwards, upwards. I felt ten kilometres groaning up the path (probably less). I’m exhausted and decide today to drive only to Portugaltee. Bilbao is less than 20 kilometres further down the bay. When I arrive in front of the hostel, I see a sign „Completo“. Seriously? Again? I’m near a nervous breakdown. Now at the latest, my slowly growing antipathy towards the Spanish Atlantic coast turns into real hatred. Damn rain, damn wind, damn hills. The staff of the pilgrim accommodation suspects a battery emergency and picks up the phone. After a few minutes she waves me in and gives me a bed in a large dormitory. Hardly to surpass in uncomfortability, but at least a roof over the head. I simply ignore the biting scent of cleaning agent and the self-talking fat glob that seems to be stuck in an armchair in the middle of the lounge. Four beds remain empty tonight. Including my bed, which was supposedly occupied, that makes five! I ask the owner of the hostel how this can be. It confirms what I have heard more often now: The pilgrims of St James do not leave it to chance whether they still get a bed in a hostel in the evening. You call in the morning and make a reservation. Preferably in several hostels and in several places. You don’t know how far you’ll make it during the day. Many guests do not cancel their reservations and when the going gets tough, they even pay for them in advance. I don’t think that’s fair.
Days 18 + 19 Bilbao (8.+9. April)
I follow the Ría de Bilbao, the river that runs for several kilometres into the country as far as Bilbao. Wretched industrial plants, rust, scrap metal and decay line the banks of the abandoned factory buildings, shattered windows and smeared house walls. Tribulation as far as the eye can see. Bilbao was one of the most important locations for heavy industry in Spain in the 19th century. The port, far inland, offered protection and shipped the valuable minerals such as iron ore, coal, zinc, lead, manganese and potash salt, which were mined in the Cantabrian Mountains. The industrial decline in the 1970s gave the city a dirty, ugly image, which it slowly got rid of thanks to modern architecture and urban planning. However, I approach on the not very attractive route and I am very curious when this picture will change. For the next two nights I rent a bed in a cheap, but desolate accommodation. Of course I want to visit the Guggenheim Museum and the old town of Bilbao. It’s Sunday. Many visitors of the city flock with me to the museum. Tomorrow would be smarter, but it’s Monday and closed. I take my time to look at every corner of this deconstructivist work of art made of glass, titanium and limestone. The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is considered an architectural masterpiece of the 20th century and some even claim it is „the greatest building of our time! After three hours of looking at art and architecture my feet are flat and I am hungry. Surprisingly, the sun is shining outside. It’s fitting that I was at the museum. I stroll a little further towards the old town, eat lunch somewhere and return tired and exhausted to the cosiness of my hotel. Tomorrow’s another day. Unfortunately it rains again and again the next day. City tours are not much fun when the cold gets into the bones and the wetness crawls into the camera. I do my duty to long-term travellers, i.e. I go to the laundromat and then to the post office to send superfluous luggage home. When I hear the price of the package, however, it is too late to think about whether a new purchase of the things I want to ship would not have been even cheaper. Well then! In the afternoon I stumble trembling from one bar to the next in the old town, eat pintxos (small pieces of white bread covered with all kinds of delicacies), drink red wine, write a diary and try to keep my spirits up.
Day 20 Bilbao – San Sebastian (10. April)
I’ve had enough! I’ll take the train. The stage to the coast goes over many altitude meters. That’s not exactly a stick of paper, even in good conditions, but it’s like torture in continuous rain and headwinds. I’m not in the best mood right now anyway. I buy a ticket for six euros thirty and let myself be rocked through rainy, dreiste landscapes. Unfortunately I will not visit Guernica and also not the picturesque hostel with Catholic monks somewhere in the mountains. But in this weather, you can lose your appetite for everything. Two and a half hours later I reach San Sebastian. The pilgrim hostel at the end of the village is still closed. Not funny! A second hostel is on the other end of San Sebastian. That means turning around and driving back. As it is of course just starting to rain again, I am completely soaked again in only 5 km. I book a bed in a youth hostel room with the same charm. In the evening, only red wine and chocolate will help. In bars and bottle!
Days 21 + 22 San Sebastian (11.+12. April)
It’s pouring. I’m writing. It’s still pouring. For three days! The hostel is not so ugly at second glance. I have the four-bed room all to myself and dedicate myself entirely to my blog. From time to time I rush to the supermarket to get the necessities (wine and chocolate). Even the sun shines for half a day and I take a walk to the promenade. Here everything that can run is romping around and enjoys the few rays of the sun, because the rain is already back in the afternoon. In the evening I snuggle up in my bed, put my headphones over my ears and dedicate myself to real film classics… my current highlight: „Some like it hot“.
Day 23 San Sebastian – Biarritz (13. April)
After a week I finally get back on the bike and leave San Sebastian. The rain pauses for a moment to say goodbye. I climb a ridge on the other side of a small bay and reach an enchanting path high above the sea. Cows and horses graze comfortably on the slopes of steep pastures, the city noise fades away and gives way to the sounds of nature. The cliffs seem to be pushed upwards from the sea, they lie like sliding plates on green moss. I enjoy one last magnificent view of San Sebastian and then roll down to the picturesque town of Hondarriba. In a medieval tavern I eat my last Spanish Pinxtos before I leave Spain by ferry again. Hasta Luego España! Vive la France!