Finally Burgos, the great Gothic city of the Camino de Santiago is on the horizon. Today can be a hard day since it is not easy to enter a big city on foot. Nevertheless, the countryside outside San Juan de Ortega is still beautiful and rural. I remember a beautiful misty sunrise when leaving in the morning. The Way of St. James will continue the same still for around 15 km and then little by little will start changing from rural to suburb villages then to industrial states and finally into one of the most monumental and historic cities in Spain.
This change from rural to urban can be painful since pilgrims will have about 10 km of paved roads to follow, crossing ugly states, and it can be very disheartening, especially in roasting summer days when the black road surface is hot enough to fry eggs on it and will painfully burn one’s feet blisters.
There is the possibility of taking one of the lines of the Burgos city bus that reaches the suburbs and skip about 5 km of unpleasant suburbs walk. Now, many pilgrims want to walk every single step in the Camino de Santiago and some others are more flexible in that. Either way is fine and respectable.
Once in Burgos there is plenty to do, it is such a monumental and historic city that I don’t know where to start. Burgos is a big town of around 180,000 inhabitants (the second biggest along Camino de Santiago) and, apart from its charming city centre streets and impressive architecture, it is also remarkable that it is one of the coldest cities of Spain because it is 900 m (nearly 3000 feet) over sea level, so even if it is summer take a jumper with you at night!
I don’t intent to cover here Burgos’s history or art and neither to be a city tour guide. But I would just like to mention that it’s well worth a visit to the impressive Gothic cathedral which is just in front of the new public pilgrims’ hostel. Burgos’ cathedral was built between 1221 and 1260 and it’s one of the finest Gothic temples in the world, its main façade and towers are just breathtaking. Burgos’ cathedral was declared Word Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. There is a long list of monasteries, palaces, and churches to be visited but probably the Burgos cuisine will be more interesting to the tired pilgrims. I recommend meet dishes, especially lamb, and Burgos cheese and above all “morcilla de Burgos”.
If getting into Burgos was painful and ugly, the exit of the city following the Camino de Santiago is a different business. Leaving Burgos is quicker without having to cross a number of industrial and housing states and it is also a nice walk by the river. All of a sudden pilgrims find themselves again out there free in the middle of infinite grain fields and poor tiny villages in the heart of Castile.