This is an interesting stage of Camino de Santiago for the several decisions that need to be made. You’ll see why I say this…
Shortly after the village of Ledigos comes Terradillos de los Templarios another small village with hostel for pilgrims and around 10km later the bigger village of Sahagun. Sahagun has all kind of services that the pilgrim might need: restaurants, bars, banks, post office, pharmacy, GPs, shops, bus station, etc. Note that in Sahagun there is also a train station which connects the village by train with Leon on one sense and Madrid to the other. Sahagun is a very popular end of stage point in Camino de Santiago so you might choose to sleep in Sahagun’s pilgrim hostel or any other private hostels or hotels that there are in the village. Or you might prefer to continue walking a couple of hours more to Bercianos del Real Camino which I strongly recommend.
Actually, in spite of presenting here Bercianos as the day ending point I’ve never stayed the night in Bercianos as a pilgrim, but I know it well from my other part of the Camino experience being a “hospitalero” (volunteer staff for pilgrim’s hostels). Still I’ve also never been hospitalero in Bercianos, but in the next village El Burgo Ranero. To make this even more confuse I’ll add up that right after Sahagun the Camino de Santiago splits into two branches, so the aforementioned Bercianos and Burgo Ranero are in the southern branch. Hopefully I’ll be able to clarify more this mess in the following lines.
To begin with let me introduce a bit of my personal pilgrim experience. What we actually did was stopping in Sahagun for a big lunch in the siesta time, and after that we headed to the village’s public swimming pool to spend there the rest of the siesta and evening. After the sunset we continued walking. This was going to be our night trek. We were really bad organized and we didn’t until where we wanted to arrive and barely had heard about the splitting in two of Camino de Santiago. The plan was that there was no plan. So there we were, nearly lost even before leaving Sahagun…
Soon after Sahagun there is the fork that divides the Camino de Santiago, we took the Bercianos route that by chance turned up to be the true one. In Bercianos we stopped for a break and a snack at around midnight, we sat down in the middle of the street and ate and drank. After that, the group kind of divided in two too, some stayed sleeping in the sleeping bags in the streets or some corner of the village’s square and some of us, including me, continued walking. This sleeping on the village’s streets might seem risky and dangerous or even crazy and sociable unacceptable but, believe me, it’s not, not in el Camino.
We left the Bercianos around 2am and I remember many shepherd dogs loudly barking at us as we were leaving the last houses of the village. It’s in those moments when a good strong walking stick gives you an extra bit of confidence. Finally, after a little more than an hour walking we also got to tired and ended up sleeping on the prairie valley of a small water stream, without a clue of where we really were, how close (or far) to the next village, really in the middle of nowhere, the only certainty being that the Milky Way continued shining above us.
With regard to the other branch that goes a bit more north through the village of Calzadilla de los Hermanillos, its big selling point is that it follows an ancient Roman route but very little of it remains and to the pilgrims it looks a normal dirt road like any other. Very few pilgrims take this deviation but still there is a hostel for pilgrims in Calzadilla de los Hermanillos and even some private hostel and rural houses for guests too. A while after Calzadilla de los Hermanillos you can still join the main route following a local road to Burgo Ranero but if not you will continue along this ancient and disappeared Roman road until Reliegos for the rest of the day. It’s in Reliegos where both branches merge again. Be aware that between Calzadilla and Reliegos there is a stretch of around 20km without any civilization at all, nor shade nor tree. No matter of the Camino de Santiago branch chosen, a good Camino map would help considerably for these stages.
So for the ones that will choose the normal thing, without doing crazy night treks or deviating along routes that are not Camino and in fact make it longer, I’ll just talk about Bercianos a bit because it has one of the most especial pilgrims hostels of the whole Camino de Santiago. Berciano’s albergue is the old priest house, a majestic medieval house which was quite ruined and has been renovated with taste and preserving the taste to old and monastic like austerity. Its donation, renovations and provisions were all made thanks to the local community and the priest himself and it’s run by the Volunteers Hopitaleros group with a very similar philosophy to that of Grañon, back in La Rioja. Apart from the beauty of the building it’s remarkable the community feeling that it’s created every night. The main part of the evening is the communal dinner where all the pilgrims help the hospitalero to cook a dinner. The ingredients for the dinner are bought with the donations of the pilgrims of the previous day. And the following day’s dinner will be bought with the current day’s donation, so the pilgrims are responsible for how well will dine their fellow pilgrims of the following day. This also provides a feeling of continuity, a link to others.
After the dinner there is a tradition of singing a song of every pilgrim’s country which is really fun. Following there is an optional spiritual moment in the small chapel of the house that might have a Catholic meaning or just be a general meditation depending on the current hospitalero’s choice, but that I would also advise even if you are not a religious person because it also creates a very special bond and a sense of community.