Camino de Santiago (Inglés) Day 3 End: the Albergue of Hospital de Bruma, and the Single Restaurant
In contrast to the real towns of the past two days, Hospital de Bruma featured the public albergue, a single restaurant, a church up the road, and little else. Life here was quieter, and went at a slower pace.
Having so few facilities, it also meant that getting one of the beds in the 22-bed albergue was even more urgent. Because the alternative for overflow pilgrims meant calling a private lodge, making a reservation, and having them pick you up by car to take you to the lodge (and then drive you back to the camino the next day).
I arrived and was a bit shocked to already see so many people waiting for the albergue to open! I saw a group of people call one of those private lodges, and a van came and picked them up while we were waiting. That thinned out the herd a bit, and I decided I would just stick around and wait to see if I made the cutoff.
Eventually, a very distinguished-looking silver-haired gentleman with a purposeful gait emerged and strode to the office.
We all stood up and formed more or less a line. Counting off, I found out I was number 21, the second-to-last person in line! I had a bed!
Unlike the albergue in Betanzos, this one did not have assigned bunks. I found two empty ones at the far end of the room. I knew that the person after me, the last to get a bed, was an elderly gentleman, so I figured that he would want the bottom bunk.
The albergue is a very quaint, rustic structure. It appears to contain a main room with a dining table and kitchen facilities, and double-height ceiling. Next to it is the bedroom, which seems to be more of a modern addition.
Shortly after checking in, I went to the restaurant basically across the road with a group of pilgrims. It was very interesting meeting new people - in this group there was a computer programmer, a local policeman, and a warehouse logistics guy all from Spain, and a Belgian woman who taught at a day center.
Together, we ordered the menú del día. This started out with a caldo gallego, the potato and turnip top soup.
This was super hearty, and tasted more meaty than the version I had in Pontedeume. Later in the evening, the bar woman (owner?) explained that they start very early in the morning to cook the soup in time for lunch.
Next, I had a chicken, which was beautifully prepared. It was well-seasoned, with a delightfully crisp skin. I hadn’t come across chicken skin like this in a long time! This came with a generous serving of potatoes, also crispy.
Dessert was included, and I chose the flan.
AND coffee was included (in addition to the Coke Zero I ordered at the beginning). All in all, a very satisfying meal at the only restaurant in town.
The rest of the afternoon was basically spent lazing around. The hostel-keeper, the distinguished-looking gentleman, basically held court, shooting the wind with the pilgrims lounging around. He was super opinionated, and very kind, keeping things like flattened cardboard boxes and leftover sleeping mats around for us to use to sit on on the lawn.
According to him, October is the best time to do a camino. That’s because there are fewer people, yet the weather is still good with little chance of rain. Here he is showing off the guest register, which he maintains by hand, to some fellow pilgrims.
So I just lay down on one of those sleeping mats on the front lawn of the albergue, writing in my journal, watching my clothes dry on a clothesline overhead, and observing things like this shepherdess go by with her sheep. One of the few signs of life besides us!
At just about 6pm exactly, the “supermarket” truck rolled up. Since there was nowhere to buy food besides the restaurant, this truck apparently comes every day to the albergue.
You step up, and there’s a guy selling chorizo, fresh fruit, some bread, banged up cartons of juice and milk and bashed cans of other food a jumbled about in baskets. I bought some fruit from the mobile market.
I figured that the restaurant would be the best place to get dinner, since they did such a bang-up job with lunch.
For dinner, the bar woman basically took orders for sandwiches, and told us to come back at a certain time to either pick them up or eat. These were excellent sandwiches, with fresh bread - coming from a huge donut-shaped loaf, hence the slight curve you can see below -, and meats sliced to order. I ordered one sandwich with chorizo, and one with tortilla. They looked so good, I had a half of each one on the spot, and saved the other halves for breakfast and a snack on the road.
While waiting for the sandwiches, I struck up a conversation with the bar woman, who had been talking with another pilgrim, from Italy. Turns out she was fluent in Italian and German, because a couple decades ago during the last wave of Spanish emigration to wealthier European nations in search of work, she lived in Switzerland where she learned German. And her co-worker was Italian, so that is how she came to speak Italian too. Fascinating!
Stuffed from my simple and delicious dinner, I hung out in the great room of the albergue for a while, charging my phone. There, I witnessed the hostel-keepers doing a very nice thing. They were laying out those flat pieces of cardboard and sleeping pads for some late-comers, who weren’t able to get beds, but were willing to use sleeping bags they had carried to sleep on the floor. So the hostel-keepers were making things as comfortable as possible!
The gentleman also had a fun sense of humor. Like other public hostels, the opening time is 1pm, and the closing time is 10pm. That means they actually lock the door, so you have to be back inside of the hostel beforehand.
Sure enough, at 10pm, he closed the front gate. I mentioned to him that some people were still in the restaurant across the street. He said, well they’ll just have to stay outside! Spanish people are always late, this’ll be their lesson to not be late! Then he said, just kidding, there’s a door in the back where they can come in. I’ll leave that one unlocked, but it’s kind of hard to open. Some Portuguese pilgrims were around, and they said, yes, it’s very hard to open. Go check for yourself to see if you can open it.
I went around a very dark corner - thinking that I would end up in a dead-end trap. But instead, I came out onto the grass on the other side of the building, by the creek that ran by it. i was outside of the hostel! We weren’t locked in at all!
It could have been a very boring afternoon in Hospital de Bruma, but the sheer relaxation, and the personal connections I made, however brief, made for a day that I fondly remember from my camino.