July 2020: Our albergue is allowed to reopen.
I hoped and expected that the closure of our albergue due to the Coronavirus would take a week or two, perhaps a little longer, but more than three months definitely did not come to my mind when we waved off the last pilgrims on 18 March. A few weeks of closure worked out well for us, financially not of course, but in terms of overdue work. The day after the last pilgrims had left our inn, the paint canisters and brushes immediately came out of the garage, and the refurbishment of window frames, shutters, balconies and garden walls could begin. Activities that you just can't do nor finish when the albergue is open almost all year round, even in low season. We were also finally able to continue realizing our second dream (the albergue was the first), namely finalizing our art shop in the same building, with engravings from Gabriel and ceramics, glassware and jewelry from other artists.
After two weeks of quarantine, I seemed to have been far too optimistic again. Not only in terms of the duration of the quarantine, but also in terms of the amount of work, because less than a quarter of the work that needs to be done, is finished. Fortunately, there is a lot of work to be done outside and so we are not short of fresh air. Unlike all those families who live in a small apartment even in a small village like Frómista, without a balcony or patio, and who are forced to sit inside for weeks, months. That can't be healthy. But the panic in Spain is huge and the majority of the population adheres neatly to the rules. Only a few go out at 5 o'clock in the morning, so that they can stretch their legs in the open air without being noticed by the Guardia Civil (local police). Fortunately, we have two dogs, so we can take turns taking a little walk and the table tennis table on the patio is also used more intensively than ever. And it is nice to learn to appreciate as a family what normally only the pilgrims have time for to enjoy: the patio with its colorful potted plants, the table tennis table, the storks flying over and look beautiful against the bright blue sky, the swallows flying low, the singing of a robin and the silence, because it is so quiet without traffic and people on the street.
After two months incarceration, we are finally allowed back on the streets, out of the village. Getting materials in Palencia, but also..... change the surroundings, going into the mountains and enjoy the beautiful nature. What we normally don't get to because of all the pilgrim crowds in the months of May and June, we do now; take hours of walks along the Canal de Castilla, enjoy the floral splendor, wild orchids and fields full of poppies. Sometimes you have to make a virtue out of necessity.
And then, just as suddenly as the borders closed, the borders reopen and the albergues are allowed to open their doors again. We look forward to it. On 3 July we are the first albergue in Frómista to receive pilgrims again. Proud of the result of three months of hard work and ready for a high season without top crowds. Our expectations for this first day are low, because of course it will be a while before the pilgrims who left in St. Jean Pied de Port arrive in Frómista. And we don't expect more than 6 pilgrims a day in the coming period anyway. But to my surprise, the result on the first day is 11 pilgrims, and that seems full-house in our albergue where it has been so quiet in recent months. And immediately special stories popped up; from Michèle from Wales who stayed the entire quarantine in Logroño, where she was completely absorbed into the community of the parish from which she was allowed to use the inn. And the arrival of a blind pilgrim accompanied by a seer, who run a kind of relay Camino with an organization in Palencia. Every day, a backpack full of buttons, stickers, etc., and with the only content being a thick notebook, is walked by two pilgrims to the next destination, with the aim of remembering all the victims of coronovirus and collecting beautiful messages from those who want to write a text in the notebook. It is nice to see that the Camino also connects people here and now, in the time of the Coronavirus, and ensures beautiful
(re-) meetings. Or is it a coincidence that this blind pilgrim is recognized by another pilgrim, because they met once in Santiago de Compostela about 3 years ago?
We are now four weeks ahead. Many albergues are now open. Especially auberges run by monastic orders or volunteers are still or remain closed. Busy days, we are allowed to occupy up to 50 percent of the beds, are interspersed with very quiet days. And the latter has to do not only with the Coronavirus, but also with the fear of the heat on the meseta that causes many pilgrims to skip the Burgos - Leon route. Too bad, because the meseta also has its charm in the summer months, just like being a hospitalero in our albergue during this "high season without ´top crowds´".
Albergue Luz de Frómista