June 1, 2019
Slanting rays of light rewarded our early start this morning, walking from San Juan de Ortega to the town of Villafría de Burgos. We had hopes of beating the heat that inevitably followed the sun.
Along the way we met a fair number of pilgrims with the same strategy. One young pilgrim’s t-shirt made me smile as I read, “Walls are meant for climbing.”
Near the town of Atapuerca, we passed a field with several standing stones bearing plaques explaining that these stones had been erected in the late 1990s and early 2000s using “methodicas antiguas” in order to honor the discovery of the remains of the most ancient humans found in Europe.
Three days ago we had the privilege of walking for a short ways with some members of the singing group Voces del Camino. Tonight they were scheduled to sing in the Burgos Cathedral, just a 30 minute bus ride from our day’s destination, the small town of Villafría.
We arrived at our hotel with time to take a cooling shower and a short nap. Then, with advice from the hotel’s concierge, we easily caught the local bus (2.40 euros) to the city center of Burgos.
From the bus stop we navigated our way using the spires of the Cathedral, the map on our Guthook app, and the ubiquitous yellow arrows of the Camino.
The Burgos Cathedral is an incredibly huge edifice, with only two doors open to the public. One door bore signs about buying tickets. I presumed this would be the place to ask for information concerning the Voces del Camino concert. But this door was closed and locked!
Entering the other door, an uncommunicative wrought iron fence sprawled across a huge entryway. Doors on either side were plastered with stern signs saying, “No tourists! Enter only for worship and confession!” Many confused looking tourists wandered aimlessly between firmly closed doors and mutely barred gates.
We consulted our Voces del Camino flyer. We read every sign we could see. We stood in indecision. A strange animated clock, whose face wore a grin like a court jester, struck the hour. Seven o’clock. We had 30 minutes to figure this out.
We saw a man in a suit with Voces del Camino flyers in his hand. ‘Oh, hurray!’ I thought. ‘A person of authority!’
We asked, showing our own flyer to help bridge the language barrier. The man nodded, pointed to his flyer, pointed to the closed gates, then hurried away. What should we do?
“The flyer says they’ll sing after Mass. So let’s go to Mass. It’s better than standing here aimlessly. The sign says Mass is in that chapel.” I pointed to the door on the left.
We slipped inside, sitting shyly in the back. More people followed. Three priests entered, and Mass began. I couldn’t understand a single word, but amazingly, in one of the songs sung by the cantor I recognized the tune of “Blowing in the Wind!”
At the end of the service, we left with everyone else, and followed half the congregation across the huge entryway, through a suddenly opened gate in the wrought iron fence, down a hall, and into another chapel.
As we found a seat, members of the Voces del Camino group paced up the aisle. Hurray! We had found the concert!
Approximately 40 choir members made incredible acapella music. Melodies chased one another, harmonies intertwined. Sound and beauty lofted through the air. As I listened, I felt myself lifted up, following notes and emotions far above, to the cathedral ceiling and beyond.
Regretfully, I returned to every day life as the concert came to a close at 9:30 p.m. Jay and I walked to the bus stop, through throngs of people out for Saturday night. The schedule informed us that the next bus arrived at 10:45 p.m. Oh! I was exhausted!
We stood at the bus stop, our souls full of joy from the glorious music, but my body ready to collapse. Just then, a taxi pulled up! I asked the driver how much it would cost to get us to our hotel.
“Between 10 and 20 euros,” he told us.
I looked appealingly towards Jay. “A bird in the hand…” he muttered. “Let’s do it!”
Midnight found us safely back at our hotel for the price of 14 euros. We’d had a wonderful adventure. Soaring voices lingered in my soul as my head gratefully hit the pillow.