I ended up spending three nights in Sárria, instead of the two I had intended to spend, due to the money problem I had encountered. I wanted to be sure I had plenty of time to resolve the issue before the weekend arrived. There was a lot of patiently, and not so patiently, waiting as I figured out how to get cash, so I spent some time on the internet, researching the things to do and see while I was here, once I had cash in hand.
Everything I read about the city was extremely negative. Most said it was an ugly city, suitable only as a starting point for the last stage of the Camino, where those who were completing just the minimum 100 km required to receive a Compostella would begin. One blog said Sárria had no redeeming qualities, no hidden gems and it didn't even have a historic center like most of the other larger cities in Spain. After reading that, I explored the option of rearranging the reservations I had in Santiago, so I could leave Sárria and arrive in Santiago earlier. I'm so glad I decided instead to stay on schedule, and honor my desire to experience the cities and the architecture of Spain, instead of just walking the Camino every day. All I have to say to the people who wrote those things is, you weren't looking very hard. There is a wonderful historic center in this town and a not-so-hidden gem, the beautiful and elegant, yet simple, Monastery of Mary Magdalene.
Another complaint I've read and heard over and over about this town was all of the new people who would be joining the Camino from here. For several days before arriving, I listened to people talk about how they dreaded the additional crowds, making the "race for the beds" even more competitive. One group even went so far as to suggest that beds should be offered first to those who had walked further than from León. Any remaining beds could then be offered to those who were newer to the trail.
To me that sounds a lot like taking ownership of the Camino. As if, by walking further than someone else, you are somehow entitled to more rights. Kind of like a form of sweat equity. But the Camino belongs to all of us. Whether we walk 790 km from Roncesvalles or more from other starting points, whether we walk only the last 100 km, or something in between, it shouldn't matter. The energy of the path and the lessons learned while walking it and the opportunity to find something inside of ourselves should not be limited to those who believe they are somehow more entitled to receive them.
Over the past few days, I witnessed the excitement and the uncertainty in the faces of those who had yet to begin The Way. It reminded me of how I felt that first day in St. Jean, when they practically had to kick me out of the albergue to make me take my first steps. What an overwhelming feeling that was. I had spent that first night with a couple who had walked the Le Puy route which is over 700 km through France, ending in St. Jean. They were continuing on to Santiago on the Camino Francés. Over 1500 km they would walk, but they never once made me feel I was less worthy to begin my journey simply because I was joining the path they'd already been walking. They encouraged me. They gave me hints and made me feel more at ease. That is the true spirit of the Camino. It's not a competition.
Somehow, taking a few days off in Sárria to enjoy the city and feel its energy and to watch the new people take their first steps has offered me a new beginning. It's as if I am once again taking my first steps. I am excited. I am nervous. But this time, I am ready.