Interview to the Person in Charge of the Pilgrim´s Hostel in Lugo

english  |  galego


Pilgrim's hostel in Lugo


In March 2011, three students (Mónica Neira, Verónica Moldes and Noelia Sangiao) of the last course of Secondary Education for Adults interviewed the person in charge of the pilgrim’s hostel in our city, José Antonio Otero.

The questions were made in order to know the average profile of the pilgrims that visited Lugo and the services offered in the hostel.

1. During a year, what's the season with more pilgrims?

In summertime, between end of April and October. Also in Holy Years, although in these years it's more about tourism than pilgrimage.

2. Where do they come from?

50% of the pilgrims are from Spain (specially from Catalonia, Valencia and Madrid) and the other 50% are from abroad, specially from France and Germany.

3. What kind of pilgrims is the most frequent?

Men are 65% or 70% of the people that visit us. They are usually between 35 and 50 years old. In 2010 from a total of 5664 pilgrims, 3739 were men and 1925, women. Most of them (97%) made the way walking and the rest riding.
The amount of pilgrims that visited the city is higher than this, around 12.000 people during 2010. When we don’t have free places we send them to sport centers or hotels.

4. How do people usually make the Way: with their family, with friends, on their own?

People don’t usually make the Way with their family. When they do it they don’t use hostels. Bigger groups formed by 20 or 30 persons usually use another kind of places to have a rest, like sport centers.

5. Do pilgrims tell you the motivations that led them to make the Way?

Sometimes they do tell me about that, but it depends on the person if they are more or less friendly. The main motivations are to know Galicia and our gastronomy. Religious reasons are less frequent. For some people, the Way seems like a kind of alternative cheap holidays.
I’ve seen people of what I could never imagine they would make the Way. Many times they come because they have made a vow because of an illness. I can remember a man from Asturias that arrived with his feet ruined. He was a miner that came directly from the mine because he had promised his mother that if she came out the operating theatre alive he would make the Way and that is what he did at the same moment he knew the good news.

6. We have some important monuments in Lugo. Do pilgrims have information about the city before arriving or do they ask for it in the hostel?

Most of the pilgrims are amazed when they visit Lugo because really we don’t really give publicity of our city. We make them a gift with 1700 years of history: a walk by the Roman wall. We explain them the most important places: the Roman wall, the cathedral (the only one where it is permanently exposed the Blessed Sacrament since 15th century) and the two Interpretation Offices (the one of the Roman Wall and the other of Saint James' Way). Of course we suggest them they should go to the city centre to enjoy wines and “tapas”.

7. We suppose there should be some pilgrims you haven’t forgotten. Can you tell us any anecdote about it?

I’m in touch with some of them. I can remember one man who came from Prague with two broken ribs and I helped him. Five days after leaving the hostel I watched him on TV and he talked about me. One year later he came back and offered me the “paella” he had promised me.
Sometimes we are as a kind of psychologists, specially in winter. I can remember a young man from Euskadi (Basque Country) who told me his problems and at the end we became close friends.
There is another pilgrim with psychological problems that visits us every year. I always remember him to take his treatment.

8. How many Ways does they cross Lugo?

Nowadays the only way that comes into Lugo is the Primitive Way. Almost surely, there was a connection of the North Way in the past. On the other hand, the French Way had a detour that came into Lugo across San Roque Street and San Pedro gate or Toledan gate, called in this way because it was the last one to be closed in the city.

9. There are some towns where the hostel is difficult to find. In the case of Lugo, is it easy to find it?

The pilgrims don’t have any problem to find the hostel. They come into the city across Castelo, A Chanca, Carril das Flores and San Pedro gate.

10. What kind of services are offered in the hostel?

We offer a bed, a hot shower and disposable sheets. Some time ago, we used to offer objects to cook and blankets but we had to give them up.

11. Which one are the coexistence rules in the hostel? How do you make them know? Are they well accepted by the pilgrims?

One of the bedrooms in the
Pilgrim's hostel in Lugo


The rules are easy to know and to summarize: respect should prevail over everything; for example, cleaning the kitchen when they use it and so on.
The rules are placed on the door of the hostel; the worst accepted is the one related to timetables because they dislike the closing time at night. Pilgrims use to arrive between 13.00 and 14.30.
They usually leave the hostel before 8.00 a.m. and even earlier, between 5.00 and 6.00 to take advantage of the low temperature to walk and to find place in the next hostel. The next hostel is to 20 or 35 km, it depends if they go to S. Román da Retorta or to Hospital.
We have 42 places, twenty in each floor and two reserved to handicapped.
They can occupy the hostel according to the following order: first, the pilgrims that make the Primitive way by foot; second, those who make it riding. Those ones that are not in any of these two groups must wait for place until 20.00 hours in order to know if there is a free place. Sometimes handicapped places are free. In these cases we let the two older pilgrims occupy them.

12. What are the more frequent problems?

The most frequent is the one I have just commented about the timetables. We used to cure them of wounds but we don’t do that anymore and we suggest them that they should go to the health centre.
Thefts are not frequent; only once one pilgrim robbed all the others. Incivility is not frequent at all.
Talking about communication problems, the more problematic people are French people because they never change their language; on the other hand, it’s very easy the communication with German and British people because they try to make you understand them.

13. We suppose the relation with the pilgrims will depend on the time they are in the hostel. How long do they usually stay? Is there any rule that set up the time they can stay?

In the hostels they can only stay one night; and another one in case of illness or injury. In this case they must rest. We have to take these measures in order to have place for everybody.

14. When we do the check-in in a hotel we have to fill in some documents. Must the pilgrims do the same? Must you inform to city Council, Police …about the people that is in the hostel ?

The documents they have to show us are the Passport or the Identity Card and the “Credencial de Peregrino”.
We send the information about the pilgrims to the police. Our hostel was the first one to do this.
Some years ago, a police inspector came looking for information about a young man (more or less twenty years old) from Sicily, Italy. There was a searching order of Europol because his family hadn’t had news from him for a month. At the end we found him in S. Roman hostel.



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