Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Zamora Hospitalara Training and our First Days - May 31st and June 1st

The Zamora Municipal Albergue is located in the former headquarters of the Youth Council beside the Iglesia(Church) San Cipriano and built into the wall enclosing the old part of the City. It was been fully renovated in 2009 and I understand with an investment of 307,000 euros. I have heard from more than one pilgrim that this Albergue is one of the best they have been at and I agree.

An Albergue is a special sort of hostel, which only accepts pilgrims. They open, typically at around 2 pm and all guests must leave by 8:00 in the morning. Pilgrims are expected to be travelling each day and so are only allowed to stay one night in each Albergue. The Albergues are very affordable, maybe 5 to 8 EUR per day and some are "donativos" where yo pay what you can. Thismakes it possible for those with limited means to do the 5 or more week journey to Santiago. The Albergue at Zamora is a donativo, and because of that it has access to the volunteer Hospitalaros coordinated through the FEDERACION ESPAÑOLA DE ASOCIACIONES DE AMIGOS DEL CAMINO DE SANTIAGO, which assigned Joceyne and I here.

We are very lucky to be at this Albergue. Aside from being located in a very beautiful and historic city, it is, in my opinion, the best Albergue on the Camino, The Albergue entrance is quite misleading and makes it look very small as the front door is on the top floor with the 2 floors below hidden within the hill. Since it is built into the on a hill all the rooms have windows or a balcony and a great view. There are 3 bedrooms on the top floor and one of these (with a private bath) is assigned to the Hospitaleros. There are also 3 dorm rooms on the 2nd floor plus a men's and ladies bathroom. Many Albergues have only a shared bathroom for both men and woman, locker room style.

The Hospitaleros dorm room, with 2 Bunk beds, has a Juliette balcony with a wonderful view looking out to the Rio Duero. I feel very lucky having seen some of the accommodations given to Hospitaleros at other Albergues. A private bath and a balcony is a luxury I was not expecting.

Let me give you a bit of a tour of our Albergue,

Office for Registering Perigrinos
The stairs down are lit with a skylight.



Both Jocelyn and I arrived on the 30th of May, so we had a day and a half of "turnover time" with the Hospitaleras, Gisela (German) and Lola (Spanish) who were there before us. Fortunately Gisela spoke English, and so we were able to easily understand what was expected of us. We were so glad for the help and encouragement these two ladies gave us and we now have two new people in Europe to visit, Lola who lives very near the Camino Norte and Gisela, who lives in Germany, both very nice and interesting people we will keep up with via email.

Lola and Gisela - Outgoing Hospitaleras
View of Storks from our room.
Jocelyn and myself - Incoming. Hospitaleras

The routine is pretty straight forward but the amount of work really varies day to day, depending upon the number of guests we have at the Albergue that night. So far we have had 13 on June 1st, 30 (a full house) on June 2nd and today we have 20.

The job itself involves 1) registering pilgrims upon arrival and explaining house rules; 2) preparing and serving breakfast for up to 30 Pilgrims, 3) cleaning the Albergue from top to bottom 4) Shopping for breakfast items and other stuff needed to run the Albergue, 5) managing the money and banking the surplus, (which is used to pay the bills).

Setting table for Breakfast

Before bed we must set the breakfast table and prepare as much of the breakfast ahead of time as we can. We serve the pilgrims coffee con leche (coffee and hot milk) and juice. There is bread, margarine and jam and cookies on the table for the pilgrims to help themselves. This is a standard Spanish breakfast.

We get our breakfast once the pilgrims have eaten and then at 7:30 start to clean the house. Sheets are not washed every day, but we "sweep" them free of any dirt or crumbs and wash those which are stained and of course look for any signs of bedbugs. All bathrooms (4) are cleaned and floors swept and washed. The kitchen is cleaned and disinfected daily and floors washed. Once every 2 weeks the rooms (mattresses, pillows, furniture and floors) are "deep cleaned" with the vaporette, which is sort of like a power washer but with steam rather than water. It is very effective at keeping bedbugs at bay.

Cleaning is generally finished by 10:30 and we count the donations and do the bookkeeping. After that we shower and then go to the bank and the supermarket for anything we need. By then it is 12:30 and we have lunch. I am so very lucky that Jocelyne likes to cook and she has been cooking both lunch and dinner for us daily. I am sure to gain back any weight I may have lost while walking in May. I am happy to be in charge of doing our lunch and dinner dishes.

The Albergue opens at 2 pm and we register the pilgrims as they arrive and assign them a bed and help them with any information they need. Joceyne is from Montreal and is great with the French Speaking pilgrims, there are many Spanish pilgrims who do not speak English or French and we are working hard to improve our Spanish but it is a struggle, less so For Jocelyne, who has better Spanish than I do. It is pretty interesting when we have pilgrims who speak neither English, French or Spanish but we have been getting by. Pilgrims on bicycles usually arrive after 4:30. Depending on how many pilgrims arrive it can keep us pretty busy until 5 or 6 or even later. We try to have our dinner before the kitchen gets to busy with pilgrims cooking anytime from 8 until 10:00 even sometimes. The Spanish like to eat late. After the pilgrims finish making their dinner the cycle starts over again as we prepare for breakfast.

Cutting bread for breakfast
Getting coffee ready
We have a 12 cup coffee maker to serve up to 30 people in and out in a 30 minute window, so we make all the coffee the night before and heat it up on the stove in the morning. There is also milk to heat as the Spanish like 50/50 hot coffee and hot milk. We also cut and ready all the bread the night before. It is so hot in the daytime the pilgrims are anxious to get on the road. It wouldn't do to keep them waiting.They do not linger over coffee.
Happy pilgrims eating breakfast
Happy pilgrims eating breakfast
After they eat each pilgrim is expected to wash their own dishes. The Spanish men do not have a good track record for this.
Happy Hospitareras having dinner
View from the Dorm Room balcony

As you can imagine there is not a lot of spare time, but I will continue to blog when I can as interesting stuff happens every day. Stay tuned.


  1. Fantastic ... Quite the adventure to be "embedded" on the Camino as a hospitalera!

  2. Interesting blog peg..very different lifestyle. .still doesn't look as stressful as here...have fun xo

  3. Sounds fantastic. Thanks for the step by step description of the job. The photos are great too. Looks like a great opportunity. Enjoy! You are doing a wonderful job for the pilgrims.

  4. Thanks all for the comments. Yes, it is really a great opportunity to be here experiencing the pilgrims "flowing through". We are starting to feel more at ease with what we are doing and it is coining easier. Will blog again in a day or two and tell some pilgrim stories as well as provide more info on this wonderful City.

  5. Peggy, thanks for the info... Have a few questions in a few days. Hugs Ingrid

  6. Ingrid, I can imagine you are thinking about your time here in July and how you will organize your day. The days really vary depending on the number of Pilgrims with some free time available if there are fewer. According to the statistics in our "Hospitaleros Book" the average number of pilgrims received in June is nearly 15 per day and in July 11 per day. The day we had a "full house" we were both busy all day without time except to eat. Given the heat, you probably won't have any days like this in July. In any case, I welcome any questions.

  7. Thanks for your blog, Peggy. It is informative for me, as I start 'training' tomorrow at San MIguel Parrochial Albergue here in Estella. Tonight I will be a guest and the day after, a host. It was fun to see the photos of you and Jocelyne 'on the job.' Estella is an interesting, historic city and I am looking forward to living here for two weeks! It is a very special experience to be a hospitalera. Looking forward to more albergue stories and information. Mary Lynn