05 July 2008

Burgos to Tardajos

Day 9
4:20 pm - 6:20 pm
9.8 km

The night before, I put my worries aside so I could celebrate Independence Day properly. This meant handing out cheap ice creams to everyone at the albergue (I still had a credit card!) and getting drunk on cheap wine with a bunch of Hungarian women, a Swiss woman who actually started her pilgrimage in Switzerland, and a Spanish guy who's been doing 50+ km a day. In the morning, I started making the rounds in Burgos. I had to find a place to change my cash or traveler's checks. Burgos is, historically, an important city. It was once the center of Spanish transhumance (I like you all well enough not to explain what that is--it involves sheep), and it has an important and beautfiful cathedral that contains the tomb of El Cid the Moor-chaser. I didn't have time to enjoy any of this history, however, because I was broke and starting to feel depressed. I went to every bank, every ATM, and every 4-star hotel in the city. The banks were all closed (for a fiesta, for the weekend, for the summer, whatever); the ATMs all turned me down; none of the hotels could change money (first time ever!). But Burgos is a tourist city, so I expected there must be a few Bureau de Cambio. Nope! I visited a tourist information office, and despite the nice man's extensive efforts to help me, there was nothing he could do. Finally, I went back to the albergue to get my backpack, hoping I could stay at the other albergue (the one with 18 beds that's always full). On the way, I decided to give the shops near the cathedral one last shot. I picked a camera store, which I thought was my best bet, and the lady there, my savior, not only changed 200VCU for me--worth an astonishing €127--she gave me a decent rate with no commission. ¡Que bueno! I rushed over to the Internet cafe and Skyped my bank. The problem, the nice lady explained, was that all transactions from Spain and several other countries (including, curiously, Canada) are being blocked by my bank due to problems with fraud. She told me she would have my card unblocked by Monday. I asked about Portugal. "Isn't Portugal part of Spain?" she replied, as though *I* were an idiot. I decided not to ask about Andorra. With the day waning, I figured I still had enough time and spirit left in me to cover at least the roughly 10 km to the next albergue, which, to my delight, turned out to be free (well, donation requested, but close enough). Things were starting to go my way again... as they always seem to do, my friends.

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