Everywhere we have gone, we continue to see connections back to King Alfonso the Eighth and his wife, Queen Eleanor. First we arrived at the town of Puente la Reina, named after Puente la Reina Bridge, which Queen Eleanor instructed King Alfonso to build. This bridge has become an iconic scene connected with the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage since its construction in 1181. While walking across the bridge, one finds a beautiful view of the Arga River and can see the transition from old to new and dark to light. An entire city sprouted around the bridge, solely because of its existence. The locals sometimes call the bridge Puente Romanica for its Roman structure and as a way to distinguish the bridge from town. However, the town and the bridge are symbiotic just as the University of Burgos and their hospitaleria.
At the University of Burgos, we took a tour to the pilgrim hostel and hospital which was also built by the demand of Queen Eleanor. This site has been host to many important events such as the marriage of King Charles the First and Queen Eleanor of Castille in 1254. The hostel located at the convent was the first of its kind as it provided 200 women’s rooms and 200 men’s rooms. These rooms were fully furnished, and guests could stay for free. The only rule was that guests could only stay for one night—unless they were sick. The hospital was also a first for the Camino. Patients were taken in and healed at no cost to the ill. Queen Eleanor eased the passage of the Camino sojourner vastly during her time while still allowing one to fully grasp the concepts of struggle, triumph, and pilgrimage. She allowed the pilgrim to travel safer, rest better, and stay healthier while travelling. The nagging wife might be seen as bad, but in this case it made life better for thousands of people a year.
Later that evening, we got to visit with the other North Florida study abroad Spanish team in downtown Burgos. Experiencing the night culture, we were able to practice sensory detailing; a tool essential to an effective pilgrimage. Hearing the music, tasting local cuisine, smelling tapas roasting in the stores, seeing people roaming the streets, feeling the cool wind of Burgos. All of these experiences are shaping us for the pilgrimage. The journey began in our preparations for our classes; an impossible task without the perseverance of the kindness of Eleanor.