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Are Albergues Really OK for ALL Pilgrims?

Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Year of past OR future Camino
Many, various, and continuing.
One of the points made in Hape Kerkeling´s book is sticking with me as I go about my days: Is the system of open-to-the-public, basic, municipal and church-run pilgrim albergues being abused by the majority of people who use them?

The Camino Frances is well-supplied with hostels, hotels, pensiones, truck stops, campgrounds, and other places to stay. These alternatives are quite reasonably priced, compared to what accommodation costs at any other holiday destination you can think of.

Albergues are very basic, run by mostly volunteer labor, and are roundly complained-about for their lack of sanitation, privacy, infrastructure, and space. They´re warehouses really, designed along the lines of a homeless shelter or boot-camp barrack. The only thing that´s appealing about them, evidently, is they are practically free -- and "everybody else" is staying there.

Aren´t albergues, by definition, meant for mendicants, students, and pilgrims who don´t have enough money to stay anywhere else? Shouldn´t those who can afford to pay their own way be staying somewhere else, leaving these subsidized beds free for the less fortunate? Or is the Camino Albergue system really becoming the last great free ride for middle-class cheapskates?
Do tell.
Acerbically (but no caustically)
Reb.
 
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sillydoll

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
If people pitch up, pay the asking price, accept what is on offer and 'suffer' the unsanitary, warehouse conditions, then how are the albergues abused?
How does a pilgrim know if they qualify or not?
How will the hospitalero differentiate between the homeless person and the genuine pilgrim who has spent their last cent to get to Spain and is relying on staying in cheap accommodation? (Anyone can obtain a credential so you can't use them as a passport to the shelter.)
How would the hospitalero decide who is deserving of being allowed to stay in the albergues? (Besides the regulations already in place (must be a walking, cycling, horesback pilgrim and have walked a certain distance with no vehicle back-up).
Will the criterion be based on age? Income? The way the pilgrim looks? Their relgion?
On their 'intention' - whether they are tourist-cheapskates, 'real' pilgrims? Who will decide?
If it is only on affordability, would you apply a means test? Have to submit banking details?
Many young pilgrims don't pay, or don't like paying because 'donativo' means 'gratis'. Their parents have forked out for the best gear, ipod, mp3 players etc. But, they don't always have lots of cash so they 'abuse' the system by staying in albergues.
Some older pilgrims have saved for years to walk the camino and can't really afford hotels for 30 days or more.
I, for one, choose to stay in the albergues because, like Prof Conrad Rudolph said, the albergues are the soul of the camino. I wouldn't want to step up a level and miss out on that most basic of camino experiences by staying in hotels. I don't feel like an abusive, senior-citizen cheapskate by doing so!
Nah!! I think it has to be one for all and all for one. Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggar-man, thief ..... we are all pilgrims on el camino. The basic spirit of the camino is that 'all are welcome'.
I think Mr Kerkeling was trying to find an excuse for NOT staying in the albergues.
 
D

Deleted member 3000

Guest
If there were 12,000 pilgrims a year instead of 120,000, would there be a question to ask about who should sleep where?

At 35 Euro per day average expenditure, pilgrims pump several million Euro into the Spanish economy at the level of the shop owner, bartender, and chef. Some lodging may be close to free, but nothing else is.
 

spursfan

Veteran Member
Funnily enough, as Sil mentioned in her post, I was very tempted to stay in hotels on the Camino Frances but it was the line from Conrad Rudolf's little book that persuaded me that the complete experience came from staying in the albergues

Yes, one did see groups of middle-aged and middle-class pilgrims that seemed to be having a cheap walking holiday but imagine how popular the albergues would be without the drawbacks!
 
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sillydoll

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
Now, now David. Don't fall into old bad habits by attacking a member - stick to the subject of the debate please! :evil:
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Edited

the roads have pilgrims, pilgrims stay the night in refuges - enough said.

but that is just my opinion of course
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
I agree with David as far as the commercial value of the albergues that levy a small charge goes.
However, there are another group of albergues that are donativo. These often provide food as well - also donativo. AGACS (Galicia Amigos) don't want to charge pilgrims who stay in their albergues because they are run 'in the spirit of the camino'.
Many of the donativo albergues are small, provide very basic amenities - some don't even have electricity or running water - and, thankfully, the mainstream pilgrims bypass them looking for something more upmarket!
 
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Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Year of past OR future Camino
Many, various, and continuing.
Please note that just because I put an issue out there, does not mean I advocate one side or another. I think Mr. Kerkeling makes a good point, but I still support in many ways the albergue system as it exists. There´s always room for improvement, no?
And one thing the camino (and the forum) gives us is lots of time and leisure to explore all sides of an issue. I sometimes throw out an issue for a good chewing-over. I don´t usually throw my SELF out there, though!

Reb
(who does her albergue time lately as a hospitalera, not a pilg.)
 
D

Deleted member 3000

Guest
...abused by the majority of people who use them

No. The majority use them just as they are intended.

There may be some quarrel with a handful of pilgrims. By and large, I found fellow pilgrims to be of modest means and disposition, just the type one MIGHT expect on a pilgrimage. The few I met that were knee deep in cash were rarely staying in albergues. Hospitaleros meet 100% of the pilgrims that stay with them, so their perspective is more complete than mine, where I see only a fraction of the pilgrims each day in a series of fragmented days along the way. Even from that better hospitalero perspective, I suspect that a "majority" of the pilgrims are not getting something for nothing.

"A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man." Jebediah Springfield

The middle class experiencing the refuge system is powerfully embiggening*.



* Apologies to ESL readers...
 

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