Santiago de Compostela, Spain


Even with this old European city’s most iconic structure hidden behind a blue curtain of netting and blocked by metal scaffolding the impressiveness of the grand Saint James Cathedral isn’t lost. It looms over the main square waiting to eventually be unveiled. Its spectators stare as if the great reveal might happen at any moment. It’s still quite a mass to marvel at.

The large stone surface of the square is littered with fallen pilgrims. The sight is constant, day and night. They replace each other in steady flux. Those freshly off the trail drop to the ground and take the place of those that journeyed just before them and finally mustered up the strength to move on. The cathedral at Santiago de Compostela is the end of the road for those who made the long journey along the Camino de Santiago, the famous pilgrimage that has taken place for centuries. The pilgrims are easy to spot, they’re the ones splayed, tired, with backpacks, walking sticks, and hats strewn around them. They are adorned with Camino paraphernalia, just look for the symbolic shell. All the other tourist make accommodations to step and slide over and past them like avoiding potholes or land mines.

This city has a unique energy. The collective feeling of accomplishment and relief lives in the air. Pilgrim or not, it feels like you have arrived exactly where you are meant to be. It’s welcoming with a vital pulse.