All roads to lead to Rome is one saying, another could be that all paths lead to Santiago de Compostela. The Route of Santiago is also know as the Way of St. James or in Spanish the Camino de Santiago. At least it is when you take a look at the different ways there are to walk to the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. From almost any European country there is a Pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela.
The normal way of getting to Santiago de Compostela is walking, although many pilgrims choose to go by bike, and some do it like the royalty in the middle ages on horseback. The routes are marked with the symbol of St. James, the scallop shell (well an abstract version of it, in yellow on a blue background).
There are several classical starting points in Europe for routes that go to Santiago de Compostela. Many people start their walk at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port or Somport, both on the French side of the Pyrenees, and Roncesvalles or Jaca on the Spanish side, but pilgrims starting from their homes in Germany, France, Switzerland or other European countries are not exceptions.
The most common routes converge in the north of Spain at Puente la Reina, and continue from there to Santiago de Compostela, via Burgos, and León. A less busy Camino Inglés goes along the coast, and is often considered to be more beautiful, because of the landscape. There are also routes coming from the south, starting in (Madrid, Sevilla) or Portugal, and approach Santiago de Compostela from the south. The one starting in Madrid, takes you across the Sierra de Guadarama over the Calzada Romana between Cercedilla and Segovia.
For some people Santiago de Compostela is not the end of their route, their goal is Finisterre, to what was considered to be the “end of the world”.
On the classic “Camino de Santiago” between Roncesvalles and Santiago de Compostela there is no lack of eating places, although in some smaller villages even foodstores may not be found. When there are restaurants (check the particular Spanish eating time-tables!), these often offer a pilgrim menu with a choice of several “entrées”, main dishes and deserts, including a bottle of wine and/or water, at cheap prices.
The larger towns such as Pamplona, Estrella, Burgos, Leon, Astorga, etc. do not lack eating places which offer from simple fare to culinary specialties.
The “Camino Francés” crosses the famous “La Rioja” wine country (capital Logroño) but all along a “vino de la casa” is abundantly served. Rioja wine beats them all. Most of the time a beverage is included in the price of your meal as part of the culture.
If you are a pilgrim you should obtain a “passport” (credencial) at a church or pilgrims’ hostel (albergue) at your starting point or one of the many organizations such as the Confraternity of Saint James (London). As you make your way to Santiago de Compostela this passport allows you to stay in pilgrims hostels (albergues) at rates which may vary from a donation to €10 per person/bed. These hostels may be managed by municipalities, individuals, religious institutions or organizations, and thus vary between official and private units, which means that you cannot reserve a bed except at the latter ones. Some of these albergues provide breakfast, often the use of kitchen and a washing machine, but the main condition is that one can stay for only one night.
For those people who are not great walkers (or pilgrims), most larger towns and some villages offer accommodation in a simple “hostal” or any hotel up to 5 stars. In the smaller towns a decent room for 2 people with shared bathroom can be found from €26 a night.