We wake up with our legs being utterly sore finding out all of our washed clothes are still wet. So, we have to improvise on the go. We go out with our backpacks on which we hanged our wet socks and the plan is to go get some breakfast and look for a bus connection to Fatima.
Hurray to the breakfast!
Finding a café where we could get some breakfast isn’t hard. Outside one of them, there is a man who entices people inside and as soon as he sees us, he literally drags us in and shows us an empty table to sit at. Before he gets back to his spot outside, he recommends us what to eat. After the breakfast, our legs are even more sore but it’s better after a few steps.
At moments we even consider whether or not to ditch the bus and walk to Fatima as we planned at first. The impossibility of changing our sweaty socks for dry ones decides for us though. We buy tickets on the bus station and since we still have some spare time, we decide to go for a walk around Santarém. We quickly check out the church Igreja de Nossa Senhora, then we endow an old beggar sitting on the church stairs and go to the cathedral next to it where we get a stamp to our credentials.
Then we use an ancient alley to return to the park that is in front of the bus station. We try to dry our socks on the sun there. The departure time is close so we move to the actual station. We buy two sleeping pads in a store along the way. Our plan is to walk from Fatima to Tomar and so we bought the sleeping pads just in case. They’ll be useful for our little breaks in the nature at least. We haven’t seen many benches or resting places here and lying down in the thorns that grow along the way doesn’t seem so appealing. The bus arrives with a slight delay and we get in. It does not take long and the bus stops in Fatima.
“Traveling is never a matter of money, but of courage.“
Fátima – pilgrimage city
At first, the small settlement did not get its name from the daughter of Muhammad, but from the legend of a Muslim girl Fátima. She was abducted by Christians during a Christian conquest (reconquest) and later married a Christian nobleman. Before her death she accepted the Christian faith and after her death she was buried somewhere in the place of today’s Fátima.
Fátima is a worldwide known pilgrimage city, where in 1917 there were apparently multiple appearances of the Virgin Mary to three little herdsmen. At the last apparition, there were already 70,000 onlookers who witnessed the inexplicable phenomena.
When I look around, I wonder how many people must have lived here a century ago, before the apparitions. I’m thinking about what a good choice it was to change the plans considering the fact that there is going to be much more people on Sunday. We go in the direction of the cathedral, buy some postcards and a magnet (as a memory). We can hear from the distance that there is something happening at the cathedral. The area in front of the cathedral is full of people, Catholic songs can be heard everywhere, and according to the T-shirts of many people, we conclude that there is a celebration or something. We don’t know what exactly though.
The place of miracles?
We just stand there and meditate for a while watching the people around us. This place visibly evokes in many people a sense of faith in a miracle. We see mothers with disabled children, sick and lame people of all ages here at every step. It’s almost touching and, in our heads, we wish everyone that their wishes come true. It also makes me realize how lucky we are and how ridiculous our blister pain and everyday problems right now are. It’s about 200 meters to the cathedral from the place we’re standing at right now and that’s also the exact length of a marble walkway, where many people while kneeling try to get to the cathedral and some people try to get back. The ones who are successful are supposed to be forgiven their sins. I don’t feel like my knees would be able to achieve something like that so we move to the right side of the cathedral, to a memorial – a part of the Berlin wall which is symbolically attached to the prophecy of Fátima.
What was that?
We’re thinking about what to do next when someone suddenly starts talking to us. There is a figure that looks like they’re from a different century standing in front of us. An overgrown man, dressed in an old pilgrim’s cloak, with a St. Jacob’s shell hung around his neck and his feet in Christ sandals, asks us if we need help. He says he can show us a way to the albergue for pilgrims where we can eat, drink and rest before we continue our pilgrimage. We’re in shock and we answer that we’re just discussing whether to continue right now or tomorrow and that we might actually go to Tomar today. With gratitude, we thank him and say goodbye. Me and Jitka look at each other not understanding what happened and I immediately reach for my camera to take a photo of that man, but he seems to have disappeared from the surface of Earth. We don’t know what to think about it but we’re glad we’re each other’s alibi that it happened, because if someone were to experience this alone, they’d probably stay quiet about it so that people wouldn’t think they’re crazy.
We go to an info office nearby, where we get stamps in our credentials. The office worker asks us where we’re coming from and where we’re going and then gives us a map with a marked path to Tomar. She wishes us Bom Caminho to boa viagem and we set off with a chill in our backs. We constantly recall the strange apparition on our way. We can’t get out the thoughts of what could’ve happened if we accepted his offer for help of our heads. Thanks to our busy minds we don’t have time to think about the blisters and the route goes better.
Staying at Bombeiros for the night? Unfortunately not.
We get to Tomar by the evening. The guide says there is also a possible accommodation at the local bombeiros, i.e. firefighters, so our path leads to the fire station. But all they tell us there is a NO and an apology, or more like an excuse, that pilgrim accommodation isn’t possible there because they are forming a firefighter museum in that exact room. Well, what can we do? So we go to the next possible accommodation, which is a lot more expensive though, hoping to have more luck there.
And we do. Hostel 2030 has free spaces, however only the upper bunk beds and for €15 per person. Dear God. It’s not that much about the price (which is the highest we’ve found so far by the way), but more because of the blisters. Well, it will be fun to get on the bed and even more to get off of it. But whatever, it’s better than to sleep somewhere under a bridge. We take off our backpacks and go for a tour around the city and dinner. Tomar is an amazing medieval city with Templar history, which is literally visible everywhere you look.
Templar castle and medieval tavern
An ancient alley leads us to a small square above which rises a castle on a hill. We head upwards around the medieval tavern hoping that the castle will still be open. Hope dies last and ours dies in the moment when we’re about 50 meters from the entrance gate seeing some worker just closing it. He says we have to come tomorrow. We explain that tomorrow we’ll continue our route and ask him for a stamp to our pilgrimage books at least. As much as we’re hopeful we’ll get the stamps at least, we don’t even get those. So, we shoot a video for YouTube at the castle at least and then we get back down to the city.
We find a geocache on the square and then go into the ancient tavern, which offers a pilgrim menu for €5. But as pilgrims, we have to be content with a table outside, so I run to the hostel for some sweatshirts for us both, because with there is a slight cold after the dusk. I get back right at the moment when we’re getting our first course – chicken consommé. I’m not even exaggerating when I say I’ve never eaten a better one in my life. Absolutely amazing. The second course is some kind of a vegetarian mixture of vegetables, mushrooms, nuts and pasta, which if I got at home, I’d ask “what is the punishment for”.
But I eat it with no complaints here and it’s actually kind of good. The hunger and tiredness clearly adjust my taste buds. Suddenly we have a jug full of an amazing sangria in front of us. In the end, the waiter brings us fruit. We take it with us for tomorrow’s route. After paying we move to the hostel.
After showering we leave our signatures and a message on the hostel walls like hundreds of others did before us. The walls full of messages are amazing and make the whole place more humanly. Then just follows climbing to the bed and sleeping.