I sit solo at a small table in Bodegas Almau in Zaragoza, sipping a white wine and trying not to eavesdrop on the conversation of the trio of women next to me. I suppose they must be in their fifties. They eat bread, olives, ham and cheese and drink cañas (small glasses of beer from the tap).
But it’s difficult – I’m intrigued by their physical similarities, their ease with one another, their interaction. One takes charge of ordering the drinks, one suggests to the first which tapas to choose, and the third (maybe the eldest) smiles to herself as she lets the other two get on with it.
I’m in luck. One of them has a camera, and she tries to take a selfie, but can’t seem to get the right angle. After an unspoken communication, all three look at me, and the one (who I think is in charge) asks me to take their picture – she insists I take a few, to ensure the perfect shot. I’m happy to oblige.
They smile, “Cheese!” in English (although they are German), and the camera flashes on cue. They check the results, agree on the best, and thank me with a clink of drinks.
We get chatting … and yes – my hunch was right – they are sisters.
They ask me whether I’ve just completed the Camino de Santiago as well? No … I mumble something about being on my own kind of pilgrimage.
They nod with empathy, then tell me how they walked the last 118km of the Camino (they argue about the exact distance) to the end. The oldest sister tells me she was the slowest and traipsed at the back. “I was the crowd control!” she laughs.
“Yes, she was the crowd control!” her sisters echo, at which their sibling laughs louder still. I sense that their shared journey was important, and I’m intrigued by what each sister drew (individually and together) from their pilgrimage, but it’s a private, slowly-evolving thing and this isn’t the time, and I’m not the right person to share that with.
The sisters loved Santiago de Compostela, which has a cooler climate than Zaragoza. They say it was busy (too many pilgrims?), but the town is special, and the seafood tapas are something else (I am shown photos to prove it).
Tonight they are staying in a hotel around the corner, tomorrow they travel to Barcelona, then back to three separate homes in Karlsruhe, Berlin and Stuttgart.
Before we say goodbye, one sister leans over to ask me about Brexit; she doesn’t understand it. I tell her that neither do I. The other two sisters shake their heads in sympathetic agreement.
But shaking my head about Brexit, at this time of night, and talking about politics in general, causes my German to take a nosedive. I say “Auf Wiedersehen,” and wish them a safe onwards journey. They tell me to enjoy my time in Zaragoza, in peace and quiet on my own small pilgrimage. They seem to appreciate why I’m here, or at least, they don’t expect an explanation. I like these German sisters.
So I wander out slowly through the lanes of El Tubo de Zaragoza and do just as they say.