A Story of the "Camino"
By Nacho, founder of the La Fuente Casa de Austria
I walked the Camino for the first time in the year 2000.
At that time I was working at the winery "Bodegas Valcarlos" in Los Arcos and, before I set off on the Camino, my boss said: "You have to buy land to plant vines". So I put up announcements in all the bakeries, meeting points, bars, etc, and off I went. I walked 740 kilometers from Roncesvalles to Santiago in August, and this summer I fell in love with the Camino.
When I returned to Navarra, where I come from and grew up, a nun called me and said, "I have a piece of land for sale". It was noon. The land was next to the road, right between Los Arcos and Torres. The nun told me that she also had a house. That didn't interest me at first, but lunch was at work at one o'clock, and it was quarter to one. So I thought, "I'll go and see the house, and then I'll have lunch". And when I saw the house with its two big courtyards and its location right on the main street of Los Arcos, I said to myself, "This is the perfect place for a pilgrims' hostel!".
So I decided to buy it, renovate the house, and make it a hostel. It was a very old house, the living room was smaller, where room 1 is now, there was a chicken coop and in the backyard, there was a horse stable. A year passed between the purchase and the renovation. Along the way, I went in search of guidance for opening a pilgrims' hostel, while I continued to work at the winery. I wrote to all the Friends of the Camino associations I could find. I wrote to people from many different countries, but no sooner had I sent the email to the Austrian Friends of the Camino than I got a call from Helmut.
Helmut was the president of the Austrian Friends of the Camino and he called me to say he was in Spain. As we happened to have a business lunch at the winery, I told him, "Stay for lunch, then you can have a look at the winery". That day I was walking around in a tie, which of course was an extra point. Helmut saw the construction work almost finished, and lunch ended at the "Mónaco" with a beer. Helmut wanted me to sign on the spot and become part of his association, but I told him, "Helmut, now is not the time to sign,". He was very enthusiastic about the hostel project.
Helmut told me that if I promised to keep the prices low and take the name "Casa de Austria", he would send me "hospitaleros" and a financial contribution every year. But time passed, and shortly before the opening, I hadn't heard from Helmut in months. Years ago, long before I did the Camino, I asked a couple of pilgrims who were having dinner at the winery what name they would give to a hostel in Los Arcos. They said, "La Fuente (the Fountain), because the Los Arcos stage is very dry". I celebrated this and, in case Helmut didn't get back in touch, I named the hostel "La Fuente".
Finally, Helmut contacted me again, and we signed the contract at the end of 2002. In 2003 we opened the pilgrim hostel "La Fuente Casa de Austria" and the Association of Austrian Friends of the Camino, sent me the first hospitaleros.
Since then, it has always been a place where cultures, stories and people meet. Our doors have always been open to hospitaleros from all over the world, who put their good humour, their willingness to help and their vitality, and have done credit to their name as "hosptaleros". And to all the pilgrims who bring us their lives, their joys and their hopes, giving meaning to our pilgrim hostel "La Fuente Casa de Austria".
Note 1: The Association of Austrian Friends of the Camino was dissolved about 10 years ago, but out of respect for those who believed in the project from the beginning, and because we appear in many guidebooks under this name, the name has remained the same.