About 6 km before reaching the ancient Roman town of Asturica Augusta (or Astorga, as it is now known) is a ramshackle homestead overlooking a barren plain of freshly tilled soil. Beyond Astorga loom the mountains of Galicia, and behind are rolling hills that teem with tree farms and open stretches of grazing pasture. On this unassuming stretch of land sits La Casa de los Dioses—The House of the Gods—and it is here that I stayed soon after admiring the breathless Cathedral of Leon.
La Casa consists of a mobile beverage cart stocked with organic juices, fruits, coffee, bread, and vegetable stew, all of which are paid for by donation. There is a hammock and a bench on one side for pilgrims to rest in the shade, and on the other are two couches-cum-beds, which is where the self-described richest man in the world sleeps at night. The man standing next to me is Andri, a Romanian by birth but a resident of Spain for the last 11 years. He is the newest in a long line of volunteers that have helped run La Casa de los Dioses, and he too is one of the richest men in the world.
Andri did not found this place; that would be David, a 38 year old man from Barcelona who used to own a welding company. Then, four years ago he decided to give everything up and simplify his life. Among other things, he traveled to India for a while, then by random chance found the Casa sitting as it has for many years. He decided to set up camp here, and since then he has been feeding pilgrims who stop along the way and offering them a place to sleep if they choose. His philosophy, distilled onto a fortune cookie, is “Let go, and the Universe will provide.”
Indeed, that is exactly what has happened. The local farmer who owns the Casa and the land beneath it has asked for 24,000 Euro to sell it to David, and so far he has raised well over 10,000 to buy it. One anonymous donor gave 10,000 to the bank account listed in the name of Casa de los Dioses—to David, this was not a shock, merely the Universe working things out as they should.
I happily donated an amount I would normally put toward staying in an albergue, and also spent the night in the Casa, where they have turned the back end of the shed into a suitable shelter complete with heavy-duty foam insulation. It rained heavily that night, and it was cold, but inside I slept dry, warm and undisturbed.
I know there are some blogs that ask people for money at every turn, and by now you know that I don’t operate that way . But what I saw at the Casa de los Dioses was something truly exceptional, and they deserve all the help they can get. David and Andri and the many other volunteers who give tired and hungry pilgrims—for that matter, anyone–a place to rest have made it one of those special places that you rarely encounter in the world.
I strongly suggest that if you are in the habit of making charitable donations that you put your money toward helping David purchase the Casa de los Dioses so he can expand it to house more people (right now he can’t, so it has a capacity for two or three others) and so that he can continue giving people like me a one-of-a-kind experience that blends great hospitality with something even more important: humanity. The facebook page *PLEASE SEE UPDATE BELOW* has all the information you need about making a donation; they have a paypal account, which is probably the easiest way to go about doing it. If you do make a donation, please don’t forget to mention who sent you over—David has an excellent memory for people and I told him that I would be letting others know. Either way, I don’t think he’s too worried; the Universe will provide.
UPDATE–JULY 22, 2014–Thanks to those who stopped by from the main Camino de Santiago forum because of this post.
Readers have commented that the link to the facebook page for La Casa de los Dioses no longer works. This means it has been deactivated by the user. I recall David writing a post a while back saying that the facebook page had become an outlet for his ego. Those blessed enough to have encountered him will remember that David is opposed to any sort of egoism or pridefulness, and so I suspect that he deactivated the page because it was becoming too much of a distraction. I’ve done a bit of sleuthing online and haven’t turned up anything whatsoever. I wouldn’t be surprised if he already reached the amount necessary to purchase the patch of land and felt it was no longer necessary to take donations from people. It’s nice to imagine that in the end, the Universe does indeed provide 🙂