Archive for May 22nd, 2014

May 22, 2014

Camino de Santiago

by Tabitha Kidwell

I’ve just finished my third day on the Camino de Santiago, and so far, I’m feeling pretty good! Soon, I’ll start posting lots of blogs about the experience, which will probably all boil down to “life is a pilgrimage.” But first, I wanted to explain exactly what this adventure is.

The Camino de Santiago is a medieval pilgrimage trail leading to the church in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia (northwestern Spain), where the remains of St. James are believed to be. Traditionally, people would begin the camino from their own doorstep, but walking at least the final 100 kilometers was deemed sufficient to absolve you of your sins. People have continued walking The Waysince the middle ages, but it has grown in popularity in recent years thanks to appearences in popular culture, like Paolo Coehlo’s The Pilgrimage, and the filmThe Way, starring Martin Sheen. Now, as you walk, there is almost always another pilgrim within eyesight, usually more like 20. Some people do still start from their own doorsteps, but many more start at the beginning of an established route. The Camino Franc├ęs, which I am on, runs from St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, in southwest France, continues to Santiago, and takes about a month. I only have 29 days, so I skipped the first few days and started from Pamplona.

In every town along the way, there are albuergues (pilgrim’s hostels) where you can pay 5-15 euros for a bed for the night. Some also serve a communal dinner, but if not, there are restaurants that offer “pilgrim’s menus,” a three-course, carb-heavy meal, for about 10 euros. The camino is well marked with yellow arrows and seashells, the symbol of St. James. The pilgrims also wear seashells to identify themselves, but the hiking boots, backpacks, and walking poles make it pretty clear if you happen to miss the shell. I’ll walk 20-30 kilometers everyday, through forests, over mountains, and along rivers. When I get to Santiago, I’ll go to the pilgrim’s mass at the church and hear my name read along with all the others who finished with me. Then, if I have enough time and energy, I’ll continue my trek three more days to Finesterre, once the end of the known world. Or, since my sins will be absolved and my feet will be tired, I might just take the bus. 700 kilometers might be enough for the month!