My dear dear friend Julie Belott asked me a few weeks after Michael passed away if I wanted to hike the Camino de Santiago with her. My first statement was absolutely, my second was What is the Camino de Santiago? These posts, that I wanted to add to my blog are copies of the emails I sent to my mother along the way.
There are hundreds of books out about walking the Camino, and research done on-line will most likely garner a book that you favor rather than my suggesting any. That being said…
I will state outright, that I am NOT a fan of ANY book that makes the Oprah Book Club list. However, a friend loaned me Wild by Cheryl Strayed
, and I highly recommend it. This book is about hiking the Appalachian Trail, unprepared. It discusses too heavy back packs and too small boots. If you think you are completely prepared for a trek of this size, think again, and read Strayed’s book before heading out. Forewarned is Forearmed.
First day and I thought I would let you all know how things are going. I hope to be complete enough so that when you ask me to tell you all about my trip, I will know that you didn’t read all the way to the bottom. I will then put on an obsequious smile and in my mind I will be putting you in a box with Schroeder’s cat. Arrived in Santiago via DFW and Madrid. While Santiago is a lovely town I did not have too much time to explore. I am attaching photo taken from the public garden that is the highest point in town.
I spent most of my first day fighting with my phone. Despite being told constantly that it was unlocked and I could get a SIM card, that did not turn out to be true, so I am without phone, but fortunately I am with ipad. So emails and texting works.
Julie Belott arrived last night with her husband Wayne. We had a quick dinner and a bottle of wine and Wayne headed out to the airport to go home. Julie and I headed back to our hotel to hit the sack.
Museum of the Cathedral
Great little breakfast in the hotel, a 8 euro taxi ride to the bus station and then a 9 Euro bus ride to Lugo, then another 3.5 Euro bus ride to Sarria, our starting point for the camino.
A lunch of grilled octopus and boiled beef – both delicious. We are in Galicia which specializes in Octopus, there are pulperias everywhere.
A quick word about Galicia. It is one of three autonomous states in Spain. Their language is slightly different, so Julie and I often look at each other funny when an odd word here or there will spill out of someones mouth, (they substitute x for j for example) but basically we are doing fine with our Spanish. I will say, that despite the heavily traveled Camino, we have yet to encounter any Spaniard that speaks English. Glad Julie and I are proficient enough to not be the least bit concerned.
After lunch we headed to the Monasterio de la Magdalena to get our Credencials. The Credencial is a document that identifies the bearer as a pilgrim, you collect stamps along the way as proof of completing the pilgrimage. Once we reach Santiago they will give us a Compostela (certificate of accomplishment) which is written in Latin and personalized saying we hiked at least 100 kilometers of the Camino.
Tonight in Sarria we are staying in the King Alphonse IX Hotel. King Alphonse died in Sarria on his pilgrimage in 1230. Sarria is thought to predate the Romans, and there are a lot of fabulous old stone buildings throughout the town.
Everywhere you go you encounter pilgrims, riding the bus they are all along the road and in town they are on every sidewalk and pouring out of hotels and albergos (what we would call youth hostels) Backpacks and hiking boots are de rigueur around here.
A little background. The Camino has always been a religious trek, although now it is considered more a rite of passage. The first guide book to the Camino was written in the 12th century. Everywhere you go you see scallop shells. These were symbolic with a couple of thoughts regarding their meaning. One was that the shell represents the fingers of an open hand symbolizing the good deeds expected of a pilgrim. Another interpretation is that the lines of the shell, which converge at a single point, represent the pilgrimage roads convening in Santiago. As to why Scallop shells, there isn’t any real answer.