Friday, 31 May 2013

Brief Camino History

How this all started

Christian legend has it that when the Apostles divided the known world into missionary zones, the Iberian peninsula fell to James. He spent a number of years preaching there before returning to Jerusalem where in the year 44 AD he was beheaded by the king.

Popular belief is that his followers carried his body to the coast and put it on a stone boat which was guided by angels  and carried by the wind to land near Finisterre, at Padron, in northern Spain.

The local queen buried the body in a marble tomb with two of his disciples. And there he lay, forgotten until the 9th century when a hermit living in Galicia had a vision that he saw a star or field of stars which led him to the place of burial.

A small village named Campus de la Stella (Field of Stars) and a monetary were established on the site. The news of the discovery spread like wildfire and the pilgrimages began from all over Europe. The objective was to leave your doorstep and possessions behind and walk to Santiago de Compostela to obtain absolution for your sins.

Many pilgrims died on this journey in the Middle Ages either through starvation, being murdered or simply from exhaustion. The pilgrimage rivalled more well known pilgrimages to Rome and Jerusalem in terms of numbers. It peaked in the Middle Ages and almost ceased to exist in the last few centuries. Over the past number of years the number of pilgrims has really grown again to the point where in excess of 200,000 pilgrims walk yearly to earn their Compostela. To receive this document you must demonstrate through the collection of sellos (stamps) that you have walked at least the last 100 kilometres to Santiago de Compostela.

The most popular pilgrimage route is the Way of St. James or French route which starts in St. Jean Pied de Port in France, crosses the Pyrenees into Spain and finishes in Santiago de Compostela.

Various Camino Routes

I will start in Rorschach Switzerland and walk the Via Jacobi (Rorschach to Geneva), Via Gebennensis (Geneva to Le Puy en Velay), Via Podiensis (Le Puy en Velay to St. Jean Pied de Port), French (St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela) and Finisterre (Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre) routes on my least that's the plan!

My Long Walk

What am I doing?

In August of 2013 I plan on walking in the footsteps of countless pilgrims who have walked to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. From there I would like to complete my adventure in Finisterre Spain which in pre Christopher Columbus days was thought to be the end of the world as it was the Easternmost point on the European continent. Many a voyage of discovery started from Finisterre.

Thank goodness they were wrong about it being the end of the world or I wouldn't be writing this today. My journey will start much further back than most pilgrimages as my starting point is Rorschach Switzerland which borders with Germany.

In total I will need to walk over 2,400 kilometres over a 100 days to make it. Why 100 days? Seems like a nice round number to me!

Why am I doing this?

This just seems like the right time to go for this crazy idea after a 35 year career. If I don't do it now it will be more difficult when I am 70, even harder at 80 and may not even be possible at 90. Once I hit a 100 probably not!

Will I make it?

The logical side of me says that my chances are not high considering all that can happen over a 3 month period. The non logical dreamer side says why not? Take one step at a time, walk 25 kilometres a day over a 100 days and you are there!

No matter if I make it or not it's going to be an adventure!

Where will I sleep?

This will be one of the most interesting parts to the walk. I expect that it will vary from sleep in straw farms in Switzerland (yes the cows are out to higher pasture therefore there is room), bed & breakfasts, small inns, hostels, Gites (in France small hostels with dorms), accueil jacquaires (families who take in pilgrims for the night for no set price), casa rurales (Spanish bed & breakfasts), albergues (which in Spain will house as many as a 100 pilgrims in a large dorm ...note to self...take ear plugs!). 

In Finisterre at the end of the adventure I would like to stay in the lighthouse overlooking the ocean. If all goes well I will stay away from park benches or a church entrance however one never knows for sure.

In the early part of the trip and into September I have made a number of bookings as I am told that sleeping spaces will be at a premium as Europeans really like to get out and walk.

What will I eat?

Whatever is made available to me I'm good with it. In many of the places where I will be staying the evening meal will be included in the price and is served in a communal setting with other pilgrims. I can speak English, French and count to 10 in both Spanish and German so I should be all set. When this assumption turns out to be weak I will simply smile and nod!

So over the course of the walk I will attempt to keep a blog, share a few pictures as Wifi (or WeeFee in France) is available. If you are interested in following it just sign up on the left hand side of the blog. If not don't sweat it as I probably wouldn't follow my blog either!

In my next blog I will provide a short summary as to my understanding of the history behind the Camino.

Dawn, Lise, Jeanne and Claire I love you guys!