Thursday October 7, 2010
Rest Day on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Dear Blog Readers,
Retrospective to date -
Camino History Cont. :- St. James found he was having a hard time convincing the local Spaniards in the Northern Provinces to convert to Christianity - neither Myth nor legend can decide how far he walked, but what is spoken of, is St. James grew despondent at his lack of success and travelled back to Jerusalem, where he was promptly caught and beheaded by Caliph as (most of the apostles where either beheaded or crucified after the death of Jesus). It is said some of the Apostles stole St. James body and took it across the land to the Bay of Biscay to launch it off into the sunset, and the end of the world, which in those days everyone thought the world was square. However, the tide took the coffin unto the shores of northern Spain, north of Finnisterra (End of the World). The coffin was found on the shores awash with scallop shells, hence the shells worn on the pilgrims’ backpacks to this day is a signal to identify pilgrims. Seems like someone recognized the body in the coffin as St. James and took it inland and buried it in what is now called Santiago - later a hermit discovered the coffee and the body entombed under the huge Cathedral de Santiago, the site where Christians from all over Europe and the East began to trek towards Santiago - St. Francis of Assisi even made the trip. Pilgrims learn about the Templars, who at one time guarded the pilgrims making the journey to visit the shrine of St. James in Santiago.
The Camino :- The path, which exists now has been worn across the land through the past two thousand years by pilgrims walking to Santiago. The Spanish Government has the Camino path traveling into each and every hamlet, village, town and city in the area. Twice now I´ve had to take a bus across areas noted in the guide books as highly dangerous for pilgrims to walk, as it is actually along the road or highway, where you compete with the traffic for space to walk.
The Spanish People and Culture :- As mentioned before, most Spaniards are welcoming, giving the pilgrims a ´Buen Camino´ greeting as we go by. The most difficult thing remains finding the food to eat when you are hungry. Pilgrims must adhere to the strict Spanish siesta, so if you get into a town between 3 - 5 p.m. you are out of luck. Between 5 - 7 p.m. the whole town comes to the nearest café for a shot of coffee (your spoon could stand up in it) or a glass of some aperitif. Here is something Canadians would not understand. The Spaniard stands or sits at the bar - opens the packages of sugar for their coffee, and promptly drop the empty containers on the floor. If you go up to the bar you have to wade through a garbage heap of paper to get close. I asked the bartender the other day why the people do it and he just shrugged - a Spanish girl at the next table told me it is just that Spanish people are dirty - which made me ask - ´but do they do that at home?´ And she too just shrugged. Everyone also smokes - everywhere, my clothes, hair, even my skin smell when I return to my room from using the cafe’s computer to post my blog. However it is the 8 or 9 p.m. dinner schedule, which has been hardest to deal with for all the pilgrims. Most just head to the grocery for a baguette and some cheese or, buy some tapas (usually some ham and cheese or egg/potato pie), and head off to bed for an early start the next day. One part of the Spanish culture also giving me a hard time is the stray cats in each hamlet, village, town or city. The poor dogs are left in lots by themselves tied to a fence. When the dogs here you coming they bark and when you see them their tails are wagging, but you have to just wave and keep going. Along the trail there is a lot of garbage created by the pilgrims - unlike me taking along all my used tissues and empty bottles, many just drop it on the trail. I´m sure at sometime someone comes along to clean it up, but it is discouraging to pass so many places covered with litter.
I want to note here I still have not been able to use the farmers’ fields as my bathroom like so many pilgrims - my bladder is doing a great job at holding it until the next town or hotel. I think there are 312 kms. left to reach Santiago. I´m going to try to do that in about 14 -16 days, with no more rest days, depending on health, the weather and the mountain passes of course. Up ahead the weather looks threatening, rain and cold.
Today in León take in the sites, the wonderful stain glass windows at the Cathedral and even go shopping for a fleece top and rain coat - after the rain yesterday not looking forward to a repeat soaking.
Hope everyone is well.
Blessings from the Camino -