Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It's still great, but it's completely different.

Through Belgium and France, I walked closely on the land, studying all of the many elements of the small-scale map to know where to go. I spoke every day, many times a day, with locals to find out about lodging opportunties, about the history, about unique cultural things. I figured out where to go based on the general direction I wanted to take and then by asking people what the best way to get there would be. Some days, there wasn't much to see. I pursued some of the interesting things that I saw, such as 12th-century architecture, the lives of Saints Fiacre, Martin and Hilaire, for example, and other quirky things. I read just about every information placard I saw in front of churches and town halls.

Now in Spain, on this revitalized 800-year-old path across the north of the country, everything is different. I don't carry a detailed map, there's no need. The path is well marked with giant yellow arrows and scallop shell graphics. At the entrance to every village, there's a placard notifying pilgrims of the cool things not to be missed. Lodging opportunities are provided on lists with somewhat accurate references to their availability, the number of beds, whether there's a kitchen available. Charts are handed out with indications of how many kilometers there are to the next village, whether there's a place to eat, drink, rest, etc.

It's unfair to say that this part of the pilgrimage is 'easy' - every kilometer is hard-earned, every meter of altitude climbed; every snowflake, every raindrop felt; the left side of my face is being frightfully more weathered than the right on this long westward walk.

If walking through the north of Europe is likened to a safari, walking through Spain is more of Six-Flags safari park - there are still dangers and everything is very real, but every day I'm 'told' where to go, everyday is guaranteed to include landscape and architecture of historical and religious significance. A big part of the 'thinking' is taken care of. It's still great, but it's completely different. I'm no sure what to make of it yet.


Compostelle 2008 said...

Hi Ann,

I felt exactly the same way, it was different, very little logistics to figure out yourself. I think the difference is that in France, and we did the Puy-en-Velay route that is well marked, the path is more than just the way towards Santiago. It is also used for day hiking, for weekend walking tours. Mostly the trails are part of the GR (Grande randonée) circuits. In Spain it is uniquely the way to Santiago, the camino. It is in many villages, the business and major revenue for the locals.

Keep on trekking!

Michèle from Ottawa (Canada)

Kiwi Nomad 2008 said...

I walked the Le Puy route also, and know Michele from that ;-) I think that most people I know who walked in both France and Spain found they had many adjustments to make. It was like walking two different walks...

ComputerX said...

> I walked closely on the land


You're prose continues to fill me with joy. I look forward to each post.

do you have any other blogs?


Amawalker said...

On el camino you will have mnore time for contemplation and reflection as all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other.
Spotting the flechas amarilla becomes second nature and your eyes can spot a yellow blotch a mile away! Of course you might become panic stricken if you don't see one for a few hours, but you're never far from the camino trail.
Don Elias Valina Sampedro, parish priest at O Cebreiro from the late 1950s to 1989, begged yellow paint from the roads department and painted the first yellow arrows in the early 1970s. I think he did a really fine job! Locals must've been tired of peregrinos bush-bashing through their fields and asking the way to Santiago!
Buen camino Ann-e!