This is my first blog in 2018. My last one was in June 2017. I had my personal journey fighting against cervical cancer last year and I had no energy whatsoever to post anything. Well, I’m still here! But after surgery in July and the beginning of chemo at the end of August, I’ve manage to travel to Galícia and visited the city of Santiago de Compostela and the surroudings cities, Muxia, Ézaro, Carnota, Corcubión, Muros, Noia and also Finisterre, the last post of pilgrimage. I confess I didn’t do the whole “camino” but, you know, due to the circumstance at that particular moment of my life, I was happy just being there and somehow feeling blessed. Spain is a wonderful country to travel, full of history, wonderful food and spectacular wineries. It’s an energetic country to feel alive and enjoy living!! Something like “La Fiesta” therapy.
I love traveling by car. From Madrid to Santiago de Compostela is like 5.2 hours driving and the sightseeing change completely from the arid weather in Castilla La Mancha to a humid and ultra green meadows in Galicia. And I love eating fresh products from local producers. I specially recommend “O Graneiro de Amelia” (www.ograneirodeamelia.gal) where you can buy grains, species, dry nuts, teas and herbs. The colors, the smell of species and honey…. indescribable!!! And don’t forget to eat the Almond Tart, also a local food tradition.
There are eight main Camino de Santiago pilgrimage routes in Spain:
Camino Frances – the busiest route.
Via de la Plata – the longest Camino.
Camino del Norte – along the sea.
Camino Ingles The English Road – the shortest Camino.
Camino Portugues, (finishes in Santiago de Compostela but starts in Portugal).
Camino Primitivo. the original one.
Even if you don’t do the Camino, visit the city, the Cathedral and also Santa Maria la Real de Sar, a medieval church from XVI Century. From the cathedral’s balcony you can contemplate the beauty of the roofs and the city’s skyline. Unfortunately the frontal cathedral’s facade (The Obradoiro) is being restored and only will be re-opening on 2023. Well, I’ll have to come back somehow!
The Way of St. James (El Camino) was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during the Middle Ages. Legend holds that St. James’s remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain, where he was buried in what is now the city of Santiago de Compostela. (The name Santiago is the local Galician evolution of Vulgar Latin Sancti Iacobi, “Saint James”.)
The Way can take one of dozens of pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. Traditionally, as with most pilgrimages, the Way of Saint James began at one’s home and ended at the pilgrimage site. However, a few of the routes are considered main ones. During the Middle Ages, the route was highly travelled. However, the Black Death, the Protestant Reformation, and political unrest in 16th century Europe led to its decline. By the 1980s, only a few pilgrims per year arrived in Santiago.
Most pilgrims carry a document called the credencial, purchased for a few euros from a Spanish tourist agency, a church or parish house on the route, a refugio, their church back home, or outside of Spain through the national St. James organization of that country. The credencial is a pass which gives access to inexpensive, sometimes free, overnight accommodation in refugios along the trail. Also known as the “pilgrim’s passport”, the credencial is stamped with the official St. James stamp of each town or refugio at which the pilgrim has stayed. It provides pilgrims with a record of where they ate or slept, and serves as proof to the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago that the journey was accomplished according to an official route, and thus that the pilgrim qualifies to receive a compostela (certificate of completion of the pilgrimage).
The “Way of St James” is marked by a scallop shell, a symbol of humility that also served practical purposes for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. The shell was the right size for gathering water to drink or for eating out of as a makeshift bowl. The pilgrim’s staff is a walking stick used by pilgrims to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela.
Most often the stamp can be obtained in the refugio, cathedral, or local church. If the church is closed, the town hall or office of tourism can provide a stamp, as can nearby youth hostels or private St. James addresses. Many of the small restaurants and cafes along the Camino also provide stamps. Outside Spain, the stamp can be associated with something of a ceremony, where the stamper and the pilgrim can share information. As the pilgrimage approaches Santiago, many of the stamps in small towns are self-service due to the greater number of pilgrims, while in the larger towns there are several options to obtain the stamp.