El Camino de Santiago: the basics

I owe you all a post.  Actually I owe you more than a post.  I owe you a post and lots of chocolate.  Well here’s a post until I get a hold of lots of chocolate and your addresses.

I spent pretty much all of July following those yellow arrows like in the picture above.  I got to the point where anything yellow caught my eye.  I even dreamed about them.  On the caminos in Spain you will find them everywhere–sidewalks, light poles, rocks, buildings–and they’ll take you to Santiago de Compostela.

My unreferenced, dont’t-quote-me history of the camino: Saint James, apostle of Jesus, spent his later years preaching in Spanish lands.  When he was martyred (I’m not completely sure he was martyred, but with his being an apostle and all my chances of being right are good) his followers sailed to Spain in a stone boat–yep, a stone boat–to bury him.  Hundreds of years later while the Spanish were in the midst of a war with the Moors a mere peasant conveniently found the apostle’s remains.  This (conveniently) became a rallying point in the war.

Santiago then became holy city of sorts.  Visiting the apostle’s remains meant healing of sickness, forgiveness of sins, entrance to Heaven.  (I cannot vouch for the latter two, but in terms of healing ailments I can make a case.  The day before I arrived in Santiago I started getting a cold sore–love those.  They usually last a good two weeks.  But guess what?  5 days later it was completely gone.  Miracle.  I’m not kidding you.)  Hence the pilgrimage to Santiago.

But, like many other Catholic traditions, this one also has pagan roots.  Before Christian times pagan peoples made the trek to this part of Spain to visit the “end of the earth” called Finisterra, which is about 100 km west of Santiago.  It was literally believed to be the end of the earth before Europeans learned about the existence of America.

Wohoo.  Lots of fun history. So nowadays, in a strange combination of history and tourism the caminos have been resurrected (get it? haha) and people from all over come to walk them.  Along the way albergues will host the pilgrims.  They vary from dorm like hostals, to monasteries, to renovated schools (like the one in the picture).

Alrighty.  That’s all for this post, but more pics to come I promise.

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