Features » People and Places
St. James Walk, el Camino de Santiago
Jill Attfield / 2006-05-30 15:39:57
Recently Vanessa Rocchetta and her husband Alex took part in the A.E.C.C.'s Sponsored Walk in Torrevieja. This was just a small run up for the next walk they are going to try from Sarria, in Galicia to'Santiago, which is around 108 kms. Most Spaniards know of the 'Camino de Santiago' but do the British people? Vanessa wonders. Vanessa explains, "The Camio is a walk, or rather a pilgrimage, to 'Santiago de Compostela' which is situated in the north-west region of Spain.
It is reputed that the remains of St. James of Santiago are buried there. There are many routes and some are from the U.K, France, or as far away as India. Within Spain there are several routes the most popular being around 700 kilometres across the north of Spain. You can undertake the walk on foot, bicycle or even on horse back. I am not sure if this includes quad bikes though!" She continues, "To qualify for the 'Compostela' which is a certificate given to walkers, you have to walk at least 100 kilometres or cycle 200 kilometres. Your name is read out in the Cathedral at Santiago and you might be lucky enough to see the giant incense burner swung across the church.
In Santiago you sample local delicacies such as the 'Tarta de Santiago' which is made from ground almonds. Alex and I have been training since last October, trying to walk further each week and more recently to carry a back-pack with increasing weight. For us it is a real challenge to have to get up each day with no alternative but to continue walking." The walk is an opportunity for reflection, exercise and camaraderie with many other people to meet along the way. To identify yourself as a pilgrim you carry a shell, a gourd and a staff.
This pilgrimage route is the crown jewel of Spanish walking trails and it began as an act of faith as Europeans crossed Spain to visit the sacred tomb of Saint James. One thousand years later, the 'Camino' continues to draw the spiritual as well as the traveller looking to enjoy the beauty of the green rolling hills and small hamlets of Galicia in the north west of Spain. Around 814, bones unearthed in a Roman cemetery in north western Spain were proclaimed to be those of St. James the Apostle. How a Galilean fisherman came to be buried there is the subject of much legend and suffice it to say that, between the medieval cult of relics and some local promotion, 'Santiago de Compostela' became a destination for Christian pilgrims second only to Jerusalem and Rome.
All Europe beat a path to the tomb along the 'Camino de Santiago,' or, in French, the 'Chemin de St. Jacques.' If you want to do the entire 'Camino' which is about 900 kilometres in length from France to Santiago it will take you around thirty days if you walk at 30 kilometres per day. Alex and Vanessa recommend anyone interested in knowing more should visit one of the many web sites which will give you further information and places to stay such as: www.santiago-compostela.net, www.caminosantiagocompostela.com or www.spanishsteps.com