This is a series of articles about my experience walking the Camino de Santiago. I hope you enjoy them and I look forward to hearing from other pilgrims about your journeys.
The Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, has been one of the most important Christian pilgrimages since the medieval times, taken as a penance to atone for sins or to ask for blessings. Legend has it that after James the Apostle was beheaded by Herod in 44AD, his followers carried his body to the coast and put it into a boat, which was guarded by angels and carried by the wind to land near Finisterre, in Northern Spain. The body was then taken to the site now known as Santiago, where pilgrims pay homage to St. James. Today, it is not only for spiritual reasons that pilgrims walk or bike the Camino. For some, it is for the adventure of seeing Spain, experiencing its culture and becoming part of the camaraderie that builds up over weeks of walking. Pilgrims come from all over the world. Combine this with good Spanish wine and food and you have the perfect adventure.
Every pilgrim must carry a pilgrim’s Credential, or credencial del peregrino. It not only makes you eligible to stay in hostels and dine on inexpensive meals for pilgrims, but also entitles you to less costly rates at hotels along the way. It is also essential to prove that you walked at least the last 100km to Santiago, where you are awarded a Compostela, which is like a diploma documenting your pilgrimage. Each hostel, albergue or hotel must stamp your Credential with an individual sello as record of your trek. The Credentials are available at the hostels where you begin your pilgrimage or you can get them ahead of time here in the U.S. through American Pilgrims on the Camino.
In August of 2011, I had the opportunity to walk the Camino with my son, David. Although there are several routes to Santiago, we chose the Camino Francés (the French Way) that runs across northern Spain. We walked where so many pilgrims had walked before us, we met many other pilgrims and helpful local residents, and we came away with the spirit of the Camino in our hearts. This is a glimpse of that journey.
Next in the series: Getting it Together