Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

On the way of St. James

Extending 500 miles across northern Spain, walking the Camino de Santiago is anything but the average vacation. Adventurous pilgrims from all over the world hike from St. Jean Pied du Port, France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, where legend says the bones of Jesus’ apostle St. James the Elder (Santiago in Spanish) lie.

Photos: Marie von Hafften

Recent books and films, like Paulo Coelho’s novel “The Pilgrimage” and Emilio Estevez’s 2010 film “The Way,” starring Martin Sheen, have drawn new generations to the journey. However, the Camino’s true heyday was in the Middle Ages, when visiting St. James was one of the three most important pilgrimages a Christian could make, along with those to Rome and Jerusalem. Around 1140, one of the world’s first travel guides, the Codex Calixtinus, was written to help pilgrims on the Camino. It included information about towns and landmarks, as well as the many miracles associated with the route.

Today, most pilgrims are drawn to the Camino for a variety of reasons: spiritual journey, the adventure of a mega-walk and interest in the historical and cultural attractions in Spain. Although walking is traditional, bicycling and riding the route on horseback are also options. Special accommodation is available for pilgrims in hostels, restaurants and museums, decreasing expenses for what can be a month-long journey or more.

The Camino offers a lush assortment of characters to meet and attractions to pull you through the miles. Here are some of the stories and sights from the road.

Colorful fabric and beads wave high in the Pyrenees near the border between France and Spain. The first 13 miles of the Camino from St. Jean Pied du Port climb 4,200 feet, making it one of the most challenging days of the walk.
Painted rocks offer encouragement outside of Santa María, a Templar church in Villalcázar de Sirga, Spain. Pilgrims speak a wide variety of languages, but all quickly learn buen camino, an expression of well wishes offered to every pilgrim met on the trail.
Pilgrims add twig crosses to fences along the Camino. It is also common to see man-made stone piles, especially in memory of pilgrims who have passed away while traveling the Camino.


Parts of the Camino overlay ancient Roman trading roads, which existed long before St. James himself. This section lies right outside of Cirauqui, Spain.
The Camino is well marked with bright arrows and scallop shells, a symbol associated with St. James.

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