Even though we walked the bare minimum required of the Camino to get your Compostela, I still felt a sense of major accomplishment and appreciation for the history and landscape of Spain. The people we met along the journey all seemed happy and enthusiastic to explain their point of view of the walk and even when passing by people on the Camino, they would happily yell, “Buen Camino!” The attitudes of people walking and the landscape we passed and witnessed really made the experience that much better for me. Hiking up and down mountains, seeing such beautiful countryside was breathtaking. The land was beautiful and green. The small villages were so old and stunning in their own way. We would walk right through small villages and behind peoples’ homes and never worried about bothering them. The people were very pleasant and continued doing whatever work they were doing on their farms with no bother to the many pilgrims walking past them.
The picture for this blog posting made the most sense to me to explain how beautiful the walk really was. The landscape around me was stunning and the pose showed how much fun I was having hiking, regardless of the great distance ahead of me. Phil and I took many pictures like this to keep our spirits up, smile and laugh at ourselves, and enjoy the time we had hiking in such a stunning country.
I definitely under estimated how difficult the Camino would be. From the steep hill, to the rocky unpaved roads, to the blistering heat which caused me to become overheated and almost pass out at one point. Despite all this I loved the sights, sounds, and people we encountered along the journey. I was in awe of the endless rolling hills upon which numerous farms and villages sat upon. The many different animals we saw from oxen to an ostrich. I ate some many different foods I would have never thought to try before, such as the many lamb sandwiches, margarita pizza, and even a plate of chopped up octopus. On the Camino a few of the cafes even had their version of mac n’ cheese.
What I loved most about the Camino was the people we met. The pilgrims we talked to always had an endless stories to tell; tales of lost loves, and new love found on the Camino. People who walked for St. James or those who simply have the act of hiking in their blood. In addition to the pilgrims we also met a lot of interesting locals. Like the woman who was giving out free bags of berries or the guy who would stamp your pilgrim passport with a red hot seal.
Kyle and I were walking along the Camino de Santiago — it was our first day on the trail and we were both feeling fresh and ready for the adventure when ahead of us we saw a large herd of cows. Not the pretty white and black cows you see on a Chick-fil-A advertisement, but the real-like brown ones covered in dirt, sweat, and flys (not unlike the average pilgrim). We had seen cows before, but what made this instance different was the lack of a human shepherd. Instead there where two large German Shepherds herding the 'pile' of cows. It was quite possibly one of the oddest things I have ever seen in my short life!
The dogs split the cows into two groups, with each dog controlling their own group of 20 or so. It was quite clear that the dogs where the brains of the operation, because the cows would walk in a straight line until the group ran into a fork in the road. Then they would stand there like an eighteen year old on his first day of boot camp, waiting for the dogs to come and show them the way. At one point a larger cow tried to pass a smaller one only to result in the two having a small fight. I was starting to worry about my safety do to my proximity to the beasts. Out of nowhere, one of the German Shepard’s ran up to the cows (both of whom where twice the dogs size and certainly three times his weight) and began to give them a death stare. The dog did not even need to open its mouth and bark. The cows seemed to know what the dog was thinking, and they "removed themselves from the situation," as my mother would say. After a while the dogs led their cows down a thin trail just off the Camino. The hour of the cows and dogs, was one of the oddest experiences of my life.
When one thinks of Spain, it’s usually a whole object. There’s a landmass we see on a map or globe, and we assume that it’s Spain. We can do the same to the United States, but what we know as residents of this country is that each State has it’s own culture, agenda, and differences in legal system. It wasn’t too long ago Texas wanted it’s freedom to separate. Parts of California tried to announce independence. Until very recently, same sex marriage was splitting up the country. Like our U.S., Spain is divided as well.
The parts we traveled through were Catalonia, Castile, and Galicia. Each one has it’s own culture and social constructs. Catalonia wants to be recognized by the powers of Spain as a region. It’s Catalan language is mixed with French. Right beneath the surface, there is talk of the area wanting to be independent.
While in León, a part of Castile, I saw graffiti that read “Espanol = Castile.” What I found out by a few locals is that Castile considers itself the center of Spain and the true Spain. I wasn’t able to collect enough stories and local statements to know if this is fact, but nonetheless it means some people believe it. The uncertainty is if it’s an agreement regionally.
Catalonia definitely had French influences. I saw influences of León in the traditional architecture from early period Florida such as Saint Augustine. Galicia, the last region to be visited, has a Celtic background. The accent is different, and the Spaniards there relate to Celtic backgrounds. On the coast is Finisterre. There is a shrine on the cliffs to burn a belonging. Celtic music plays from a nearby kiosk. The region sees that is so unique, and there are parties of people who want to see independence from the main mass of Spain. The Galiza Nova are a youth movement against a suppressive form of capitalism. While in Santiago, I witnessed parades around the town of youths rebelling against current social-political powers. I do not have the knowledge to properly ascertain the situation in its entirety, but the signs of change rest in the actions and words of people.
While traveling, I suggest learning about the places you’re going. Being caught unaware might be a case for disaster. It’s easy enough to look at pretty pictures and masses of land on maps and not think about the cultural elements of a place. The United States isn’t just one homogenous region, neither is Spain, and neither are any other places.