I decided to walk the french Camino de Santiago also known as French Way, one of several routes for pilgrims walking from different starting points in Europe. It's about 800 kilometers long and starts almost at the border of France and Spain in the east, and ends at the west coast of Spain.
The reasons why people start walking this way vary. Beside the original meaning of doing a christianic pilgrimage to the grave of Santiago (James). The persons I've met need a time out from daily life, a break in between major changes in their life or just for practicing or challenging their fitness. And 20 to 30 kilometers per day with inclines and declines is tough, when you are not in good shape. Personally, I was intrigued by walking the way as a meditative act.
On the first of June I flew to Toulouse in France to start in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. After receiving the Credencial also known as “Pilgrim’s passport”, some kind of passport for the Camino for stamps, I slept in an albergue. You can think of an albergue as a hostel for pilgrims, where people are much quieter (tired of walking all day) and mostly much simpler than a hostel. It costs 5 - 12 Euro per night and most of the time there's Wi-Fi, and sometimes a usable kitchen. Especially, in donation-based accommodations cooking and enjoying time together is central.
I was never so tired in my life - in a good sense. Walking most of the day in nature with only the goal of arriving in mind, arrows pointing the way, is a satisfying day to day life. In the evenings before, I prepared my brown-bag lunch and checked the weather as well as the way description.
The path is diverse, paths through forests, along rivers, asphalt street, industry and desert-like surroundings. In a day, you reach several smaller villages with fountains to refill your water reserve or for cooling your feet. On arrival, the todos of taking a shower, doing the laundry manually and having a siesta became a routine. As well as going to bed early and rising early: Waking at 5 and walking at 5.30 am to ensure just to spend a couple of hours in the hot afternoon sun.
I met nice and beautiful people, with two I walked several days. An ideal chance to learn more about other cultures, given the available time and an open hungry mind. And when we reached the end of talking, we sang.
In two weeks we hiked 315 kilometres in total and stopped in Burgos, Spain. Due to soon to be serious health problems of my girlfriend we decided to end this journey together. It's needless to say that I enjoyed the two weeks, which definitely felt longer. And to continue where we left off is an option. I recommend anyone to walk this way who has an initial interest.
Being able to compare big city life with living on the way, I miss the available time and surroundings to enjoy nature. Days are long, and even when there's not much to see, you have the time and the focus to see it in detail. Finishing this article in the cramped subway in Berlin, I remember the wide space, a far horizon, with green hills, small towns, and rivers along the path and in front of me and smile.