Thursday, 31 July 2014

El Camino de Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela

Over the last weeks I visited Santiago de Compostela for its university. My study Spanish this year included one residential week at this prestigious university, which is known to be one of the best of Spain with over five centuries of history. I imagine it attracted philosophers, searchers and thinkers amongst the peregrinos, the pilgrims on their Camino. Santiago became a ‘highway of knowledge’ a diffuser of the great cultural and artistic movements that emerged in Europe some centuries ago.
Imagine, until the ninth century, this town was all forest, named Libredón. In its middle was a Roman Sepulchre and there, in the ruins of its primitive burial, it is said the remains of one of Jesus’ apostles, Santiago, were discovered. The today majestic Santiago de Compostela Cathedral was build on top of it and the town became one of Europe’s most popular places of Christian pilgrimage.

Not for Christian reasons, but for my own personal and spiritual quest, I walked my one-day stage of the Camino. From Santiago de Compostela through the old oak groves towards Finis terrae ‘the end of the world’, on the Fisterra-Muxía Way. The weather was hot, the landscape mountainous and my untrained body struggled with diarrhoea. 

But it was great! It was quiet on the Camino with twenty-two whole kilometres to contemplate. Then, when I thought I was lost, I met a wonderful woman and helper, as happens on the Camino.

During the sleepless night afterwards I was reminded of another Spanish route I had taken some years ago. With the sweet memories of the relationship that followed, the poem below came up. Just before my travel I read about Cheryl Strayed’s thousand miles hike, and I agree with her when she writes in her book ‘Wild’ “There ‘s no way to know what makes one thing happen and not another. What leads to what. What causes what to flourish or take another course….”

I still see her
walking towards me
in the old olive grove
Ripe and juicy like the new green harvest and
mysterious as the wild trees themselves in their
being, coming from another realm
It was somewhere down south

I saw her again
This time she came from the north
walking towards Fisterra (fini-tierra) like I did
A peregrina
Each step of her 800 kilometres carried by her maternal guru
we shared a part of the camino
sparkles on the path of our lives
reaching these green valleys of paradise
‘¡Buena suerte con tu vida!’

(Lots of luck in your life!)
Photos and text: © Adriana Sjan Bijman, 2014

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