Hola from España, Amigos. I’m finding out just how much I love the Camino and why! The spiritual and calm walking compared to being a traveler in crowded big cities is a reason I continue returning to the Way.
But, the earlier arrival gives me time to vanquish jet lag, meet people on and off the Way, and continue searching for past lives. Not just mine, but ours.
My nonstop flight NYC to Madrid arrived early and allowed an easy connection to Estación de Tren, Chamartín and on to Salamanca.
Pilgrim Conversations Before my flight took off I met Tom, a peregrino from Ohio, about my age and an experienced Appalachian Trail hiker traveling for his first Camino, giving himself until end of October to finish, SJPdP to Santiago. He said he had his boots and sleeping bag in his backpack, which was the lightest pack I’ve picked up. My guess is 7 pounds! Then I met two sisters, Robin and Cathy, also from the states, who had one week to hike, planning to walk from Sarria to Santiago.
On the train to Salamanca I sat next to a Venezuelan woman who was traveling with her mother and sister and had quite a story to tell. She has lived in UK for many years, now in Madrid, but we discussed the tragic economic conditions in Venezuela and problems in the US. She warned of signs of government crisis in Spain. At what stage do citizens and politicians really pay attention? No escape from the political world that connects us all.
On and off the trail, share the life of pilgrims, travelers, immigrants and refugees; walking towards something that might fulfill our yearning. Spirituality, family, love, safety, community, a better life. . .
All this, flying, meeting new friends, landing, walking in long lines for immigration control, finding trains and stations and ending up in the historical and architecturally stunning University city of Salamanca, Spain.
In a day, we crossed time zones and nine hours difference. Experts claim we need one day to recover from each time zone crossed. I’m almost there.
In Salamanca I was greeted by the sounds of the last days of the two week annual festival of Saints. The next day was another celebration.
Here it is from the Magna Charta website: “The Magna Charta Universitatum will celebrate its 30th Anniversary in Salamanca, Spain, at the occasion of the celebrations of the 800th Anniversary of the University of Salamanca on 17 and 18 September 2018. Both events will be a great opportunity to show that Universities still play a major role in the development of our society. Save the date!”
Dignitaries included doctorates and professors from around the world and alumni and students. And. . . I heard the King and Queen of Spain were also there. What a gathering in the magnificent Plaza Mayor.
The bells toll 13:45, visitors step closer to the stage, take pictures, wait; move in front of my first row table where I drink a cold zumo naranja and snack on the accompanying chips. The buzz is a voiceover of excitement and reverence.
Pilgrims, check your calendars to either see or miss the celebrations and festivals.
A never ending parade of students, visitors and residents, the music of many languages and the sounds of music and footsteps, tapas shared, glasses filled, the great mix of humanity in this square. And the beggar by the gate, the history of the rise and fall and rising again of the Tri- Cultural Intersection of Muslims, Christians and Jews, how religious belief fuels war and peace, the remains of inquisition and coexistence. Here it is!
Signs of the Camino
And again, the reminder why I’m here: walking into Salamanca on the Camino de la Plata and the merging of other Caminos, (Notice the A on the Camino arrow at top of page) are pilgrims. I think I know the difference between tourists or pilgrims only if they are wearing their backpacks or walking a bit slow in sandals. So far today, I met Fred from Los Angeles, who started in Seville and is on his way to Santiago. He confirmed the advice to carry adequate food and especially water, as the stages are long and the services fewer and farther between in the VDLP than the Francés. A pilgrim couple from Montreal waved from afar.
Below is the Casa de Las Conchas.
El Puente Romano one of the Ways pilgrims walk into Salamanca
The next stage of the Camino Via de La Plata in Salamanca is one of the longest of the 1,000 km journey. Tommy from UK walked in with his Italian amigo. They have walked on and off together for much of their Camino. He said neither can speak each other’s language, yet they communicate.
The Camino, Architecture, History, Life Today
Its time to take a break for some whimsy. With all the serious work of the University, spending time to learn about some legends and stories of the art and architecture of so many buildings that make them unique is a worthwhile endeavor. Some are serious and fun!
Snopes gives a hint on how this astronaut appeared on this ancient wall of the newer cathedral. Our guide explained the educational value of this humor. Hint: Copernicus. Check out the imp with the ice cream cone on the right side.
If you’re still intrigued, read about how to find a frog on the Cathedral wall, too.
I’ve also met a few other peregrinos, tourists, residents, students and listened to many languages and discussed so many topics- what we have in common and unique at the same time. Another reason I walk and why I spend more time learning about the people who live here and who visit. And those who climbed almost 200 steps with me to the Stairway to Heaven, The Towers of The Scala Coeli, and shared spectacular views with other hardy visitors who walked to the top.
I met Sha and Om from Israel, who assured me that it’s safe to travel in their country and invited me to contact them if I visit. A long conversation and I continue to understand that people from all over the world hold a variety of progressive, liberal and/or conservative, beliefs and understandings, a mix of life experiences and conditions.
Once I was afraid of heights. So much in life changes.
What celebrations I have discovered in España. In the beginning I wanted to escape the noise and crowds, but now two days later and enough sleep, I’m thrilled I stayed.
That’s the Camino way: when the road is tough, you might tell yourself what my grandma told me, “this too shall pass and mañana will be better.” (She didn’t say mañana). Your day after day experience helps you know there are ups and downs in this long, long walk.
It’s Your Camino. You are (mostly) in charge.
Before the train to Vigo and Porto, I spent two days again in Segovia. See my July 2018 post for more. A HIGHlight this visit was the climb, 165 (plus) steps to the top of the Cathedral. My third guided tour in Español this week. ¡Bueno! There’s no test. Here’s the picture story. Really, it’s not a duplicate of Salamanca, which is so close. Studying the art and architecture on the Camino could be your PhD.
Working my way closer to the Camino Portugues. . .
Question of the day: what does the A on the Camino arrow represent?
Buen Camino, amigos. See you soon on the Camino