SPAIN: Camino de Santiago de Compostela, Part 2, Guest Post by Gretchen Woelfle

Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Two cyclists and one weary pilgrim
My friend and fellow children's book writer, Gretchen Woelfle (above on the left), is an avid and accomplished cyclist. Here is the conclusion to her report of her trip she made with a group of other cyclists along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. 

Walking through the woods
The Camino sometimes parallels main roads and quiet roads, other times veers off into the woods or hills. One morning a few of us chose to walk 12 km up through the woods, rather than cycle the steep road.  Walking offers a more meditative pace than cycling for those who travel the Camino with a personal or spiritual goal. One young Australian had quit his career and was hiking the five hundred miles to figure out his future.  When we met him he had been walking for three weeks, with one week to go. He hadn’t found the answer yet.
Baroque interior of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compstela
Finally we reached Santiago, a city filled with pilgrims, tourists, and university students. No one does Baroque like the Spanish and the Cathedral, home of the famous bones, is an exuberant example. 

Gretchen's Camino passport, stamped along the way
Then it was time to redeem our reward. Our group of fourteen enthusiastically embraced the tradition of Camino passports. At every cafĂ©, hotel, chapel, and cathedral we visited, we rushed to get a stamp to prove our legitimacy as pilgrims. In Santiago we showed out passports and got a personalized certificate – in Latin!

Two routes out of town
My friend, Alice Burston, and I spent two more days in the city. We traveled (by bus) to Finisterre, where the Camino meets the Atlantic. We visited three wonderful museums in Santiago – ethnography, contemporary art, and a history of pilgrimage. In the latter, we saw images of James and his pilgrims through the centuries. (James morphed from a pilgrim to a Crusader warrior as the centuries passed.) 


Statue of 17th Century pilgrim
One sculpture struck my fancy: a German pilgrim adorned with 17th century bling – golden scallops adorning hand, hat, and cape.  Today’s 21st century cyclists in lycra and hikers with ergonomic backpacks sport different gear, but continue the ancient tradition. ¡Buen Camino!

For more information on the history and geography of the Camino de Santiago, see http://santiago-compostela.net
I booked my cycling trip with Exodus Travel: https://www.exodustravels.com/usa


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