My way to Santiago

Babel's own Aleksandra, also known as Ola went on a very impressive and peculiar trip some time ago. You probably already heard about it in our last show, but here's her story...

Santiago de Compostela is an old city in the north of Spain, Galicia. So- what makes it so special? Well, nowadays it is a place full of students, tourists, souvenirs shops but also… Real Pilgrims, coming from all over the World, with their sticks and big backpacks, even taking months of walking there by foot...!

For more than thousand years, Pilgrims from all over the Europe used to make their pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. During medieval times, it was the third most popular destination to go, after Rome and Jerusalem. This tradition had started when, according to the legend, the remains of St. James were discovered close to Santiago. Traditionally, the way to Santiago de Compostela (also known as the Way of St. James) should begin at your home and end at the sanctuary. Well, people really used to do it this way. But when the medieval times had passed, less and less people decided to follow in the pilgrims's footsteps...

The way was re-discovered in the 1980s - as a great tourist attraction, the first official European Cultural Way and a World Heritage Site of UNESCO. Today, you have the main ways, mainly through Spain but also other countries, where your trip would be fully covered with a lot of signs, showing you the proper way and usually also telling you the remaining distance. You have very cheap hostels to sleep- ‘albergues’, which are available only for pilgrims travelling by foot. For your trip's preparation, but also in case you're just curious you can find a lot of information on the internet (if you consider “Caminho de portugues”, I recommend this website) If you will do a few days on the Way by foot, in Santiago pay a visit to the Office nearby the cathedral- you will get a special certificate.
Now you can tell your friends, what a special thing you've accomplished!

I did 109 km on the Way of Portugal (Caminho Português) during the first four days of November, in the rain, without any preparation, in my sneakers (which are for sure not the best shoes, NEVER repeat my silly mistake and take your trekking boots!). However, in fact I DID IT, so I am really proud of myself and my 5 Polish friends. Yes, we were 6 girls there, walking faster than some men we met on our way (because we walked in 4 days the way which you are supposed to do in 5 days).

Walking there I wondered: why do people still do it? Well, on my way I met people guided there by various motivations. Most do it because of religious reasons of course, but also ‘to clean their mind’, to be alone, ‘to find themselves’, to see the views and interesting historical site, to do it as a kind of sport… As I have heard, it is becoming more and more popular. We did it during the “long weekend” and the first day, we had to sleep in a private hostel, because all the 60 places in the ‘albergue’ were already taken. Anyway, it was a really great adventure, worth the effort, I would recommend it to everyone. 
And imagine- you will never know people better and get a closer relation than by experiencing such an adventure, all the time together. Of course that kind of trip is full of challenges - walking during the night, losing your way etc…

From Coimbra it is really easy to do the Caminho. As I know, the easiest way is to take a bus to Valença, which is a Portuguese city on the Spanish border. Starting from there, you just cross the river and you are in Tui, on the Caminho Português. Don't forget to pass by the pharmacy and buy some band aids, bandage and all the stuff to help you with your hurting feet. You should take also a sleeping bag and a torch, it may occur that you will need to walk after sunset... And do not forget to send us pictures afterwards, so we can congratulate!

by Ola

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