The Camino de Santiago is a centuries old pilgrimage in the tradition of the Catholic Church. Today people walk it for a variety of reasons and in many, if not most, cases those reasons may not be religious. Through repeated encounters on the trail and in the streets, restaurants and bars in towns, one achieves a quick acquaintance with a variety of people. Who are they and why are they here?
Tonight we are comfortably housed in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, a charming town of 6,600. It has its share of accommodation for pilgrims, some of it dating back to the 11th century. The Cistercian nuns run a crowded albergue with a shaded terrace and garden but we noticed in our guide book that just around the corner they also operate a modern hostel and that is where we booked into a private room.
In these past days we have walked through vineyards and then into more open farm country where we have seen brown stubble fields and stacks of hay bales reminiscent of rural Western Canada. The skies, too, remind one of the Canadian prairies, with long vistas and grey cumulus clouds floating in the dazzling blue. Yesterday, we came across a shepherd and his dog herding perhaps 100 sheep through a stubble field and across the gravel trail just in front of us. Continue reading Canadians on the Camino, Day 7: Marian devotion and Sister Adoración
Tonight we are in a tiny village called Ages located four days of walking and about 100 kilometres beyond Logrono. Yesterday we passed from Spain’s smallest autonomous region, La Rioja, into its largest Castilla y Leon and we stayed in Belorado, population 2000.
Belorado sits at less than 800 metres but today we ascend to 1100 metres within about 15 kilometres of leaving the town. The path here has the feel of being in deep isolation although in reality one is never far from the N-120 highway. In our 28 kilometres of walking today we come upon few villages and none containing more than 200 people. The mountains are covered by scrubby oak and pine trees and the road, which appears to be in the process of being widened here is a bed of dry reddish soil and the dust covers our shoes and legs. Continue reading Canadians on the Camino, Day 9: Franco’s shadow
Tonight we are in Burgos, population 150,000 and we have decided take a rest day after 10 days and more than 200 kilometres on the trail. We have about 500 kilometres remaining to reach Santiago de Compostela.
We left the tiny and run down village of Ages early and in the dark this morning. Our first stop was at a small café bar where a woman behind the counter is busily taking orders for pastries and coffee, calling out the orders to a man named Antonio who operates the coffee makers. She has flair, addressing almost every client in the queue as “mi amor”. When I ask if I can take her photo, she gives me a lovely smile and thumbs up. Continue reading Canadians on the Camino, Day 10: Long walk into Burgos
After the tranquility of the countryside, our guidebook warns about the hustle and bustle in Burgos (population 180,000), not to mention the possibility of being overcharged or becoming the victims of theft. Actually, we are pleased to be in a city for a day or two where we walk less than on other days and rest more.
We spend most of our time in or around the Catedral de Santa Maria and nearby the Plaza Mayor. We watch people of all ages and families of various sizes taking their weekend promenade on a tree-canopied pedestrian street along the Rio Arlanzon. It lies just beyond the cathedral and through Arco de Santa Maria, a sturdy arch that served as the ancient gateway to the city. How comforting to see people enjoying themselves in that way. Continue reading Canadians on the Camino, Day 11: El Cid and the Moors
We leave Burgos early this morning and before long we are on the meseta, the large central upland plateau that covers much of the Iberian Peninsula. The meseta is in some ways similar to the high rolling prairie in the Swift Current or Maple Creek area of southern Saskatchewan. Continue reading Canadians on the Camino, Day 12: Walking the meseta
I have on this trip encountered two lovely women named Pilar. The name is a common and traditional one in Spain. There is even a Day of Pilar to celebrate an occasion back in 40 AD when the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to the apostle St. James (Santiago) when he was near Zaragoza in what was the Roman province of Spain. Here is my brief story of two contemporary Pilars. Continue reading Canadians on the Camino, Day 13: Two women named Pilar
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) has released a summary of its final report into the history and legacy of Indian residential schools. The first paragraph in the Introduction describes Canada’s entire Aboriginal policy and its implementation as “cultural genocide.”
The TRC defines that term as “the destruction of those structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group.” This includes seizing lands, the forcible relocation of populations, restrictions upon movement, banning languages and spiritual practices, disrupting families and the removal of children.
This is strong language but Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and former Prime Minister Paul Martin have both used the same term in recent months. Continue reading Canadian churches challenged by Truth and Reconciliation Commission