Comida de what?

What is all this Camino business? What the heck is he talking about? It has something to do with Spain, right?

Well, it doesn’t just have something to do with it – the Camino pretty much made Spain what it is today. The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage that has been around since the medieval ages, and countless millions have walked its hallowed roads over the centuries. Santiago, the Spanish name for Saint James the Greater, was one of the twelve Apostles, and preached mostly in Iberia, what is today Spain. His body was discovered in 813 A.D. by the hermit Pelayo in a vision of stars shining over a field. The spot came to be known as campus stellae, Latin for “field of stars.” Today it has become Compostela, home to the Santiago Cathedral and remains of Saint James.

Pilgrims began traveling to Compostela as soon as the apostle’s remains were discovered. By 1000 A.D. the pilgrimage had swelled to magnificant portions, with wanderers coming from all parts of Europe. It became the third most important pilgrimage in the Christian world, right behind Rome and Jerusalem. It served as the uniting cause during the Reconquest of Spain, and it lies deep within the roots of Spanish tradition.

In time, the pilgrimage died out, leaving only the barren crosses which once marked the way along the meseta. Recently, it has been revived, and thousands more are added to its numbers each year. More pilgrim hostels are opened every day as pilgrims hit the road. Some start at the traditional monastery of Roncesvalles, nestled in the Pyrenees between Spain in France. Others do only the last 100 km, while others begin as far away as Le Puy, France. Still others begins as far away as Belgium, and spend months on the trail.

My group will be starting at Roncesvalles, and walking the traditional route known as the Camino Francés to Santiago. It will take about a month to complete, and the whole while we will have nothing more than the clothes on our back and one small pack. It is no vacation, but it’s the experience of a lifetime.