Throughout the world, we see people who are obviously prepared for walking a very long distance. But unless we stop to visit with them, we rarely know if they are just starting out; if they are somewhere in the middle of their trek; or if they've arrived at their destination.
Did you ever wonder if there was something special they were walking toward? Or was the experience of the walk itself the goal? Or both.
In the case of the three subjects of my first photo, it appears the answer IS both. They were pilgrims. Pilgrims on one of the most famous walks in all of Christendom - The Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Or in English, The Way of St. James. The Camino is the largest network of ancient pilgrim routes in Europe. It is made up of more than ten routes which all merge into the three main routes: The Camino Ingles, the Camino Frances, and the Camino Portugues. Depending on which pilgrimage route these three had chosen, they may have been WALKING many more than 500 miles.
This plaza was their final goal.
It is a huge square in front of the cathedral housing the tomb of St. James, a powerful draw for a pilgrim. It is, after all, the only known tomb for any of Christ's disciples. Standing in front of the golden cask said to hold his bones, brings you to within one degree of separation from Christ himself.
The exhausted pilgrims flop down in the middle of the plaza to rest, many of them spread eagle on their backs as the look up at this amazing facade.
After returning from our holiday in Galicia, northwestern Spain, where Santiago de Compostela is located, I began reading everything I could find about the Camino. One of my favorite books about walking the Camino is Jane Christmas' delightful self-deprecating first-person account of her own journey: