What is the first thing that pops in to your mind when you hear „Santiago de Compostela“? This smallish city in the North-West of Spain, is the final destination of thousands of pilgrims every year. They walk the Camino de Santiago, the world’s most famous hike.
We, Anna&Matt from Hostelgeeks, went to Santiago de Compostela, and beforehand we were not really sure what to expect. But we knew many pilgrims will arrive at „kilometer zero“, the spot right in front of the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. The place where people from around the world will come together, to celebrate their victory with the new friends they found along the trail.
Update: New Movie about Camino de Santiago
STRANGERS ON THE EARTH, a new documentary film about the Camino de Santiago, opens May 4 in New York and June 1 in Los Angeles (select cities to follow).
This “deeply moving” (NOW Magazine) and “marvelous” (Globe and Mail) documentary film about Europe’s most popular pilgrimage, el Camino de Santiago, debuts in the US after storming across the international festival circuit to much acclaim. A tapestry of pilgrim narratives, STRANGERS ON THE EARTH examines the inner life of the myriad intrepid wayfarers who walk the ancient path in search of meaning, notably including Cleveland Orchestra cellist Dane Johansen, who ventured to walk the 600-mile path with his instrument on his back, performing Bach for his fellow travelers along the way.
We sat down at the „Plaza del Obradoiro“, watched and listened.
It is the end of October, and the weather is getting cooler.
This time of the year „only“ hundreds of Pilgrims arrive every single day to visit the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. It is very emotional! As we are talking with many hikers, it turns out it is not necessarily emotion brought on by religious beliefs.
Many of them teared up a little because they had succeeded in finishing a long, painful but joyful journey.
We talked to some of the pilgrims, and what we heard is inspiring and impressive.
Here we are keen to share with you three Short Travel Stories by Pilgrims from Santiago de Compostela and the Way of St. James.
Walking the Camino for the 3rd time – Alex from Montreal, Canada
3! That is the number of times Alex has done the Camino. „Every time the path is the same, but the experience is different.“
Back in 2001 and 2009, he walked the path with a friend during summer.
This time in 2015 it has been different. Alex was not satisfied with his job in Montreal, Canada, so he quit. He needed time to slow down and to think, and before long the camino started to call.
Alex decided to go by his own, and instead of summer, it became autumn.
„When you walk, sometimes you do think a lot and sometimes you don’t think at all. Which is also a relief.“ – Alex
„What is the difference between the other two times and now?“
„Technology! Back in 2001 internet access was very limited and every now and then you could find a computer with slow access. Nowadays it can happen that someone walking next to you calls the office giving instructions.
Also, now it is way more popular.
This time I tried to sleep in smaller towns outside the bigger towns on the trail. This way I had more time for myself. Sure there were days I joined the groups in the bigger cities, as human contact is also part of the journey.“
Changing a young life – Joao from Portugal and Holger from Germany
In front of the famous Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela we met Holger, a social pedagogue from Osnabrück in Germany.
Holger works with teenagers in the need of help due to family issues or general problems teenagers have nowadays.
The most common problem: not finding their way and place in society.
Instead of talking theory, Holger decided to take the next step. He started the initiative to walk the St. James’s Path with his teenagers. It is the perfect metaphor, and as it turns out a great way to teach teenagers valuable lessons in life.
“You have to undertake the journey on your own, nobody will walk the way for you, but many people along the way will be there to help you! You have to take different steps, face several challenges, and walk towards one big goal: Santiago de Compostela.”
One of the teenagers from Holger is Joao, 18 years old with a Portuguese heritage, speaking perfect German.
He and Holger started the Way of St. James together in Pamplona.
They hiked side-by-side for 7 days until Holger had to take a flight back to Germany, so Joao continued his journey by himself. Three weeks later Holger and two more of his teenagers took a flight back to Spain.
They walked the last part of the Camino de Santiago, and met Joao on the path.
775km later Joao stands with his certificate in front of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, clearly proud and happy.
Holger tells us the story of Joao’s biggest challenge along St. James’s Path.
The day before he had to walk up a mountain with a height of 1500 meters, he came down with a serious fever.
He was feeling weak and tired but kept on walking instead of resting.
He climbed up the mountain and prayed. A fellow hiker passed by and as Joao did not look too well, he gave him some colorful pills. Joao took those pills, and feeling better he continued his hike – but not for long.
Luckily a German bus tour came his way and helped him.
They would be happy to take Joao with them in exchange for a favour: if he would talk to the bus about his experience on the Camino de Santiago.
He took the microphone, stood up in front of a big group of strangers, and started talking about his biggest adventure of his very young life.
We asked Joao about his next plan.
He wants to do Work&Travel around Australia and maybe New Zealand.
We didn’t know Joao before, but the confidence he gained from walking the Santiago de Compostela spoke through him.
Finishing High School, and then Walk – Ireland and the Netherlands
Sitting in front of the cathedral, and enjoying the sun and view to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
We talked to these two girls from Ireland and the Netherlands who have just finished the Route of Santiago de Compostela.
„We met on the Camino de Santiago.
When walking you keep meeting people along the trail, and the last steps before arriving to Santiago de Compostela we went side-by-side. Now that we have arrived, I feel both very happy and sad at the same time.“
„Would you walk again?“
„For sure, but maybe not now. Maybe at the age of 50. It would be the most amazing thing if we could walk again with all the people we met this time.“
„Why did you walk the Camino de Santiago? Are you religious?“
„More spiritual. I just finished High School in Ireland and I wanted to travel.
The trail is very safe for a woman traveling alone. All my friends are already working, or not up for this adventure. So I thought, why not go on my own?!“
„Same goes for me! I started with a friend who is currently in the Hostel. We finished High School in the Netherlands, and we wanted to travel before starting university.“
Summary Short Travel Stories from Santiago de Compostela:
The Plaza del Obradoiro is a very emotional spot for people around the world. You will see people crying loud, crying silently, feeling sad and happy at the same time, hugging, laughing.
Every single pilgrim has its very own story, background, motivation, but they all have something now in common: they are all unique, and have found new friends whilst walking the most famous path in the world!