many ways, one goal

From the Bronx, New York City, and all over the country, students and faculty are converging today in León, Castile, Spain, for Fordham’s trek along the Camino de Santiago to the shrine in Santiago de Compostela. We will begin walking in Spain on Thursday, 26 May, but for everyone the pilgrimage has begun already, in hikes along the Hudson and across the Brooklyn Bridge, in occasional classes, and in our individual journeys. Louisa Foroughi and Rachel Podd, our excellent junior colleagues, spent an exhilarating weekend in Burgos and have wandered with me to Leon. Fresh from commencement and receiving her well -earned doctorate from Fordham’s Graduate School of Religion, DOCTOR Alexandria Egler has now arrived as well.

For me, this Camino started nearly a year ago, with the end of our last trip to Spain and the conviction that this course represents a good opportunity for students and faculty alike. I mark the actual beginning, though, neither in New York nor Spain, but in Munich, Germany. Strange as that seems, the Way of St. James (Jakosbsweg) goes through Germany and Munich’s St. James Square (Sankt Jakobs Platz). In that square, the city and the Jewish community of Munich in 2006 dedicated the new synagogue Ohel Jakob (Jakob’s Tent) to replace the temple deliberately destroyed in the Pogrom of November 9, 1938, known to some as “the Night of Broken Glass” (Kristallnacht). As feeble as it might seem after such devastation, the dedication represented an attempt both to remember and somehow to restore the vibrant Jewish community in the city.

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The synagogue stands now in the center of the square and next to the Catholic Church of St. James (Sankt Jakob), also rebuilt after being destroyed by American and British bombs in World War II. The two buildings remind us of our good fortune—our luck–in being able to choose, freely, to walk along the Way. For much of human history, peoples have been forced to wander and migrate—to undertake forced pilgrimages to unknown lands and unwanted fates. Whether of Africans ripped from their homes and shipped across the Atlantic in the seventeenth century, or Jews hauled in train cars to work and death camps in the twentieth, migration and wandering have been a common part of human experience and misery.

The photograph of Ohel Jakob reminds us of that experience. Elsewhere in Munich, there is a statue dedicated to another forced pilgrimage—the prisoners of Dachau, scattered with the camp’s closing in the last days of the war in 1945, found their way together back to a battered and blasted city.

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Today, a new forced migration has brought wave upon wave of unwilling pilgrims to Europe, to Germany, and yes, to Munich, where their final reception, though a credit to the city at least for now, remains uncertain.

hungary-migrants

students marching 2015

For us, meeting in Spain, the burden we FREELY CHOOSE is not merely the packs on our shoulders. It is also the burden of remembering and acknowledging our common experience, in the tenth century as well as in the twenty-first. And my three wonderful colleagues and I hope we will recognize that the true Way is not a gravel road, but compassion, and the goal is not a church of brick and mortar, but charity.

Ich bin dann mal weg—I’m off!

Buen Camino,

David

 

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Spanish Beginnings: Greetings from Burgos

Unlike several other towns that we will pass through on our way to Santiago de Compostela, Burgos is not a town based on Roman foundations, but rather early medieval ones. It was a vital location during the long and bloody process of the Reconquista, during which the Catholic monarchs of Spain slowly pushed the borders of the Muslim-controlled kingdoms southward, culminating in the fall of Granada in the fifteenth century. Today, Burgos is a popular and lovely stop along the way.

Getting There
Burgos is between the major hubs of Logroño and León on the Camino de Santiago. You can also arrive by bus, or via train from Madrid, though the bus station is closer to the center of town. We came variously from Madrid, London, and Munich, and so missed out on the views of the Meseta on the way– the flat plain that stretches towards the mountains of Galicia in the west.

image.jpegThings to See
– Cathedral: The cathedral of Our Lady of Burgos is a wonderful mix of styles– built on the site of a much smaller Romanesque cathedral, the bulk of the current Gothic structure was completed in the 13th century, but has been enlarged and variously improved by each successive generation. Now a UNESCO world heritage site, we were amazed by the perforated star lights in the dome, the elaborate rococo chapels, the gilded reliquaries, and the many surviving medieval wall paintings. For fans of Spanish history, don’t miss the tomb of El Cid! The price of admission also gains you access to the cloister and a small museum.
– St. Nicolas: A Romanesque church, noted for its astonishing early plateresque altarpiece of 1505, which is the full height of the back wall and highlighted in gold leaf, and for its icon of the Virgin Bianca.
– St. Esteban, now the Museo de Retablo: Our second favorite site in Burgos, the Romanesque church of St. Esteban is home to a series of 15th and 16th c retablos… At ground level! You’ve never been able to examine altarpieces like this before. The church itself is a beautifully preserved example of Romanesque architecture, with a very rare surviving stone porch.
– The Castle: For fans of military history and amazing views. The castle is in ruins now, but there is a very nice wall walk, and the views down over the city and cathedral are breathtaking.
– The River/Arch of the Virgin: If you have time, take a walk along the small river that runs through the city, and take a look at the Arch of the Virgin, adorned with important early modern citizens of the city. Keep an eye out for the imposing statue of El Cid!

image.jpegThings to Eat/Drink:

There are many wonderful things you can say about Burgos, but the food is definitely worth an extensive mention. Like most towns along the Camino, there are many coffee shops, tapas bars and restaurants offering variations on the menu del dia. We, however, discovered two locations which are must visits. Both are near the Hotel de Norde y Londre and within walking distance of many other lodging options.

As any visitor to Spain will soon discover, the tapas bar is everywhere, which means it takes a very special place to stand out from the crowd. Donde Alberto is one. The beer and wine offerings are standard, but the tapas are fantastic. We were in Burgos for four days, and came here at least five times. The stack of tuna tartare with diced tomatoes and avocado, the goat cheese and golden raisin toast, and the toast with smoked herring, egg and goat cheese are fabulous, and only two Euro each.

For dinner, any visitor to Burgos will struggle to find better food than the features at Cuchillo de Palo. The interior is upscale, with a bar and tapas options, but the dining room is also lovely, and they didn’t seem to mind that we showed up in our pilgrim gear. Between the three of us, we tried a seared tuna filet with guacamole quenelles and soy sauce, poached Bacalao with pesto, caramelized onions, roasted tomatoes and arugula salad, and duck confit with chestnut purée and parmentier. For the quality, the price is almost criminal, and no visit to Burgos is complete without a meal here!

Today we’re taking a short break in Sahaguna, a small town which was very important during the Middle Ages. Tomorrow we leave for Leon, where we will meet up with our other Fordham Peregrinos.

Buen Camino!
Rachel Podd and Louisa Foroughi

Bienvenidos!

As in past years, Fordham University’s intrepid students are once again undertaking the arduous but exhilarating adventure of Walking the Way–the ancient Camino de Santiago across the north of Spain, 320 kilometers from Leon in Castile to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. A diverse group of 21 students will begin the trek from Leon on May 26, hoping to reach Santiago by June 8.

camino walk 28 februaryIn this blog, peregrinos will trace our path and share both the agonies and the ecstasies of the experience. Along the way, we will also provide a guide for students and others to walk the Camino with confidence while understanding its historical, social, and religious significance.

As one of our leaders, Dr. Alexandria Egler, has reminded us again and again, the Camino begins, not in Spain, but with the first step outside our doors and our comfortable homes.
So this year, we began on February 28 with a 9 mile hike down the West Side of Manhattan along the Hudson, through the High Line, on past the Battery, and finally stopping only when the lure of soup dumplings in Chinatown was too great to resist. We learned the first great lesson of the Camino–food tastes better after a 9 mile walk.

camino walk chinatown