O Pedrouzo

Oh how the road was long from Melide to O Pedrouzo, but it was quite a lovely one. While beginning in the dark was rather disorienting, the experience led to one of the most beautiful landscapes we encountered along the Camino. As we began to be able to see with morning’s first light, the fog from Galicia’s humid air left a eerily beautiful aura to everything we saw. Although the trek did not have much altitude, the walk was about 25 miles, which can take a toll for sure. It is recommended that even the most active should take regular breaks to prevent overuse injuries the next day, especially considering this is the day before one would be walking into Santiago.

Because of its length, the walk to O Pedrouzo gave us ample time to ponder the topics that we discussed the evening before. As our time on the pilgrimage drew to a close, Owen challenged us to think about how our own pilgrimage fit into the vast array network of global pilgrimages.

When we talked about Pilgrimage around the world, we recognized that the Camino has two different experiential shocks to our system. the first is a culture shock of being in another country with all its differences. The second is a lifestyle shock due to the fact that walking the Camino is a lifestyle that none of us is really that used to. Beyond that, we talked about different pilgrimages around the world and how they are similar or different. the one mentioned were the Camino of course, the Hajj to Mecca, and a buddhist Pilgrimage call the Shikoku pilgrimage in Japan. From there we considered what are some possible pilgrimages that we can see in the United States. Some mentioned were backpacking trails like the Appalachian trail, religious routes like a route that mormons take to commemorate the beginnings of Mormonism, and, most comically, Disneyland, which for some conjures up enthusiasm and commitment similar to religious fervor.

I13521854_10204840036439317_292669504313480556_nn order to complete any of these pilgrimages, preparation is key. We found this to be particularly true for this, the longest walk. Many of us left far before the sun was up, in some cases as early as 5:00 or 5:30. At that hour of the morning, flashlights become a hot commodity, so it is important to either come prepared or, in many of our cases, make sure to befriend people who seem responsible enough to be prepared.

On walks this long, it is also important to take lots of breaks. Breakfast breaks, coffee breaks, lunch breaks, stretch breaks, and second lunch breaks are all completely acceptable forms of rest and much needed relaxation. It is essential not to be afraid of stopping when your body needs it. Be aware that the beginning of the walk has a few places to stop, but there is a long stretch where there is very little. Make sure to stock up on snacks and water when possible.

By this point of the Camino, we were all a little tired of tortilla. A lot of us tried to branch out whenever possible (contrary to popular opinion, some of us thought trying the pig’s ear was an adventure and not to be missed). Lots of places like Melide provided a great opportunity to try assortments of food we had never encountered before. The seafood in all of Galicia is world renowned, and can give any pilgrim’s palate a welcome respite from the ever present pork of the Camino.

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The presence of pork products like ham and lomo (loin) is no accident. Historical anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim sentiments have contributed to the prevalence of pork products in Spain. Pork was used as a way to reassert a “Christian identity” after the Moors left Spain, and was used by the Inquisition to root out Jews in hiding. While pilgrims should enjoy traditional Spanish foods like lomo and croquetas, awareness of the historical background of these staples can help peregrinos understand the ways in which seemingly benign aspects of the Camino are subtly political in nature.

  • By Owen and Mary

 

 

Rabanal del Camino

For this walk, the Fordham pelegrinos trekked from the urban sprawl of Astorga to a sleepy little Maragoto village named Rabanal del Camino. The walk itself had its challenges, given that the first few kilometers were spent exiting the outskirts of Astorga via rocky pathways alongside the highway. Once this section of the Camino was completed, however, we found ourselves in a charming little town where most students stopped to grab a pincho de tortilla, refill their water bottles, and prepare themselves–and their mochilas–for the impending rainfall. Luckily for us, the rain didn’t appear until the very last few kilometers, after students had already had the opportunity to take in some truly breathtaking patches of land, drink cervezas at the now infamous “cowboy” bar, and chat with a Camino-pro-turned-falconer on the side of the trail.

Horses

Given Rabanal’s small size, we knew that this isolated village would be very limited, especially in comparison to Astorga’s urban amenities. Camino traffic, after all, is one of the core lifelines of this dusty little town. We were all thrilled to see, therefore, that our albergue for the night–el Albergue Nuestra Señora del Pilar–came equipped with a fully stocked restaurant and bar, decent showers, and some of the most charming social spaces we have yet to see on the Camino. In fact, Nuestra Señora del Pilar’s open concept and canopy layout made the entire establishment feel like a hidden treehouse, tucked safely away from the weary Camino trail. After a night of laughs, vino tintos, and good food, Nuestra Señora del Pilar became a fan favorite among Fordham’s peregrinos.

Before our nightly festivities could begin, however, we made our way to la Iglesia de Santa María de la Asunción, a Romanesque church that is presently operated by the Benedictine monks of San Salvador del Monte Irago. These German monks restored the church in 2001, after the Benedictines of St. Ottilien saw an opportunity to create a transient spiritual community out of the incoming/outgoing foot traffic. The monks also maintain a small albergue across the street from the church, where pilgrims can stay for a period of 3-10 days and pray alongside the monks. It’s a truly spectacular group of monks, one that certainly gives back to its surrounding community in spades. It came as a great surprise to us, then, that these monks were banished from the town in August of 2001 by a mob of local townspeople, after the Benedictines had requested and subsequently received a loan of one million euros from Castilla-León to restore their church. This recent event proved to be an interesting point of discussion for us, as it demonstrates the oftentimes vexing relationship that peregrinos share with the communities that house them. On the one hand, villages like Rabanal undoubtedly depend on Camino travelers to survive; that does not mean, however, that these poor communities do not have needs of their own that could be foreseeable remedied by loans from their parent regions.

In this way, the events at San Salvador del Monte Irago provides a lens through which we can better understand the Camino in a more contemporary, engaging sense. It’s certainly important to understand the historic importance of the pilgrimage; but it is critical that we understand the Camino as it exists in its modern landscape — a landscape that is certainly marked by its rich history, but also occasionally by frustration and contention.

-Katherine Burks