Camino de Santiago
I have walked the Camino de Santiago this summer. Starting in France in the little village of Saint Jean Pied de Port I walked the 800km pelgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in the North West of Spain.
Walking the Camino was one of the greatest things I have ever done. Of course you will encounter the physical part with fatigue and blisters. On the other end if you are open to receive you can get so much out of the Camino. The comradeship amongst the pelgrims, the numerous donativos of the local Spanish people, the cultural heritage which is everywhere, the feeling of fitness and peace.
I started in the worst weather since many many years and on the wrong site of the Pyrenees. The first stage was 20km up and then 12km down. I have seen the bull running in Pamplona during the San Fermin festivities, I saw the last of the festivities in Santiago the Compostela after the 25th of July. Walking through the Rioja was great. I have seen some of most beautiful landscapes here I have ever seen. The little towns you encounter are wonderful, villages like Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Belorado to name a few. The towns of Burgos and Leon are great. I would have love to stopped here for a day but I didn't had enough time. A great point in the camino is the Cruz del Ferro, the idea is that you take a stone with you from home and this stone represents your troubles. Pelgrims leave this stone - and their troubles - at the Cruz del Ferro. The moments you spend on the Cruz del Ferro are moments that you will never forget.
During the Camino you can sleep in Albergues or Refugio's. Upon showing your Credencial (a card that should be stamped so you will receive your Compostela in Santiago) will give you access. Most of these have bunk beds and shared rooms from 4 till about 30 people. Some are quite old some are brand new. Some even have a swimming pool. Prices range from Donativo (you are welcome to give something) to about 10 euro for the night. Most Albergues don't do breakfast or dinner, so you will have to look for a bar after having started to have some breakfast. On some days I have walked 15km before I had breakfast. This also had to do with a very early daily start. In order to prevent walking in the heat of the afternoon, I left the Albergues not later then 06.00. Dinner is provided in restaurants in every village, mostly you will have to pay about 10 euro for a 3 course Menu del Dia with a bottle of local wine/water included.
After a days walk (mostly about 30km) and after arriving in an Albergue you will start with washing and drying your clothes, take a shower, take care of your feet, rest a bit, update a blog, do some shopping for breakfast and have some fruit for the next day and have a little stroll and sightseeing around the town.
Life was simple along the Camino. All you have with you is your backpack and your clothes. I have never made a reservation so it was always the question where you would sleep. On the Internet you can find a lot of warnings about the Camino being crowded and changes that Albergues are full. I never had any problem with this. On one occasion only I had an Albergue that was full. Luckely this was in a town and the next Albergues wasn't far away.
I was one of the very few who carried a DSLR camera. Normally you pack as light as possible and a DSLR with two lenses (no tripod) is not as light as possible. My backpack was about 14kg, a general advise is not to exceed 10kg. As a photographer I would normally choose my time of day to make a photo. That was quite something different on the camino. I started very early every day (often in the dark) and you pass these wonderful places at all hours of the day. I didn't stop to wait for better light. So you might find photos with blown out skies or on a high ISO number.
My photos are ordered along the way like the Codex Calixtines. This is the oldest travel guide in the world and describes for pelgrims the Way to Santiago. Please feel free to browse through these folders.