Spain: origins of the first cowboys, matadors and the knightly Don Quixote. Also, home of deserts, lush green coastlines and Roman ruins dotting the countryside. It is rich in history, culture, and a fervor of Catholicism that is hard for even the most devout to match. Many have been drawn to it’s passion and procrastinating attitudes over the years. Ernest Hemingway was one and he became transfixed by Spain in 1937 when he agreed to report on the Spanish Civil War for an American newspaper.
“I’ve been in love (truly) with five women, the Spanish Republic, and the 4th Infantry Division.” – Ernest Hemingway
It’s hard to get a better endorsement than that.
I also became entranced with Spain when I first walked down the Pyrenees and crossed the border from France to Spain of last year. Whether you want good coffee, better food, or the cure for hangovers, Spain is the place to be. With it’s wandering minstrels, pilgrims on their way to St. James or a good ol’ running with the bulls you’re looking for; Spain has it, just pick your poison.
Better to show than to tell:
The ruins of a 16th century pilgrim hospital, palace and church tucked away in the woods of Spain. The entrances are cemented over and graffiti covers the walls now, but it must have been a sight to see back in the day.
Farms are just about everywhere you look and the arid, dry soil still makes for successful vineyards, somehow. The grapes, in abundance during the summer, can be found alongside the roads making for a great midday snack.
Spain: Views from Afoot
Sometimes accommodations were simple.
Sometimes I slept outside under the stars.
The thing that I find attracts many to Spain is that behind the feisty passion and fiery attitude is a very relaxing view of life. The Siesta time, which takes place sometime in late afternoon to early evening, is probably one of mankind’s best inventions. Here’s an excerpt from Einhard’s Life of Charlemagne:
“In summer, after his midday meal, he would eat some fruit and take another drink; then he would remove his shoes and undress completely, just as he did at night, and rest for two or three hours.”
Science may also now support that a Siesta is beneficial to health as one study claims that:
“A short sleep after lunch can reduce stress, help cardiovascular functions, and improve alertness and memory, according to a report from the Spanish Society of Primary Care Physicians.” – The Telegraph
Employers take note, please let me drink cerveza and take a midday nap, it will increase my productivity, I promise.
The Siesta also seems to give the Spanish the energy they need to party until the wee hours of dawn. Many times, while walking through small villages strewn across the Camino, it was not uncommon for me to see people with a bottle of cerveza at six in the morning.
Francesco, a Spanish local who was hiking the Camino for the 5th or 6th time. We ended up drinking a little too much and smoking many cigarettes late into the evening. Cool guy.
The History of a Time Gone By
“Fuente Reniega – The fountain of renouncement.
A medieval spring we came across in Spain yesterday. The story goes that a medieval pilgrim reached this spot dying of thirst. The devil, disguised as a pilgrim, offered to show him a spring if he would only renounce God. The pilgrim refused and St. James himself miraculously appeared revealing the spring and quenching his thirst with water from a scallop shell.
The well is often dry now, as it was when we saw it yesterday.” – Quote from my Facebook: September 3rd, 2015.
Many pillars of Catholicism still remain throughout the country as pictured above. Spain is filled with them, including a donetivo I stayed at in the Ruins of San Anton of the 14th Century:
I remember this place distinctively because this day was an extremely hard day to walk. The rain and wind blasting me from every direction and not many people wanting to talk, understandably. In general, a very uncomfortable day as explained by my journal entry on September 15:
“Today was the first miserable day I had. Cold weather and lots of rain. I’m not really sure how far I walked, but I’m thinking something like 20k or so. After walking and being miserable, I found a pilgrim donetivo made out of some old ruins. It was kind of a saving grace as I was pretty much done at this point. It was nice to get out of the rain.”
As I approached the ruins, a woman came out and asked if I’d like to stay. Of course being as miserable as I was, I immediately said yes. The comforts were few and the electricity null, but the company and excellent dinner by candlelight made up for it. The Spanish guitarist serenading us at the end of a hot meal definitely helped as well.
Sometimes, I think we all need to live a bit more like the people of Spain. Taking life one step at a time, napping when we’re tired and eating when we’re hungry. Sometimes people just need to let loose and party until the wee hours of the morning or maybe just have one beer and eating tapas in good company. Either way, I will always see Spain in a special light and the magnetic power of the country will continue to entice people for years to come. Buen Camino, friends.