Lying on the ground, leaning against the pilasters, the pilgrims turn the historic center of Santiago de Compostela, a World Heritage Site and capital of Galicia, in northwestern Spain, into a space for contemplation.
The nine recognized paths to get there are marked in Praça do Obradoiro, emerging from the four corners and joined in the middle by the last scallop shell, a symbol that accompanies pilgrims on the journey.
The atmosphere is blissful. There are those who risk a triumphant pose, lift their bicycles to the sky, or set the stage for a marriage proposal, with smiles on their eyes and lips.
But the star in this scenario is the lavish Santiago Cathedral, built in 1075, a mixture of architectural styles inside and out, home to the crypt where Santiago, disciple of Jesus and patron of Spain, is buried. The visit is breathtaking.
In the 9th century, when the pilgrimage began arriving there and worshiping it, the crossing was full of accidents and, for many, synonymous with sacrifice.
One thousand and two hundred years later, there is a wide specialized network to facilitate the pilgrim’s life and services such as the transport of luggage for 4 euros (R$ 21) by post, in addition to various options for the route: on foot, by bicycle , on horseback, by train or by boat.
Even those who are not card-carrying athletes have time and can divide the stages to Santiago according to the time available. For hikers, it is advisable to have a margin of days for unforeseen events.
The first cultural route in Europe is a favorite of Brazilians, the tenth country with the most pilgrims to Santiago in 2019 and the only Latin American representative in the top 10. That year more than 347 thousand people made the pilgrimage there, most of them too foot, for religious reasons and many others.
At Xacobeu, or Jacobeu year, when July 25, Santiago’s day, falls on a Sunday, the route takes on an even more special look.
In addition to various events, in it the holy door of the Cathedral of Santiago opens and devout pilgrims can ask for a plenary indulgence, the forgiveness of all sins.
With the pandemic, Xacobeu is being celebrated for the first time in two years, 2021-2022, and it’s worth taking advantage of the temperatures of the European spring, which lasts until June 20.
The French Way, the most famous of the routes and a heritage of humanity, offers a walk through the ages starting from the medieval Saint Jean Pied de Port, in southwestern France.
From there, 777km is covered in 33 days, but if you want a shortcut closer to Madrid, start in charming Burgos, which shortens the journey by 12 days.
From there, prepare yourself for a journey where the silence is broken by the singing of birds, the green fields as far as the eye can see and the plane trees with still dry branches give the landscape the appearance of paintings outside the canvas.
Restaurants and bars are close to the medieval gates of the millennial city. If the 16th-century Santa Maria Arch makes an impression, crossing the road brings a sigh of admiration for the grandiose Cathedral of Santa Maria, a World Heritage Site.
The Gothic temple built from 1221 is a gallery of floor-to-ceiling works, such as the dome of the nave over the tomb of the warrior El Cid, the golden Renaissance staircase by Diego de Siloé, model of the Paris Opera, and the friendly figure of the flycatcher , who rings the bell every hour with open mouth.
The visit is an example of the historical dive, through monuments and ruins, which mark the route through the region of Castile and Leon, northwest of Spain. The walk follows the back roads, where in a few minutes pilgrims from Colombia, South Africa and European countries pass.
To slow down after going up and down the alleys of Castrojeriz, the peaceful boat trip along the Castilla Canal, in Frómista, in the province of Palencia, offers a breather before discovering the famous Church of San Martín from the 11th century, a translation of the Romanesque style, with its rustic walls.
As you get lost in the alleys of León, it is possible to hear rock music coming from a pub in front of the walls that surround the city, mingled with the childish laughter of students leaving the schools a few meters from the Cathedral of Santa María de Regla, another Gothic temple from the 13th century.
With one of the most important collections of stained glass in the world, along with Chartres Cathedral, in France, it is not called the house of light for nothing. The feeling of walking to infinity through shades of blue, red, purple, yellow.
Leão also bears the mark of Gaudí, who designed the Casa Botines in 1892, and the gem-encrusted cup of the Infanta Dona Urraca, kept in the San Isidoro Museum, one of the relics considered the Holy Grail.
Another must stop in the region is the monumental castle of the Knights Templar, in Ponferrada, most of its imposing stone walls were built in the 15th century and contains ruins from the time of the Catholic warriors of the Crusades, a treasure that was discovered halfway through was ignored. 1920s, when they tried to make a football field there.
In the same historical atmosphere we continue to Galicia. The Celtic music coming from souvenir shops sets the tone for the village of O Cebreiro, in Lugo, which preserves pre-Romanesque buildings, including a museum that helps to get a sense of what life was like in the straw and stone huts . The mountain above is one of the most challenging stretches for pilgrims.
In the village is the church of Santa Maria, which preserves the remains of the miracle in which the wine and the host, consecrated by the infidel priest, turned into blood and flesh in the year 1300 for the faith of a peasant.
The Portuguese Way also runs through Galicia, a route of 571 km from Lisbon. The Spanish air presents itself in the form of a breeze to those who cross from Valença to Tui via the international bridge over the waters of the River Minho.
Walking through Galicia offers the opportunity to admire the blue hues from the sea to the sky from unique scenarios, such as the ruins of the castro de Santa Trega, a village of the 1st century BC, at an altitude of 341 meters, in Guarda, in the province of Pontevedra.
Two churches to visit along the way are the Sanctuary of the Pilgrim Virgin, a small temple dedicated to travelers amid the bustling historic center of Pontevedra, and the Church of Santiago in Padrón, home of the writers Rosalía de Castro and Camilo José Cela .
It is believed among devotees that the stone seen on the altar was used to tie up the boat carrying Santiago’s body.
While all the trails end in Santiago de Compostela, there begins one of them, the Finisterre and Muxía Way, towards A Coruña, a route of about 90 km of pure beauty, starting with the Maceira Bridge, with its stone arches surrounded by waterfalls between the green of trees and shrubs.
The Cape of Finisterre was, according to the Romans, the westernmost place on earth, the end of the world.
It isn’t, but the mystical atmosphere on the hill, marked by the statue of the bronze boot and the stone of km 0, is an invitation to watch the sunset, at the edge of the cliffs, or to lay out the towel. spread out for a picnic on the yellow flower carpet, feeling the time change its rhythm.
Speaking of the history of time, the square that precedes the walkway is named after the physicist Stephen Hawking, who defined the end of the world as “a beautiful place”. Yes, he was right. About 30 km away, the flight of gulls splashes white against the blue sky above another lighthouse, that of Muxía, where, surrounded by rocks, lies the sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Barca.
It was in this environment, where the silence is broken by the sea crashing against the rocks, that according to local tradition Santiago had a vision of the Virgin, who in a stone boat encouraged him to follow his path. According to pilgrims, this is the only way the path ends and remains the invitation to return.
Guide to the Camino de Santiago
How much does the Camino de Santiago cost?
There are several websites, such as the Official Route, El Camino de Santiago, and specialist travel agencies, Pilgrim, Gali.com Wonders, Tee Travel, and Art Natura, that allow you to budget based on the route and the way you travel. path.
A simulation done by Bed sheet on the Pilgrim website for a journey from June 4, from Sain Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela, of 34 nights and accommodation with breakfast can start from 2,985 euros (R$15,613), with optional backpack transport services for 170 euros (R$ 889.22) and cancellation insurance for 140 euros (R$ 732.30) included.
How much time do I need to book?
It depends on the number of stages and the chosen way of making the journey, but it is possible to calculate on the websites of the agencies, which also show how many kilometers have to be covered per day. Created in the simulation for the French Way by Bed sheetthe journey would take 34 days.
What is the best time of year for this trip?
May and June are good months to make the trip, due to the slightly milder temperatures in spring.
How does the baggage transport service work?
The service can be rented on the websites of the agencies, when closing the package. In the simulation performed by Bed sheetthe package for 34 days was 170 euros (R$ 889.22)
What are the options for following the route?
In addition to the traditional pilgrimage on foot, the pilgrim can also go to Santiago by bicycle or on horseback. For those looking for a faster journey, it is possible to take the Pilgrim Train from Madrid during the European summer. At the same time, it is possible to participate in the sailing route, with the association Northmarinas, which carries out the “Navega el camino”.