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Road Of Stars To Santiago

Road Of Stars To Santiago

Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Road Of Stars To Santiago
    Book Description:

    In the tradition of Colin Fletcher'sThe Man Who Walked Through Timeand William Least Heat-Moon'sBlue Highways, Edward F. Stanton has written a quietly beautiful and engrossing account of his own pilgrimage.Road of Stars to Santiagois a personal story of his journey along what has been called "the premier cultural route of Europe."

    "I undertook a five-hundred-mile walk along the ancient Camino de Santiago, from the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostella in northwest Spain, the supposed burial site of the apostle St. James the Elder, and beyond to Finisterre, Land's End on the Atlantic coast.

    "On my journey I followed the old road whenever possible, passing through mountains, medieval forests and remote villages, as well as modern towns and cities. I slept in fields, abandoned schools or wherever I could, on a thirty-day trip that brought me into contact with a whole cross-section of Spanish society, and with pilgrims from France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and England.

    "Most of the book has to do with my own trials and joys on the Road: the physical struggle to walk about twenty miles a day in the heat or rain, to find a place to eat and sleep; with the psychological changes that take place when one leaves home, family and routine; with the contradictions inherent to a pilgrimage in the late twentieth centuiy; with experiences that ranged from the spiritual to the picaresque; with the people I met on the way -- from shepherds and peasan ts to astrologers and philosophers. There are plenty of humorous situations and unexpected turns."

    -- Edward F. Stanton

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5700-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    I walked west on the road traveled by men and women for a thousand years, following a path of stars to the city of Santiago de Compostela where the apostle James is said to be buried, and beyond to the end of the world.

    If you ask why I walked the Road, the Camino de Santiago, there is no simple answer. Try as I do, I cannot remember how the idea was born in my head. Like many of our most important decisions, this one was slow and deep in its working: all I know is that one day I...


    • 1 Day of St. James
      (pp. 6-11)

      “Saint Jean-Pied-de-Port.” The conductor’s voice wakes me from my sweaty, wrinkled sleep. I hitch up my backpack and walk off the old train.

      “Bon voyage” says the conductor.

      I mumble “Thank you, gracias, I mean merci.”

      “Bon voyage” I think to myself looking bleary-eyed at the station and the village, the French expression always makes me think of ocean cruises. So here I am ready to embark from St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, St. John-at-the-Foot-of-the-Port, imagining the smell of docks and salt-spray and pipe-smoking, tatooed sailors in a Mediterranean harbor. But there’s nothing Mediterranean about the village on this clear, bracing day and...

    • 2 Roncesvalles
      (pp. 12-18)

      When I approach the entrance to the massive building, my watch says almost 9:30. I ring the doorbell and look up toward the roof—concealed in the mist. A young woman in an apron opens the thick wooden door. I’m surprised to see her; her face is so friendly that I don’t know what to say.

      “Peregrino?” she asks. It’s the first human voice I’ve heard since the French couple more than eight hours ago.

      “Sí” I answer glad to speak the language.

      “Come in out of the rain. One moment please” she says and goes away. I stand in...

    • 3 Sacred and Profane
      (pp. 19-24)

      From Roncesvalles the road follows the main highway between St. Jean-Pied-de-Port and Pamplona. A few clouds cross the sky. In the west over the beech and oak forest a waning moon sets. The blisters on my feet are very sore. Remembering the main altar of the church, Padre Javier and the ceremony, I pass a pilgrims’ cross with a relief of the Virgin on a stone column. In St. Jean yesterday my solitary prayer seemed inadequate but the official blessing has been too much. The ritual has moved me—the aura of the place, the rhythm of the language, the...

    • 4 Bread, Meerschaum and Pamplona
      (pp. 25-31)

      It’s still dark when I leave the house. The town smells of fresh-baked bread. Following the aroma, I find a large bakery on the Pamplona-St. Jean highway. The store is shut so I enter through the service door on the side, feeling the heat of the ovens.

      The bread is being sorted in huge wicker baskets. I ask one of the bakers, a large man coated with flour, if I can have part of a baguette. A whole one would be too much for me to eat and wouldn’t fit in my pack.

      “Toma” he says, breaking a crusty baguette...

    • 5 Travels with Alberto and Yako
      (pp. 32-40)

      After a Spanish breakfast of coffee and bread, José Mari announces: “Base camp Pamplona prepared for ascent to Alto del Perdon.” The Perdón is the mountain we must cross to reach Puente la Reina.

      Pili has already washed and dried my dirty shirts, underwear and socks. I put them in my pack with the blister kit and scallop shell. Now she wraps foot-long bocadillos, or Spanish sandwiches for our lunch while Alberto asks her endless questions about what he should pack, arguing with every answer. He wears a T-shirt with the logo of the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona on...

    • 6 Fiesta, the Black Santiago, Eunate
      (pp. 41-50)

      When rockets awake me in the morning, I realize this has been another dreamless sleep. Perhaps my days have been so full that I don’t have enough energy left for dreaming.

      The fiesta is already warming up. After a cafe con leche at the bar, I go into the street, strewn with empty cans, bottles, papers. Following the crowds to the main square, I climb up the wooden slats to find a spot where I can observe without being crushed by people. The entire plaza has been closed off by the railings, covered with a few inches of sand to...

    • 7 Pilgrimage and Picaresque
      (pp. 51-62)

      There’s nobody in sight but what a noisy morning! Dogs bark as I cross the Queen’s Bridge where I cannot help remembering Jose Mari and Míkel; the bells of a church—probably Santiago’s—toll seven o'clock; frogs are still croaking; the birds in the trees and shrubs by the river bank have started their morning riot. When the road meets the highway, I look back at the Arga, my companion for much of the way since Zubiri and the meerschaum factory more than forty kilometers upstream. No wonder its surface is covered with foamy scum here too. They can destroy...

    • 8 La Rioja
      (pp. 63-73)

      I’ve slept better on this dusty old mattress than anywhere else on the road, I think as I get out of my sleeping bag. The pain in my hip has disappeared. I cannot wash my face since there’s no running water and I emptied the bucket last night. My fears of being molested by poor old Ramon seem silly now with the birds singing outside. “He couldn’t hurt a fly” Codes said. I feel smaller than a fly for not trusting him.

      Leaving the house I find a small wooden cross and a note on the doorsill. I pick them...

    • 9 Of Saints, Cocks and Hens
      (pp. 74-84)

      When I awake, the Navarrese have gone without leaving a sign. Did I dream them? Dream or not I’m alone; I hoped we might walk together. At least I’ll have company at lunch with the priest from Hervías.

      In the town of Azofra I see two pilgrims in the local bar, both seated at a table having breakfast, their walking sticks and packs leaning against the wall. We introduce each other. They’re from the big city of Bilbao in the north, in their fifties, a banker and a businessman. As they finish their coffee and I order from the bartender,...

    • 10 St. Dominic of the Causeway to St. John of the Nettles
      (pp. 85-91)

      I don’t need a watch to awake in the morning because the bells of the cathedral could wake a regiment. After picking up my passport at the police station, I leave town and cross the Oja River that gave its name to the region and province of La Rioja. It’s so dark that I can’t see the riverbed.

      Remembering the story of the German killed in his sleeping bag, I feel lonely and afraid in the dark. I also recall José Mari’s news about the two elderly pilgrims who were robbed near Pamplona. Cheer up, I tell myself, you’re not...

    • 11 Through Burgos
      (pp. 92-102)

      I awake with my bed rocking back and forth like a boat. Propping myself on one elbow, I realize that it’s me, not the bed that’s moving: my body and brain are still walking those fifty-some kilometers.

      After eating breakfast I leave in the half-light with the pilgrims from Estella. Since the van carries all their equipment, they don’t have to wear backpacks on the road. The leader of the group walks ahead of us through a brush-covered field surrounded by oaks and pines. Older than the others, in his thirties, intense, square-jawed, he’s the Columbus or Cortés of this...


    • 12 Water
      (pp. 104-115)

      As we leave town the sun is rising on ancient human chores. Men walk toward the fields for the harvest, women carry winnowing forks to the threshing floors. A curved slice of new moon has risen only a few hours ahead of the sun; it too hangs in the east. I wonder how far Vim and Vigor walked last night.

      We’re off the paved road and it feels good to be in the country again after Burgos. Tractors are already chugging between the furrows of ripe grain. I’m glad to be with Josemi and Sagrario but their pace is brisker...

    • 13 Exhibits of Life and Death
      (pp. 116-124)

      We depart before dawn. We’re walking on a road lined with poplars and elms in a narrow, green valley. It must be a part of Hontanas’ water system, an oasis that extends beyond the town in the cool of morning with birds singing in the wind-rustled trees.

      Following Claudio’s advice and my own experience by this time, I don’t alter my step to keep up with my companions. I move at my own pace and fall into a natural rhythm of walking and breathing. When the sun begins to appear, the others are already out of sight ahead.

      Coming around...

    • 14 Desert of the Lions
      (pp. 125-130)

      Again I set out with the group before dawn. Today makes two weeks on the road for me; it seems I’ve been walking forever. I bring up the rear, watching the sunlight on Josemi’s pack and on Sagrario’s golden legs. The new light, a softer breeze, something seems to be impelling us forward, always forward. (I remember the abbess’ words.)

      Soon I’m alone in a landscape of tawny stubble, straw and threshing floors. This is the Tierra de Campos, the breadbasket of Roman and Visigothic Spain. The endless wheatfields give their name to the towns—Población de Campos, Revenga de...

    • 15 Through León
      (pp. 131-140)

      With Burgos and Compostela itself, León is one of the three great cities on the Jacobean road and a traditional stopping place. We decide to regale ourselves by resting, exploring the town and writing letters for the remainder of today and tomorrow. Although the people are used to pilgrims walking through their streets, I feel uncomfortable here. Cities and pilgrimage don’t go together.

      Everyone who ever wrote about the Road to Santiago has described León. I could tell you about the powerful Romanesque church of St. Isidore, the male rival of St. James who was also mobilized as a Moorslayer...

    • 16 The Pass
      (pp. 141-149)

      Drunk on stars, I’ve hardly slept. Yet I don’t feel tired. Watching the sky has calmed my mind and given me a cold new kind of energy.

      After a breakfast of dry granola, we begin the steep climb to Monte Irago, higher than the Pyrenees before Roncesvalles. We walk through a bleak, burnt-out landscape where trees are dwarfed and bent, probably from winter storms. Higher up we see tall red and green stakes for marking the way in snow. In the old days this part of the Camino was impassable in bad weather.

      Near the top of the mountain we...

    • 17 Paradise and Hell
      (pp. 150-156)

      When we awake at dawn the fiesta is still going strong. The young men of Molinaseca are throwing buckets of water at each other as we walk out of town, joined by Valentin.

      “Remind me not to walk the Camino again in mid-August” says Berna. ”All these fiestas are rough on a pilgrim.”

      “Not on me” says Valentin. “I had a great time in town last night while you were going to sleep. I even danced.”

      “You danced on those feet of yours?” asks Michele. Valentin is limping more than yesterday.

      “Nothing can stop me when there’s a party” he...


    • 18 Galicia
      (pp. 158-169)

      After spending the night in the town of Piedrafita, we get lost in the morning fog, so thick that our heads and shoes are soaked. I feel colder even than the day of the hailstorm. Michéle, Berna and I don’t speak to each other. Somehow words would be useless in this place where sounds seem to be swallowed in the mist.

      Out of the fog appear low, grey walls, a stable, now strange, circular hovels with thatched, conical roofs—pallozas. The three of us look at each other: to confirm that we are awake? This village out of the past,...

    • 19 Samos, Sarria and a Cup of Milk
      (pp. 170-176)

      A monk in the black Benedictine habit leads us slowly up a wide staircase to the pilgrims’ dormitory, telling us there are only twelve brothers left in the abbey. The room is as huge as everything else here: endless rows of bare bunks, a sort of Baroque army barracks, the difference being that each bed is enclosed by a screen to form a semiprivate cubicle, our pilgrims’ cells for the night.

      Before going to bed, I sit down at a table next to the bathroom where I leaf through the pilgrims’ guest book. Nearly everyone else is asleep. I read...

    • 20 On the Road
      (pp. 177-182)

      Mike and Kes are still sleeping when we leave. Since their pace is so much slower than ours, we may not see them again. I worry about whether or not they will arrive in Compostela. Good luck, comrades!

      Crossing the foggy Miño we catch up with Valentin and his friend, who tell us they also spent a sleepless night—in Portomarin’s other hotel. Emilio, with his black beard, balding forehead and diabolic smile, suggests we follow the ancient custom of Japanese pilgrims upon leaving a bad town: “They would squat with their backs to it and mark the land in...

    • 21 Detours, Lavacolla, Mountjoy
      (pp. 183-187)

      Its feels like a family reunion to walk again with Michèle and Berna. The five of us—two French, two Spaniards, one American—get along with each other and have a good esprit de corps. I’d prefer less banter on the road but it’s hard to resist Valentín’s high spirits and hoarse laughter. With his dark, penetrating eyes Emilio plays the straight man to Valentín’s clown.

      Another day meets us cloaked in mist, clouds and orballo, a drizzle so fine that you can hardly see it. The grey shroud of the weather and our anxiousness to reach Compostela make all...

    • 22 In the Camel’s Stomach
      (pp. 188-191)

      We walk through the outskirts of the city like sleepwalkers, wideeyed, unable to believe that we’re in Santiago de Compostela. There’s something almost unreal about the empty streets; I expect to wake from a dream. Finally we realize that it’s Sunday. The few passersby hardly turn their heads our way, walking with the busy step of people who have things to do, indifferent to the sight of five sweaty men and women who are entering their town with backpacks and walking sticks.

      There’s more activity as we get closer to the center of the city, entering the Puerta del Camino,...

    • 23 The End of the World
      (pp. 192-194)

      I left that city of stone to follow the path toward the sea and setting sun at the end of the world. I was happy to be on the road again, alone for the first time since Castrogeriz and the Poor Clares, then Sahagun, nearly two weeks ago. Once more I remembered the abbess’ words: go on walking forever, always forward.

      Now my body seemed to walk itself, the road walking my body. I realized that I could go on walking around the world if only the land did not end. This I have learned from the Camino, I thought...

  8. Other Readings
    (pp. 195-197)
  9. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 198-200)