A cloud of perpetual gray loomed over the landscape as our plane touched down. The excitement of a new city washed over us, as we made our way by bus to the city of Santiago de Compostela. That enthusiasm never seemed to dissipate despite the rain cloud that seemed to follow us offering periodic showers throughout our stay.
What makes Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, such a unique destination is the constant influx of pilgrims arriving and departing. Weary travelers of all walks of life; make their way to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela to mark the end of their long journey.
Legend has it that the remains of James the Apostle are within that very church. And what makes the pilgrims so special in their own right is that each individual has made the lengthy, personal, spiritual, or triumphant journey of roughly 800 kilometers (there are several routes in which to choose) to their destination.
As an observer, one cannot help but wonder why each individual elected to make such a pilgrimage in the first place? Wondering if once the joy of their final mile had been reached, if they would return to their everyday lives with a renewed sense of wonder and happiness, or would the burden that might have driven them out the door in the first place be there to greet them upon their homecoming?
It was the simple feeling of admiration of their willingness to say that initial “yes” and the miles of terrain that had to be covered through inclimate weather, and the clouds that had to be passed through, whether personal or meteorologically speaking in order to complete their voyage. It was the smile that was passed from friends, lovers, siblings, families or newly found comrades that seemed to make the complexities of life drift away.
I recently heard the following stated by Yvon Chouinard, “The hardest thing in the world is to simplify your life. It is so easy to make it complex.” It is the simplicity of relying on others for a warm meal and a cheap bed to sleep. There is something to be said for the ability to carry your possessions on your back for the duration of your journey. There is beauty to be found in minimalism –whether the downsizing of physical possessions or the happiness one feels when they take the time to sift through life’s distractions to appreciate the landscape. And though the complexities of life may follow us regardless of the miles we place under our feet, recognition goes to those who are willing to make the required effort.
We are well aware that this review of Santiago de Compostela; a medieval city that was marked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985 doesn’t go into detail regarding the sites of the city. The city is indeed worthy of a visit, but what left a lasting impression was not the buildings, nor the food, but rather the pilgrims. Those who mustered up the confidence to achieve their dreams humbled us as observers.
On a side note, if you are looking for a wonderful movie that highlights the personal stories of how individuals come to walk, cycle, or horseback ride their way along the Way of St. James, we can certainly recommend The Way starring Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen.
Time of Year: February
Duration: Four days
Where We Stayed: Cathedral Suites – Wonderful find!
Eats and Treats: We would love to say Tapas and other Spanish delicacies, but truth be told we cooked almost all of our meals at home.
Child Friendly? Yes, there was a wonderful park with a great playground within walking distance from our hotel
Would we Return? We would like to one day, however, that would be to complete our own pilgrimage via the Way of St. James.