Everything you need to know about the Camino de Santiago in 5 Minutes: Short and Sweet!
Our "5 Minutes Camino de Santiago Podcast" covers everything you need to know about the Camino de Santiago: Planning your Camino, choosing your Camino route, training for the Camino, and everything in-between.
We believe travelling on the Camino de Santiago is about enriching personal experiences, the people you share the journey with or you meet along the way but mostly, about opening up to a new way to see the world around us or even a new way to see ourselves.
7 Spooky Camino Facts to Get You in The Spirit of Halloween
Halloween is right around the corner so it’s no surprise that we’re getting into the spooky spirit. Whether you’re a fan of ghosts and ghouls or just a little bit superstitious, you can add some ghostly fun to your walk with these 7 spooky Camino facts!
As we know, the Camino de Santiago takes walkers to Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia, a land rich in folklore, colourful legends, and frightening spirits.
Many also believe witches still exist in Galicia, living in disguise and blending in with the general population. With Halloween, and All Saints Day just around the corner, this is the perfect time of year to unleash your inner ghoul!
Spooky Fact 1: The Coast of Death
The Costa da Morte, on Galicia’s Atlantic coast, stretches from Fisterra to Malpica. English seamen in the XIV century frequently referred to this land as the Coast of Death, as it was known to be a black spot for shipwrecks, due to its difficult and dangerous geography.
But even before English seamen encountered trouble along this coast, Fisterra was considered to be the end of the world and a very special place by the Romans and pagans and pre-Christian cultures.
It was here where the sun disappeared under the sea, connecting the world of the living and the land of the dead and their spirits. Along the Finisterre Way, you will also find many oscillating stones (pedras de abalar), said to predict tragedies.
Spooky Fact 2: Square of the Dead & The Pilgrim Ghost
In Santiago de Compostela, you will find the imposing Quintana square at the back of Santiago’s cathedral, which is said to have ‘invisible’ residents.
The square is divided in two by a set of stairs: the upper part of the square is called Quintana dos Vivos (Quintana of the Living), while the lower part of the square is the Quintana dos Mortos (Quintana of the Dead), as it was used as a burial ground until 1780.
The shadow of a pilgrim is said to appear in a corner of the square every night.
Spooky Fact 3: Bonaval Park
After 1780, the burial ground for the city of Santiago was moved to San Domingos de Bonaval. Today, many people visit Bonaval Park, which boasts stunning views of the city, to relax and spend time with friends and family. The park, which was opened in 1994, is located right next to a convent and sits on the old cemetery grounds.
Spooky Fact 4: Crossroads
While in Galicia, you must be careful not to bump into the Santa Compaña, a procession of dead souls feared by many. This very unique procession of restless souls wanders about after midnight, particularly favouring crossroads in country lanes (corredoiras in Galician). The lonely souls are particularly active on special nights like Halloween and Mid-Summer.
If you are unlucky enough to cross paths with this terrifying bunch, quickly draw a circle on the ground and step inside it. This should protect you from being taken away by the group. If they happen to offer you a candle, do not (really, do not) accept it, unless you want to forever wander Galicia’s country lanes.
Spooky Fact 5: Stone crosses
Due to the fear of the Santa Compaña, many ‘cruceiros’ (stone crosses) are strategically placed at crossroads all over Galicia’s countryside. Now you know their real purpose: they will help you escape the recruitment efforts of the Santa Compaña, particularly at this time of the year!
Spooky Fact 6: Soul Pockets (Petos de Animas)
Petos de ánimas (soul pockets) are frequently found at country crossroad...
Spooky Camino: Beware of The Santa Compaña
With Halloween just around the corner, we must remind you to beware of the Santa Compaña (‘Holy Company’) while on your travels along the Camino de Santiago in Galicia, especially at this time of the year.
The Santa Compaña is a procession of dead souls feared by most Galicians. This very unique procession of restless souls wanders about after midnight, favouring crossroads in the country lanes and being particularly active on special nights such as Halloween – but also Mid-Summer.
You will recognise them easily: a living person leads the souls, carrying a cross and a cauldron, while the dead souls carry lit wax candles behind the leader.
The living person leading the group shouldn’t turn around to face the souls and he will only be freed from this frightening duty if he finds someone else to replace him as leader of the Compaña.
If you meet them at a crossroads and don’t want to be taken by them, you should draw a circle on the ground and step inside it. If you happen to be by a ‘cruceiro’ (stone cross), you will be off the dead souls’ hook if you quickly move up to the steps.
The one thing you should never do if you encounter the Santa Compaña, under any circumstances, is accept one of the souls’ candles, otherwise, you will become part of the procession.
If you’d like to know more about the spooky Camino myths and legends, you need to read about Costa del Morte (the Coast of Death) and the Pilgrim Ghost.
We also have an article about 7 spooky Camino Facts that is sure to get you in the mood for Halloween.
Also, if you’re a bit of a supernatural expert and you know of any other spooky Camino stories and Galician rituals, we’d love to hear all about it!
What is a Jacobean year or Ano Xacobeo?
Holy Year 2022: What is a Jacobean year?
You might have heard that 2021’s Jacobean Year celebrations have been extended to the end of 2022. But what exactly is a Holy Year and why is it worth visiting the Camino during one?
A Jacobean Year or Ano Xacobeo is a Jubilee or Holy Year. A year is considered a Jacobean or Holy Year when Saint James Day, 25th July, falls on a Sunday.
In a normal year, the number of pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago increases significantly during Holy Years, particularly in July, as many pilgrims aim to arrive in Santiago de Compostela in time for Saint James Day celebrations.
Two facts make a Jacobean Year special for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago:
* The Holy Door in Santiago’s Cathedral, the Porta Santa, located in the Praza da Quintana only opens for Jacobean Years and remains open the whole year. The Holy Door is officially opened on 31st December, the last day of the previous year.
* A full plenary indulgence can be obtained, forgiving all the sins. To qualify, pilgrims must visit the cathedral, pray and attend Mass. They should have also gone to Confession within the 15 days before the trip or after the visit to the Cathedral.
Those pilgrims who can’t physically continue all the way to Santiago de Compostela due to illness can get plenary indulgence in Villafranca del Bierzo, where the Puerta del Perdón (the door of forgiveness) is also open only during Holy Years.
Because of leap years, Holy Years follow a pattern of 6-5-6-11 years. 2010 was the most recent Jacobean Year. After 2022, 2027 will be the next Ano Xacobeo, followed by 2032 and so on.
For more information and advice on the Camino de Santiago, or to book your trip, contact our Camino travel specialists.
Mindful Walking on an Ancient Camino Trail
Mindful Walking on an Ancient Camino Trail
Embarking on the Camino has often been described as a walk for the soul. Walking along the Meseta across Northern Spain, one can’t help but tune into a slower pace of life. In recent years and in light of the Covid pandemic, using the Camino for mindful walking and as a time to reflect is becoming quite popular.
The joy of walking is the ability to bask in the task of the moment and a quiet walk in natural surroundings allows us to pause, take deep breaths and enjoy the repetitive task of putting one foot in front of the other.
Whether you walk the coastal paths of the Camino Portugues or the forest tracks of the Camino Frances, each trail offers the chance to discover the power of nature.
Mindful Walking on the Camino Portugues Coastal
“Walking allows us to deeply immerse ourselves in nature, our new surroundings, and appreciate each moment. Our mind and body focus on the activity, taking step after step and enjoying every single one of them. The pleasure of meeting other pilgrims along the way makes the Camino journey even more special.”
These are the words of Galician native Maria Golpe. Maria has walked and cycled many different Camino routes and has first-hand experience of the mental health benefits the Camino provides.
Research has proven that a connection with nature provides strong social and emotional benefits. A recent study in the Journal of Religion, Spirituality, and Aging shows that nature helps to reduce levels of anxiety and enhance higher positive well-being. In fact, during the various lockdowns around the world, people constantly flocked to nature for comfort and to cope with the stress of the pandemic.
With that in mind, when you walk the Camino, make sure you take the time to be aware of the smells, sights and sounds around you. Being present in the moment when you hear birds chirping and trees rustling can be an exhilarating experience, helping to restore clarity after these trying times.
How mindful walking helped me to achieve a work-life balance
I had my first taste of a walking holiday in 2015. Since then, I’ve chosen a new Camino route each year, one that gives me the time and space to simply live in the moment. My most recent trail was the Camino Portugues from Baiona to Santiago.
This stunning route takes you along the dramatic Atlantic coastline and through a variety of beautiful historic towns. Before heading off on my journey, I was a little apprehensive. Firstly, I had little experience walking over long-distance terrain. My biggest experience before this was a Sunday stroll in the Irish hills, which led me along tree-lined paths for just over two hours. Time had never allowed for much longer, yet here I was preparing to walk over 120 km in 6 days.
How would I find my way? What types of terrain would I cross? Is it dangerous? What if I can’t keep up with the others? These were just a few of the worrisome questions that crossed my mind. However, as soon as we started out on the Camino paths with the vibrant yellow arrows guiding us, these questions quickly faded into the background. The joy of walking is truly being immersed in your immediate surroundings. No clouds of judgment exist, just clouds guiding you to your next destination. These are the simple joys we often take for granted.
As previously mentioned, I had very little experience with active holidays. For me, my job was one that was both enjoyable and demanding, with pressure being part of the package. Phrases like reaching targets, achieving results, making contacts and building profiles sprinkled my days. If I’m being honest,
The History of the Camino de Santiago
History of the Camino de Santiago
The Camino de Santiago is considered a bucket list destination for many people, whether you consider yourself a spiritual person or not. But how did the Camino de Santiago come to be so popular among modern travellers and what do we know about the history of the Camino?
Thousands of people walk the Camino de Santiago every year. Coming from all walks of life, this pilgrimage is one that captivates all who make the journey. Originally, however, the Camino was responsible for one of the largest movements of people across Europe.
Pilgrims would make the long journey to the magnificent cathedral in Galicia’s Santiago de Compostela, in search of a way to reduce their time in purgatory.
The Legend of Saint James
Mystery and legend are both key components of the history of the Camino de Santiago. According to the pilgrimage’s official history, the body of Saint James the Apostle is buried in Santiago’s cathedral.
James, son of Zebedee and brother of John the Evangelist, was discovered in a field in Galicia by a shepherd named Pelayo in the 9th century, during the reign of King Alfonso II.
Saint James is the namesake of the Camino de Santiago, which translates to English as the Way of Saint James. Santiago or Sant Iago means Saint James.
Saint James had died some 800 years earlier and according to legend, was transported to Galicia (to the town of Iria Flavia, today’s Padron, found on the Camino Portugues) by two disciples in a boat led by angels. Somehow his body was then buried in a field not far from there, the very place where it would be discovered a few centuries later.
Informed about this important discovery, King Alfonso II had a small chapel built in this holy place. He would later commission a larger temple in order to attract pilgrims from all over the world. This would, in effect, compete with other important religious centres of pilgrimage, such as Jerusalem and Rome.
Of course, at this point in time, religious buildings across Europe were all busy competing for the best relics in order to attract as many pilgrims as possible. The relics of Saint James would transform Santiago de Compostela into one of the world’s most important pilgrimage destinations.
Apart from the obvious religious aspect, the discovery and the development of the pilgrimage route was also vital from a political point of view. A large influx of faithful Christians travelling across Northern Iberia, settling and creating strong cultural links with the rest of Europe, would be a very powerful tool in keeping the Moors away.
However, there is also an additional pre-history of the Camino de Santiago as we know it. The ‘way’ may have attracted pilgrims even earlier than the 8th century thanks to a route following the Milky Way to Fisterra, today’s Camino Finisterre.
Steeped in mysticism, Costa da Morte’s Fisterra was once believed to be the End of the World. Legend says that when the sun disappeared beneath the waves, the veil between this world and the next thinned, opening the gates to the Afterlife.
To counteract any potential ill will, pagan prayers and offerings would be made to appease the gods as Fisterra was also believed to be the location of Ara Solis, an altar dedicated to the sun.
History of the Ways to Santiago
The construction of the city’s Romanesque cathedral began in 1078 and with it began a golden age for the pilgrimage to Santiago. Originally, the safest route to Santiago would have been along today’s Camino del Norte and Camino Primitivo,
Tapas Recipe: Pan con Tomate y Jamón Serrano
Over the summer, why not try a tapas recipe? Treat your family or friends to some Spanish tapas from this book of recipes by Yosmar Martinez.
The book is suitably titled – ‘Tastes of the Camino: 30 authentic recipes along the French Way‘.
Yosmar has walked the Camino de Santiago many times and is very active in the pilgrim community in the United States. Enjoy this short sneak peek into her delicious book with this great tapas recipe from her experience of the Camino journey.
Tapas Recipe: Toasted Bread with Tomato and Serrano Ham
Pan con Tomate y Jamón Serrano is my all-time favorite tapa from Spain and one that I indulged in quite often while walking the Camino as well as one that I frequently resort to when I’m entertaining at home. Jamón Serrano is Spain’s national treasure, shared by everyone. Cured for at least a year, it has a deep, salty flavor and firm texture. In this tapa, the saltiness of the ham is softened by the freshness of the tomatoes and the fruitiness of the olive oil. Typically the bread is rubbed with tomato and sometimes garlic and then drizzled with olive oil before topping with the Serrano ham. I prefer putting the tomatoes, olive oil, and garlic in the food processor to create a paste that I can then brush onto the toasted bread. I find that this produces a much more flavorful tapa.
Makes 18 tapas
* 18 slices country or rustic bread, about ½ inch thick
* 4 cloves garlic, peeled
* 1 large ripe tomato, cut into large chunks
* ¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
* 1 teaspoon (5 g) salt
* 1 teaspoon (5 g) sugar
* ½ teaspoon (3 g) pepper
* 18 slices Serrano ham (if you cannot find Serrano ham in your area, you can substitute prosciutto)
Preheat the oven at 250°F (120°C.) Place the bread slices in a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. In the meantime, process the garlic cloves in a food processor until they are finely chopped. Add the tomato and process until smooth. Gradually add the olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, and sugar. Remove the bread from the oven and allow to cool down for at least five minutes. Using a pastry brush, spread a thin layer of the tomato mixture on each slice of bread. Top with a slice of Serrano ham and serve.
Make it ahead: The tomato mixture can be made up two days ahead.
We hope that you enjoy this little tapas recipe and to learn how to make some easy tapas that will remind you on the Camino you can buy signed copies of the book on Yosmars website: Whisk and Spatula
If you would like to try some tasty Spanish tapas and experience the Spanish culture on one of the Camino de Santiago trails please contact one of our Travel Specialists.
Short potcast every week
Short potcast every week.
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