A circuitous route to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Stage One beginning in Munich, Germany ending in Jerusalem - traveling through Austria, Italy, Albania, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and Israel. Second stage from Vienna, through Germany, Czech Republic, Holland, Belgium, France and Spain.
Final destination - Santiago!

Post Script: The changeable situation in Jerusalem has led to a change in plans. The Rome to Jerusalem leg of this journey has been changed to the 'End to End' in the UK, after which the journey will resume as above in Vienna.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Signing off - till next time! Adios.

I am sitting in the departure lounge at Heathrow, waiting for my flight to be called, ready to begin the long journey home.  The last few days I have spent in London, generally just pottering.  I bought a one day ticket on a "hop on, hop off" bus tour, which actually meant I could use it for 2 days.  I did a number of trips with them and learnt all sorts of information about London.
Looking towards St Martins in the Fields, with the art gallery on the left (and just a few people!)
The simple cross in the window of St Martin in the Fields.
The Tower of London.
St Pauls
Westminster and its clock tower with the Bell known as "Big Ben"
The building is known as The Shard.
I really like some of the new buildings and their innovative shapes.
The new and the old stand side by side.  The Shard, on the opposite bank, is reflected in the building.
I stayed on the fifteenth floor of a University of Westminster Halls of residence.  This was the view from my bedroom window! 
London has meant that I have been able to catch up with friends old and new.  This was a real treat as I battled the crowds here.  I think it was as well that I spent so much time in Santiago before heading to London, otherwise I would be reeling even more from the onslaught of the crowds - wall to wall people is a good description.
It was fitting that on my last day in London I visited St James Church, in Spanish Place.
The interior of the church.......
....... and one of the shells inside.

I caught up with my friend Charlotte who I met in Orkney so long ago it seems, and who, like me lives in Stirling though it just so happens they are in different countries!  She was down for her daughters wedding, and only an hours train ride away.  It was good to see her.  Then one evening I had a celebratory dinner with Adam, a new Camino friend who can talk "Camino" as much as me, if not more!  I met him in Santiago, post conference, and when I say we met up at my favourite bar in Santiago before midday, and left the bar at about 6.30 you will have some idea of how we can both talk "Camino!"

It seems strange to be heading home after such a long time away, and it will probably be even stranger settling into normal life.  This has been an amazing adventure.  I have met so many wonderful people, and I have been helped and encouraged by people I have met along the way.  But you folk reading this have helped and encouraged me on this journey too.  Your comments on my blog, your emails, the visits from some of you, and in some cases your chats - via Skype, have cheered and supported me no end.  Thank you.

This is the last post for this blog, though I may correct some of the typos and spelling errors at some point.  I'm sure it won't be the last Camino blog, as my feet have still got some miles in them, but maybe not so many at one time.  When the Camino calls I will let you know the new blog title.

Thank you all for your words of support.  With affection, I'm signing off, blessings,  Janet.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Jubilation!

I am still in M√ľnchen, waiting to board my flight to London, but I just have to tell you that my plan, thus far has worked!  I have cleared customs - yippee.

I had my letter stating the details of the 1952 bi-lateral trade agreement between Germany and Australia allowing Australians to stay an additional 90 days in Germany.  At the customs / police checkpoint there were some questions asked, a VERY careful reading of the letter, more questions, another read of the letter, and my passport was stamped!

I arrived in Germany on the 29th January, leaving for Holland about the 14th February, and spent less than 90 days in the rest of the Schengen so I was quite legal.  My concern was that the authorities might not think so, and my policeman was heading that way till I produced my letter!  As I said, I haven't left the country yet, but I'm over the worst.
Relief at the airport!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Some random facts on this journey.

I haven't had much chance to compose a list in the past few weeks, with catching up with people, and also the conference, but I thought you might like a couple of facts from the year of walking, in no particular order:-

  • I left home on the 18th June, and will return on the 17th June.
  • I calculate that I have walked about 5,500kms, probably more.  The "End to End" in the UK was in excess of 2,200 alone.
  • I had to buy a new pack half through the UK as the other one had worn out.
  • After 6 months I had to buy a new shoulder bag in which I carry my camera, tablet, wallet etc, as the Pacsafe one had wires protruding and was scratching me, the stitching had worn, and the zip had broken!
  • I am on my 4th pair of boots, with probably about 800 kms left in them!.  
  • I began with two sets of summer socks, exchanged for two sets of winter ones in October, the latter ones still in use and only just lasting the distance.
  • All my underclothes have been replaced and the old ones have gone into the bin!
  • My first raincoat leaked and so had to be replaced.
  • Physios treated injuries about 8 times on the way to Rome, and about 10 times from Leipzig to Santiago.  Interestingly in the UK I never had to see a physio, though I did see a doctor about an eye problem who then referred me to the optician.
  • My sister in law, Joan, walked with me for the first week, my friend Julie for four weeks in Italy, my friend Charlotte for a couple of days in the UK,  my niece Greta for a week on St Cuthbert's Way (UK) and lastly my son Emrys for two weeks in Germany.  Otherwise I walked alone.
  • I have walked in:- Germany, Austria, Italy, Holland, Belgium, France, Spain, and of course the UK.
  • I posted guides books and maps home as I finished with them - the cheapest post being in the UK where I was able to send it surface mail, everywhere else had only one rate - expensive!.
  • Emrys couriered my winter gear to me and I posted the summer gear home.  Posting the winter gear (thick jackets, trousers etc) home I just continued in the same walking gear as the temperatures have yet to get to temperatures high enough to make my trousers and shirt uncomfortable to walk in.
  • I bought some long trousers (as opposed to ¾ Capri pants) in Inverness in September, and have worn them, with the exception of the occasional rest day, every day since! (and I'm very sick of them!)
  • I was warned about the risk of travelling without a flu vaccination as the flu season had begun when I left, and listening to the ABC I will return in the flu season. I didn't have the vaccine and didn't get the flu and have avoided colds thus far.
  • I avoid making comparisons and saying what was my favourite thing, but there are definitely a couple of things that stand out for various reasons:- the Opera in Verona, "walking the poles" across the sands to Lindisfarne in the dawn light, walking in the snow near Leipzig, and arriving in Assisi, Rome and Santiago.
  • In the summer season I carried around 8 - 9 kgs and in the winter around 12 - 13 kgs.  This depended on how much food and papers I was carrying at the time.
  • I always bought meals at cafes, restaurants etc, but also carried a little bit of food for emergencies.  Muesli bars  (some better than others!) were my staple emergency food.  I work on the principle of a meal of muesli bars won't kill me for one night if I have to resort to that, which I did a couple of times as no food was available where I was.

I'm off to London now, and will spend four days there, before heading home.  

Santiago de Compistela

I have had a real treat since arriving in Santiago.  I have had time to just meander about the place, catch up with friends, make new friends, but I have also been very busy.  I was a little vague earlier on what I was to be doing here so will fill you in.

On the 4th - 6th June the Galician government hosted a conference to which all the "amigos" or "friends" associations were invited.  I accepted the invite and arranged to walk to the conference, while Kevin came over from Adelaide, bringing some respectable clothes for me and a hard copy of the speech I had prepared and Emrys had printed in a large font!  The conference was very interesting, giving us all a chance to share and hear about what other groups were doing.
I, along with many of the conference delegates stayed here, hospideria San Martin Pinario, a former monastery.
There were cocktails in the cloisters of the Hotel San Martin Pinario.  Bite sizes pieces of empanada (a Galician savoury slice) and Tortilla espanola (omelette with potato in it) were on the menu.  

I had prepared a 10 minute speech according to the brief I was given and each speaker was simultaneously translated into French, Spanish, German, and English, depending on the language of that speaker.  There were approximately 300 in the audience, though throughout each session this was fluid as the locals thought nothing of getting up and wandering out (perhaps for a smoke, or chat) and then meandering back in, clambering over all and sundry to get back to their seat, with phones regularly ringing throughout speeches.
Presenting my speech about the challenges and trends facing The Australian Friends of the Camino.

It was really good to meet our colleagues from around the world and a special treat for me to catch up with my friend Austin, the very first Pilgrim I met on my first pilgrimage in 2005 on the second day out of Toulouse, where by chance we had both started.  We were both lost, we separated to find our own way, only to meet the next morning and walked together for almost two weeks.  Austin speaks fluent French so he was my translator, but I saved him many times from heading down the wrong path!
 Ready for the final conference dinner - at the Parador.
At dinner, which was more like a cocktail party, with more empanada and tortilla, there was traditional music.
One of the things we did at the conference was to attend a memorial ceremony at a former pilgrim cemetery.  We each placed a yellow flower in a "wreath".
On the way back from the ceremony we passed a wedding.  This is the container holding the rose petals to throw.
St James.  This is where pilgrims go and hug the Saint

On Sunday, before going to dinner I, and a couple of friends, watched the Corpus Christie procession.  The streets were decorated, and everyone was out in their best clothes.  It was actually one of the few warm nights I have experienced this year.

Sue, from Adelaide, had arrived a few days earlier and we had spent some time together and after dinner I took her to hear what I think is one of the little treats of Santiago.  This is the men from a group called Tunas Compostellanas.  In the summer they perform, from what I can gather, on most evenings in the arcade opposite the cathedral.  They are real entertainers, singing, cracking jokes, involving the audience with clapping and dancing and of course, selling their CD's.  My friend Nicole was reluctant to go as they don't start performing till 10pm, but I persuaded her, and she loved them so much she bought a CD!

There are now a couple of new services for pilgrims in Santiago.  There is now a mass held each morning in English and as I walked past on my last morning in Santiago I noticed it was standing room only in the small chapel where it is held.  Father Joe, who leads the mass, is a retired priest from Cork with a wonderful warmth and sense of humour, telling pilgrims that in this mass there was to be none of the usual standing or kneeling as it creates a racket, and that was the last thing needed!  An offshoot of the Camino Chaplaincy as this is called has a house where pilgrims can go and meet, have a coffee and print boarding passes etc.   I used the pilgrim house to print off my tickets and the papers I needed for the journey home.

 The Corpus Christie procession above, and below flowers and a shawl hanging at the entrance to a shop as decoration.

The group Tunas Compostellanas entertaining the crowd after dinner. 
Departure time, Nicole and I waiting for a taxi to the airport.  My pack is huge as it has over double what I arrived with because I have purchased non Camino clothes (can't do the jump, but "oh what a feeling!"), and I have many papers from the conference.  It weighed 19.8kgs on the scales at the airport!  Fortunately I only had a kilometre or so to walk to my hotel in Munich.

I left Santiago yesterday heading towards  home.  I have two nights in Munich, visiting with friends, and then four nights in London.  I was nervous about leaving Spain as I have been four months here in the Schengen, but saw no one from customs.  There was no need for them as the flight (via Madrid) was from one Schengen country to another.  The test will be tomorrow, when I actually leave the Schengen for the UK, but I have my letter from the German embassy in Canberra telling anyone who might query me that we have a long forgotten bi-lateral trade agreement from 1952 which allows me to spend an extra 90 days in Germany, over and above what I spent in the Schengen.  I only spent about 80 days in the other part of the Schengen, so I'm hoping I won't have to answer any questions.  I didn't get my Australian passport stamped, but I do have dated stamps in my tatty looking Pilgrim credential.

I have made a few notes on the past year that you might be interested in.  I will post that shortly.