The Camino and the Spanish Civil War (part 2 – Navarra)

As you walk through Pamplona, you are guided along the Camino by the usual yellow arrows and occasional blue sign, but also by a series of shiny aluminum discs embedded in the pavements, with an engraved shell-star and a little biker symbol (I’ll confess that it was probably my third visit to Pamplona when IContinue reading “The Camino and the Spanish Civil War (part 2 – Navarra)”

How to read a (church) door

One of the most common scenes you’ll see over an external church door is the Last Judgement, where all the dead are summoned and Christ grants heaven to some and condemns others to hell (each according to their merits).  The sculpturing of these doors is amazing and was executed according to a universally understood designContinue reading “How to read a (church) door”

The Camino and the Spanish Civil War (part 1)

You might not notice it, but the Spanish Civil War (1936–39) is a conflict still alive in Spain.  Any Spanish person you meet of 60 years or older (e.g. some of the hospitalero who run the albergues you stay in) will not simply be old enough to have lived under the dictatorship, but will haveContinue reading “The Camino and the Spanish Civil War (part 1)”

Compostela — ‘Field of the Star’?

In a previous post I mentioned seeing the Perseid meteor shower about halfway between Burgos and León and it got me thinking about the origins of the name Compostela, which some suggest comes from the Latin Campus Stellae ‘Field of the Star’. Etymologies — the origin and explanations of names — can be fun.  ForContinue reading “Compostela — ‘Field of the Star’?”

Know your Camino architecture: Romanesque and Gothic

Do you have a favourite type of medieval architecture?  Weird question?  Personally, as a medieval nerd I’m a bit torn between Romanesque and Gothic, but I think the older Romanesque wins out.  Why?  Well firstly it comes down to what they can and can’t do. Romanesque and Gothic are readily identifiable by their trademark arches;Continue reading “Know your Camino architecture: Romanesque and Gothic”

So the donkey stuff again…

So I was asked to clarify about the donkey stuff in my first blog post (‘The oldest guide to the Camino’) — specifically about how it’s done!  I mean, really?  That’s what you want to know?  Well, in lieu of finding and posting a video to something that would probably get me fired should myContinue reading “So the donkey stuff again…”

And they say that he got crazy once and that he tried to touch the sun…

One of the most beautiful sights on the Camino is the sky above.  I recall lying in a field one night in August 2016 along with my friend Jay and a group of five or six other companions outside Carrión de los Condes, watching the annual Perseid meteor shower over the Meseta — the inspirationContinue reading “And they say that he got crazy once and that he tried to touch the sun…”

The wine of La Rioja

La Rioja is the smallest of Spain’s autonomous regions and is synonymous with quality wine in the way that Bordeaux is in France or Napa Valley in the US.  Indeed, it’s sometimes known as the Bordeaux of Spain, not least because French winemaking techniques were introduced to it in the later nineteenth century, which reallyContinue reading “The wine of La Rioja”

The oldest guide to the Camino

Keeping donkeys for oral sex does not seem like the kind of thing you would normally associate with a travel guide, especially one dedicated to a pilgrimage, but sure enough there it is in the oldest guide book to the Camino, the twelfth-century Pilgrim’s Guide in the Codex Calixtinus: In some places, like Vizcaya andContinue reading “The oldest guide to the Camino