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Reopening: yes, we will be on the Camino this summer!

As we approach the end of the “state of alarm” in Spain and we come back to a (relative) normal state of affairs, we have been getting questions from pilgrims interested in walking the Camino this summer. We want to confirm to our friends that yes, we will be providing service as usual in all Caminos, both with luggage transfer and passenger transportation.

Clients that already had confirmed bookings with us can modify their starting date using our website, which is open 24/7. They can also make bookings through it as usual. We want to remind our customers that, if you change your mind, you can change dates later at no cost and also cancel your booking.

Obviously luggage transfer isn’t everything, and the posibility of walking the Camino also depends on the availability of albergues and hotels. We will try our best to share news in that regard through our social media.

Given the current situation, we at Caminofácil have also adopted strict measures to ensure the safety of our services, with protocols such as the use of masks and gloves, as well as using alcohol and ozone machines to clean our passenger cars after each trip.

Despite these difficult times, we hope we’ll be able to see you this summer and autumn on the Camino de Santiago, enjoying the nature and sights that our country has to offer.

Regarding the current situation in Spain and the Camino de Santiago

As you know, the Spanish Government announced yesterday (March 14) the “state of alarm” in the spanish territory, which among other things bans people’s movements without just cause. This obviously means that our luggage transfer service is suspended as long as said state remains in place.

Those of our clients who have bookings with us can switch them free of charge to a later date. If you wish to cancel your booking, you can do so by logging into our website or emailing us at contacto@caminofacil.net.

If you are on the Camino right now, you can get information at these points (info vía A survival guide to the Camino de Santiago in Galicia):

We hope that all our clients are well and take care of themselves and their loved ones through the social distancing measures explained by health authorities, and we hope that we’ll be able to see each other soon on the Camino.

The Camino Primitivo

Catedral de Oviedo

When we talk about the Camino Primitivo, we are talking about what is probably one of the lesser known routes of the Camino de Santiago, and yet, it was the first one to be established (hence its name), and it holds in store many surprises that are worth discovering.

The Camino Primitivo was the route of the first recorded pilgrimages to Santiago recorded in history, and it is the one taken by king Alfonso II of Asturias (nicknamed “the Chaste”) to visit the tomb of Santiago, recently discovered back then.

If we decide to take this pilgrimage, we’ll find a well marked course, where it will be difficult to get lost, with walkable and not too difficult stages. A route where paths are clean thanks to abundant maintenance efforts and to the daily transit of cattle. A zone of green landscapes which, despite the occasional muddiness in winter, is very well worth visiting.

The Camino Primitivo, which follows along the trail of the first pilgrims, passes through spectacular zones of Asturias and León, entering Galicia through other equally beautiful ones. It’s a less travelled road, full of leafy and green vistas.

Starting the Camino Inglés in Ferrol: what to see

Photo via OurUtopy in Flickr.

The Camino Inglés is becoming increasingly popular. More and more pilgrims every year take this hitherto less known route, as the statistics compiled by the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago prove; according to them, last year (2018) Ferrol was the fifth most popular starting point for those who reached the compostela, beating even classic places of the Camino such as Leon and O Cebreiro. And of course, we at Caminofácil have started our luggage transfer service along the Camino Inglés.

Because of all this, we wanted today to offer a brief guide to the pilgrim who start her way in Ferrol and wishes to spend a couple of days before exploring the city.

Ferrol Vello

Photo via charlotteinaustralia in Flickr.

This neighbourhood is the original nucleus of the city. The pilgrims who disembarked in Ferrol during the Middle Ages in order to reach Santiago did so here, in the Curuxeiras dock. Walking through the neighbourhood today, one can still get the feel of that original town, a typical galician fishing village.

From here we can also take a ferry for a touristic tour of the estuary.

A Magdalena

Photo via Trevor Huxham in Flickr.

This neighbourhood, which comprises Ferrol’s urban center today, was declared “Conjunto Histórico Artístico” by the spanish government in 1983. Its beautiful art nouveau buildings, built at the beginning of the XX century for the city’s bourgeoisie, give it an unique character.

San Felipe Castle

Photo via amainamos in Flickr.

Built in the XVI century, this castle constituted the main defense of the city, along with the castles of Palma and San Martiño (no longer existing). Their location allowed the defenders of the city to close the estuary off by laying a chain between this castle and the Palma castle, so that no ship could enter.

Beaches

Photo via OurUtopy in Flickr.

Ferrol is surrounded by long beaches of incomparable beauty, ideal for the practice of surf or any other nautical sport. Several of them have the blue flag distinction, which rewards their cleanliness and safety. Some of them are the beaches of Doñinos, Esmelle or Santa Comba.

Cape Prior

Photo via Jesús Perez in Flickr.

The lighthouse at Cape Prior, 14 km. away from the city, is the perfect place to observe the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean. The galician coast, full of cliffs, offers us here a place of incomparable beauty.

2021, “Año Jacobeo”

Official logo for the 2021 “Año Xacobeo”

Many of our readers, as they prepare their future Camino, must have heard that the year 2021 is a special one, since it’s a Jubilee Year or “Año Jacobeo” (“Año Xacobeo” in galician). What does this mean?

According to the Catholic Church, a Jubilee Year is celebrated in Santiago de Compostela whenever July 25th (the day of Santiago the elder) falls on a Sunday. And indeed, the next time this will happen will be on 2021 (and then in 2027). For catholic christians, this means that they can attain a plenary indulgence (full forgiveness of their sins) if they:

  • Visit the Santiago cathedral. (Strictly speaking, one doesn’t need to have made the full pilgrimage; it’s enough to have visited Santiago).
  • Pray for the pope (at least the Lord’s Prayer or the Creed).
  • Receive the Sacraments of Penance and Communion.

The Jubilee Year is also special because it’s only on those occasions when the cathedral’s Holy Door is open.

Indulgence can also be gained, for those pilgrims who haven’t been able to reach Santiago due to accident or illness, if you reach Villafranca del Bierzo and cross the Forgiveness Gate at its church.

This tradition was created by pope Calixtus II in 1120, and it was a big factor in the increase of pilgrimages to Santiago during the Middle Ages. (For those readers knowledgeable about the History of the Camino and who might find Calixtus II’s name familiar, the “Codex Calixtinus” takes its name from a supposed letter by this pope attached to the beginning of the document).

From a practical point of view, on jubilee years there is a considerable increase in the number of pilgrims, so it’s convenient to plan in advance and make reservations for your lodgings, specially in Santiago. Of course, one can also avoid such hassle by walking the Camino on a non-Jacobean year, such as 2020 itself…

 

Caminofácil: now on the Camino Inglés!

Puerto del Ferrol

We have some great news to share: starting today, Caminofácil provides luggae transfer services on the Camino Inglés, starting from Ferrol. Pilgrims who wish to experience the Camino in a (up to now) less known route will enjoy now the comfort of having their luggage waiting for them at the lodgings at the end of the stage, thanks to our service.

What is the Camino Inglés?

The Camino Inglés has its origins in the Middle Ages, when it was the route used by english and irish pilgrims who arrive by boat to Galicia. Their boats desembarked them at Coruña o Ferrol, and from there they walked to Santiago. Despite its name, it wasn’t used solely by english people; there is a case of an icelandic pilgrim who arrived in 1154.

The modern Camino Inglés, which Caminofácil starts to cover now, has its origin in Ferrol, and it has a length of 112 km., enough to get the compostela at the pilgrim’s arrival at Santiago. Along the route, the pilgrim crosses towns like Pontedeume or Betanzos, and can enjoy the beautiful galician scenery and coasts.

The battle of Atapuerca

Foto gentileza de www.batalladeatapuerca.com

Atapuerca is one of the best known villages through which the Camino de Santiago passes. Known today mostly thanks to its archeological site, it is also relevant though for the yearly reenactment of the historical battle that took place in the town in the Middle Ages.

The battle

The battle of Atapuerca took place on September 1st of 1054, between kings Fernando I of León and Count of Castile, and García Sánchez III of Pamplona. Both of them were sons of king Sancho III of Navarre, who divided his kingdom at death between them.

A series of personal conflicts among both brothers, that had roots in part in king Bermudo III of León’s attempt to wage war against Fernando and García’s help to the latter, provoked the battle between both kings on the plain in the valley of Atapuerca.

The battle concluded with the death of García Sanchez, but Navarre’s army managed to keep calm and recover the king’s body in order to bring it back to the pantheon in Nájera. García’s son, Sancho Garcés IV, was named king on the battlefield itself.

The event

(Pictures courtesy of www.batalladeatapuerca.com).

The current reenactment began in 1996, as an initiative of a group of neighbours organised in the association “Amigos de Atapuerca”. It has now been declared an Event of Touristic Interest by the Castilla-León regional government, and it has a medieval market that takes place during the day. All the elements used in the reenactment (shields, tents, historical clothing…) are made by the village’s inhabitants.

This year (2019) the reenactment will take place on August 24 and 25. If you are interested, you can get more information at www.batalladeatapuerca.com.

Proyecto Ultreya: a pioneering study on the efects of the Camino on mental health

We would like to highlight today a pioneering study in the field of psychology and mental health. We have often heard from pilgrims sharing their experience about the effects that walking the Camino de Santiago has had on their daily life, from the philosophical aspects to the added self-knowledge, and even from the psychological point of view. A group of researchers from the San Joan de Déu Hospital in Barcelona have decided, for the first time, to study scientifically those beneficial effects.

The study, called Proyecto Ultreya, is an online questionnaire that pilgrims can fill out in a voluntary way. In order to measure the psychological effects of walking the Camino, participants are asked to fill out said question three time: before their pilgrimage, right after finishing it and three months later.

The study, leaded by Dr. Albert Feliu, will be active for the remainder of this year and also (most likely) during 2020. Pilgrims who wish to participate can do so at their website, https://www.estudiocamino.org/

Eight wonders of El Bierzo

Camino de Santiago en El Bierzo

One of the most distinctive regions that the Camino Francés passes through is El Bierzo. Located right before Galicia, between mountains and valleys, El Bierzo is a region with a distinctive identity that deserves special attention from the traveler. We are going to highlight here some of its wonders, so that the pilgrim can check them out in his next Camino and stop for a few minutes (or even hours) to experience the unique features that this region can offer.

Riego de Ambrós

Riego de Ambrós

Riego de Ambrós was a mandatory stop for pilgrims during the trip to Compostela. Being a town dependant directly from the king (“realengo”), it had a pilgrim’s hospital called San Juan de Irago, that was destroyed by a fire in the XVIII century. It has excellent samples of popular architecture, like the parish church of Santa María Magdalena with its Baroque altarpiece, the fountains of San Sebastian, Santa María Magdalena and the town square one. Close to it we also find the bridges of Malpaso, in a detour of the Camino towards Los Barrios.

Church of Santa María de Vizbayo

Iglesia de Santa María de Vizbayo

Probably the most ancient romanesque temple in the region, the church of Santa María de Vizbayo is in Otero, a small town close to the Mount Pajariel. Built in late XI century, it features horseshoe arches and a singular window on the front.

Ponferrada

Castillo de Ponferrada

The capital of El Bierzo is the biggest town we’ll find in the way until reaching Santiago, and it has plenty of attractions to visit. The most famous one is obviously the templar castle from the XII century, but we can also have a look at the “Fábrica de la Luz”, a technological museum located in an old power station.

Another important symbol of the region is the basilica of Nuestra Señora de la Encina, where we find an image of the Virgin Mary that was brought to Spain, according to legend, by Saint Turibius from the Holy Land.

Los Barrios (Ponferrada)

Lombillo

The parish of Lombillo, which belongs to Ponferrada, forms the region of Los Barrios along with other parishes such as Las Salas and Villar. Declared as Good of Cultural Interest by the spanish government, Lombillo preserves beautiful examples of popular architecture and magnificent examples of emblazoned houses. We can also visit the ermitage of Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación and one of the most beautiful lookouts of the region, from which we can see Ponferrada, the Aquilane Mountains, Salas and Villar and the church of San Martín de Salas.

Cacabelos

Santuario de las Angustias

On the outskirts of the town of Cacabelos, the pilgrim can find the Sanctuary of Angustias, built in the XVIII century in the same place where there used to be an ermitage devoted to the Virgin Mary. In it, we can admire the image of the Virgin Mary and have a look at its seven altarpieces, among them the biggest one, made by Miguel Núñez and Juan de Solorzano, as well as a painting of the Nursing Madonna, a relief of Jesus as a child playing cards with St. Anthony of Padua and the organ, brought here from the monastery of Santa María de Carracedeo.

Church of San Miguel at Corullón

The romanesque church of San Miguel in Corullón was declared “Good of Cultural Interest” in 1931. Built in the XII century, it’s remarkable for its decoration full of real and fantastic animals and obscene motifs, as well as the southern door with its archivolt and blind arcade over columns.

Villafranca del Bierzo

One of the most important towns of the region, Villafranca is known among pilgrims mostly for the church of Santiago, where we can find the “Puerta del Perdón” (Forgiveness Gate), which opens only during Holy Years. Pope Calixtus III gave to sick or disabled pilgrims the privilege of getting the same indulgences when reaching this gate than if they had walked all the way to Santiago.

We can also visit the Santa María Collegiate Church, built on the old site of the Santa María de Cluniaco monastery, which belonged to the Order of Cluny. Other highlights are the church of San Francisco, with its mudejar decoration, and the “barrio de los Tejedores” (weavers’ neighbourhood), with its typical wooden galleries.

Gastronomy

Gastronomía del Bierzo

We can’t finish this text without talking about the food in El Bierzo. With two designations of origin -DO Bierzo and Reineta Apple-, three Guaranteed Brands -Conference Pear, Chestnuts y Cherries- and two european PGIs -Roaster Pepper of El Bierzo and Botillo-, this region offers a huge variety of products that can satisfy the most demanding consumers.

All pictures courtesy of Cardinalia Comunicación.