How to protect yourself from lightnings in case of thunderstorms

Foto via Thomas Gatzweiler, Flickr.
Pic via Thomas Gatzweiler, Flickr.

We are getting closer to autumn, one of the most popular seasons for walking the Camino de Santiago. It’s also the season, however, when rain and storms start to become more frequent. For those pilgrims walking the Camino, this presents a small but non-negligible risk: being struck by a lightning during a thunderstorm.

The risk of being hit by a lightning is indeed much higher in the countryside than in the city, since there are no tall buildings with metallic structures that might act as lightning rods. In order to prevent this, the best thing is to plan our route so that a hypothetical storm doesn’t catch us in the middle of the stage. Thus, we should follow these guidelines:

  • Pay attention to weather forecasts.
  • When in the road, observe the sky in case there are dark clouds or lightning flashes. Seek shelter in a safe place immediately if that’s the case.
  • During the summer, thunderstorms tend to take place after four in the afternoon, so try to plan your route so that you reach your destination before that time.

 

If, despite all, we are caught by a storm in the countryside, this is what we should do:

  • Avoid any high places, such as hills, and seek shelter in lower zones. It’s not a good idea to lie down on the floor, though, since electricity can travel along the ground.
  • Get rid of all metallic objects, and leave them at least 30 meters away. This also includes powering down and leaving cellphones.
  • In the same way, we should avoid metallic objects: fences, electric poles… as well as masses of water (rivers, puddles…).
  • Do not run, and much less with wet clothes. Your movement could create turbulences in the air that “attract” lightnings.
  • Avoid open, flat spaces, since we will stick out in the landscape and we could also attract lightnings.
  • In the same way, we should not seek shelter underneath solitary trees, rocks and other features that stick out from their surroundings.

 

Where should we hide then? A good place could be a forest or group of trees, specially if there are other taller trees nearby. However, the best place to hide in the countryside is a closed car, with the engine turned off, radio antenna lowered and windows closed. If lightning strikes it, the car will be electrically charged only on the outside, while the inside will be protected, thanks to the physical phenomenon known as “Faraday cage”. Nevertheless, we should be careful not to touch any metallic parts of the car once we get out.

If we cannot get in the car and have to remain outdoors, the best thing is to squat as low as possible, with hands on the knees and touching the floor only with your shoes.

If a person has been struck by a lightning, these are the first aid measures that we should perform:

  • If the person struck is unconscious, check for breathing and pulse.
  • If there’s no breath, mouth-to-mouth resucitation should be provided. If there’s no pulse, perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). People suffering from cardiac arrest due to a lightning strike have more probabilities of recovery than those due to other causes; therefore, first aid should be performed as soon as possible.
  • Check also for other injuries, such as bone fractures or burns. Do not move the patient if there are vertebral fractures.
  • Keep the patient warm until medical help arrives.

 

(Source: Asociación Profesional de Agentes Forestales de la CC. AA. de Madrid).

The “Codex Calixtinus”

Codex Calixtinus

Besides the remains of Santiago the apostle, one of the most precious treasures that are kept in the Compostela cathedral is the so-called “Codex Calixtinus”, also known as the “first guidebook for the Camino”, written in the XII Century.

The “Codex Calixtinus” is a medieval manuscript dating from year 1140 (approx.), which contains the oldest known copy of the so-called “Liber Sancti Iacobi”, a compilation of sermons, liturgical chants and miracles related to Saint James. There are about twelve copies of this book in Europe, but the oldest one is, as mentioned, the one kept in the cathedral.

The codex, or the “Liber Sancti Iacobi” (if we want to be accurate), begins with a letter supposedly written by Pope Calixtus II (hence the name of the manuscript), and continues with five sections, which contain:

  1. Liturgical texts (sermons, Masses) related to Saint James.
  2. Accounts of miracles attributed to Saint James.
  3. A description of how the saint’s body was carried to Compostela. This book contains the first appearance of sea shells as symbols of the pilgrimage, since it describes how pilgrims collected them at the beach as proof of their arrival to Santiago.
  4. The story of Charlemagne‘s arrival to the Iberian Peninsula and how Saint James appeared to him in a dream (Charlemagne’s iberian military campaign includes his famous defeat in the battle of Roncesvalles,which inspired the “Chanson de Roland”. These events are also described in the book).
  5. A “guide” for the medieval pilgrim, with a list of rivers, towns, hostels, churches… found along the Camino.

This last book is the best known one, and it’s the one that earned the Codex the nickname of “first pilgrim’s guidebook”. For decades, historians have relied on it for insights about the towns in the Camino during the Middle Ages, as well as details about the pilgrimage during those times.

The book’s authorship has traditionally been attributed to french monk Aymeric Picaud, who joined pope Calixtus II during his pilgrimage to Santiago in 1109, and might have taken the chance to compile the information that appears in Book V. However, many modern historians have doubts about this attribution.

Lastly, we can’t help but mention the occasion where this codex, with hundreds of years of history, jumped to the front pages in 2011, when it disappeared from the Santiago cathedral. After several months of investigation, the police managed to recover it and arrest its thief, a electrician who used to work at the cathedral.

 

“The Way”: where was it filmed?

Martin Sheen in "The Way"

There is no doubt that one of the movies that has contributed most to popularize the Camino de Santiago in the last few years around the world has been “The Way”, the U.S. film directed by Emilio Estévez starring Martin Sheen. Since its release in 2010,  “The Way” has spread the word about the pilgrimage to Santiago, and audiences worldwide have been touched by the humanity and warmth of its story.

Among the main appeals of “The Way” are its sceneries. Emilio Estévez and his crew filmed the movie in real locations along the Camino in Spain, and any pilgrim will easily recognize some of its best known landmarks.

It is for this reason that we decided to satisfy the curiosity of moviegoers and would-be-pilgrims, and create an interactive map with the main filming locations of the Camino that appear in the movie. Fly around on the map, click on the designated places, and you’ll learn which scene was shot in each of them. We hope that you’ll find it interesting:

Map

The monastery of San Martín Pinario

Once the pilgrim has reached Santiago, (s)he has a series of mandatory rituals and places to visit: the cathedral, hugging the statue of the Saint, taking the proverbial picture in the plaza de Obradoiro… But Santiago is a city with lots of hidden treasures that are worthy of discovery, and today we will talk about one of them.

The monastery of San Martín Pinario, located close to the cathedral, is the second biggest one in Spain, and it was founded in the X Century by the benedictine order. The current building is from the XVI century, and is therefore of renaissance /baroque style.

San Martín Pinario
Photo by Raúl A.: https://www.flickr.com/photos/torrelodones/

One of the most spectacular elements is the church’s vault, with fake coffers. Another item of interest is the main altarpiece, designed in the XVIII century by Casas y Novoa (the same architect that created the Obradoiro facade of the cathedral), which shows Saint Martin (sharing his cape with a poor) and St. Millán de la Cogolla and Santiago fighting infidels.

Church's vault
Photo by Diego Delso, License CC-BY-SA

An interesting anecdote is that the church’s towers rise only to the same height than the facade, due to the intervention of the cathedral chapter, which didn’t want towers higher than those of the cathedral itself.

Today the monastery hosts a museum of religious art, with an important collection of jewelery, sculptures and manuscripts.

Biking the Camino: the Eurovelo project

Every year there are more pilgrims doing the Camino on bike, and the initiative we want to talk today, named Eurovelo, will doubtlessly be of great interest for them.

ciclistas02

Eurovelo is a network of long distance cycle routes promoted by the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), covering the entire European continent, from the Black Sea to Finisterre, and from the nordic regions to the Mediterranean. ECF’s vision is to allow people to cross all of Europe on bicycle through safe and well-marked routes.

Within this project, the Camino de Santiago (the Camino Francés, to be more accurate) has been included in the route EV3, the “Pilgrims Route”. The route begins in Trondheim (Norway) and ends at Santiago de Compostela, crossing such historical places as Hamburg, Paris or Bourdeaux. In the case of Spain, as mentioned, the route will follow the steps of the Camino Francés.

imageMap

As for its current state, the Eurovelo project is scheduled to be completed by 2020, when all the necessary work will be completed; this includes things like signs, road maintenance, etc. As we can see in Eurovelo’s official map, the Camino Francés is currently “under development”.

Without a doubt, this is a very interesting initiative that will contribute to make life easier to those who choose the bicycle to travel the Camino.

 

Ultreia!

Ultreia01

One of the words most frequently associated with the Camino, to the point of finding it in all kinds of contexts during the journey, is “Ultreia!” What does it mean and where does it come from?

Foto-17-4-17-12-40-15

“Ultreia” is a latin word, and it literally means “beyond”. It originally appeared in the “Codex calixtinus”, the well known medieval manuscript that constitutes an invaluable document about pilgrimage during the Middle Ages, to the point of being called by some the first “travel guide” for the Camino. In one of the appendices of this manuscript, devoted to religious hymns, we can find this line:

“E ultreia, e suseia,
Deus adiuva nos”

(Go beyond, go higher, protect us God).

“Suseia”, in turn, means “go higher”. The legend says that, in old times, when pilgrims found each other, they exchanged these words as salutation: “¡Ultreia!” “¡Et susaeia!”

Yellow arrows and the Father Elías Valiña

yellow-arrow-camino-facil

If you have ever made the pilgrimage to Santiago, or are currently doing it, you shall know by now how well marked the route is, and you will be quite familiar with the infallible and ubiquitous symbol of the yellow arrow, the standard indicator in every Jacobean route, and the most safe sign that we are in the right path and heading to Santiago.

The symbol of the yellow arrow is relatively recent, and contemporary with the Jacobean pilgrimage revival at mid eighties. Its presence is not incidental or spontaneous, but the result of a huge effort by the man who made the transformation of an almost forgotten old tradition into the mass phenomenon that we know today possible: the Father Elías Valiña (1929-1989), who since 1957, when he was made the parish priest of Santa María do Cebreiro, became the greatest champion of the recovery of the ancient route that passed in front of his church.

It was in 1984, as part of his tireless work for the restoration and promotion of the pilgrimage to Santiago, that the need of an adequate signaling of the route arose.

Elías Valiña was receiving many complaints from the scarce pilgrims who then walked the route that they were constantly missing the path. The Father acquired a batch of spare yellow paint of the type used in Spain to make surface markings on stretches of roads as a roadwork sign, and he went to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, the French starting point of the French Way, in his Citroën 2CV, and from there right down to Santiago, signaling with a hand painted yellow arrow every one of the hundreds of points where the route could be missed by the pilgrims. That is the Jacobean route restored and signaled by Elías Valiña himself, and it is considered the most reliable restoration of the original medieval route. During these long efforts Elías Valiña became a great scholar in everything related to the Jacobean pilgrimage, with an ample knowledge about history, art and cultural heritage, and countless published works and papers.

elias-valina-camino-facil

In his will, he left his family in charge of maintaining the proper signaling of the pilgrim’s way, a work that they are still carrying; but of course this is a work too demanding for so few people, and this heritage has been actually passed on to the many voluntary associations of the Camino and to the public administrations.

If today the Camino to Santiago is not just a beautiful memory of a splendorous medieval past, we owe it mostly to the selfless work of the Father Elías Valiña. The yellow arrow is a symbol not only of a collective selfless effort for guiding the pilgrim on a safe path, but it’s also a symbol of the great effort of transforming what was little more than a romantic memory of ancient medieval times in a mass phenomenon more alive than ever.

Exhibition “Master Mateo” in the Museo del Prado

Since last November, Museo del Prado in Madrid is hosting an exhibition of great appeal for all those interested in the history of the Santiago cathedral. The exhibition, named “Master Mateo”, hosts several works created by the medieval artisan for the lost west façade of the cathedral.

As we know, the current façade of Santiago’s cathedral (facing plaza de Obradoiro) comes from the XVIII century, and it replaces a former one, which is the one designed by Master Mateo himself. When the old façade was destroyed, some of its sculptures were reinstalled in other locations of the cathedral, while others were abandoned or became parts of museums and private collections. This exhibition reunites many of them, including the statue that was found last October in the cathedral during remodeling work.

Without a doubt, this is a very interesting visit for all those passionate about the cathedral and all things Santiago-related, and for those pilgrims who arrive to Spain via Madrid, it might be a worthwhile visit before traveling to their Camino starting points.

The exhibition will be open until April 24th.

Pamplona to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port: how to arrive

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
Foto via https://flic.kr/p/5kc234

One of the most common starting points for pilgrims who walk the Camino de Santiago is Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, in France. As we explain in our section “How to get there”, the main transport medium to reach this small village from Spain is the seasonal bus operated by CONDA (an ALSA subsidiary), covering the Pamplona to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port route.

The question for many pilgrims, as they plan their Camino every year, is when does the CONDA / ALSA bus service start. For 2017, according to ALSA, the starting dates are already out:

  • March 1st: one daily bus, departing from Pamplona at 14:30.
  • April 12th: two daily buses, at 14:30 anad 17:30.
  • June 1st: three daily buses, at 10:00, 14:30 and 17:30.

All of them depart from the Pamplona bus station.

Alternatively, if these bus dates are not convenient for you, we at Caminofacil also provide a taxi service that covers the same route. You can contact us for further details.