Santa María de Eunate

Of all the monuments that the pilgrim can find along the Camino de Santiago (St. James Way), one of the most original is probably the Church of Saint Mary of Eunate, one of the greatest achievements of spanish romanesque architecture.

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How to arrive.

Eunate is located 2 km. of Muruzábal, in Navarra. If you are following the Camino Francés, once you reach said town you can take a detour towards the church, instead of going straight to Obanos. Once in the church, you don’t need to backtrack to Muruzábal to go back to the Camino; you can follow the N6064 until you reach Obanos and Puente La Reina.

Why it is special.

The church of Eunate (one hundred doors, in the Basque language) is a romanesque construction from the 12th century, although there’s a lot still unknown about its origins. Since it’s outside the town, and archaeological excavations have found scallops (symbols of pilgrimage) in the burials alongside the church, it’s been speculated that it was used as a hospice for pilgrims.

(Pictures courtesy of TaxNavarra).

The most original feature in this building, aside of the arches that surround it, is its octagonal plan, extremely unusual in romanesque art. This plan, similar to that of other churches founded by the Knights Templar all across Europe, has caused all sort of theories and legends about its association with said military order, despite the lack of evidence.

The legend of Eunate and Olcoz.

Regarding this church and a similar one in the nearby town of Olcoz, there is an interesting legend, which we will recount at a later time…

How to get mobile and Internet access if you are in Spain walking the Camino

Although the Camino is a place to forget about daily routine and find new experiences, it’s always convenient to keep a link to “civilization”: home, family, friends, that Wikipedia article explaining the history of the church you have in front of you… Not to mention the chance to share pictures of your experiences:

#caminodesantiago #bicigrino #Navarra #todavialoquequeda

A photo posted by Aritz (@aritzbb) on

Therefore, we here present some of the best options for pilgrims who have travelled to Spain to walk the Camino and wish to access the Internet or phone home.

This is not a comprehensive list. As anyone with experience in the subject knows, keeping track of all possible plans for all phone carriers can be exhausting. Instead, we have picked the most attractive offers for the non-spanish traveller spending a few days in Spain.

Consider also the following:

  • Buying a SIM card is easy. Most of the carriers listed here have stores in almost every city and midsize town (and even some small towns) along the Camino.
  • Spanish law requires you to provide ID (ID card, passport…) when purchasing a new phone line.

 

Vodafone.vodafone-logo

Vodafone has the Tourist in Spain plan. For 15 euros you can have a SIM card with:

  • 1 Gb. data.
  • 60 min. in phone calls to Spain or abroad (to a list of 35 countries).

All of them valid for one month.

Vodafone also has other offers under the “Vodafone yu” brand, with similar prices.


 

Orange.orange-adsl

The SIM Holidays plan from Orange provides you, for 15 euros, with:

  • 1.5 Gb. data.
  • 60 minutos in phone calls to Spain or abroad (to a list of 40 countries).

Valid for 15 days.


 

Movistar.movistar_logo_ecuador

Of all the offers provided by the biggest spanish carrier, we have picked the Habla 24 Horas + Tarifa Internet 5. you can buy a SIM card for 10 euros, with 5 euros of credit, which you can use then to buy

  • 400 Mb. data access.
  • Phone calls in Spain at 10 cent./min. rate.

Valid for one month.

Aside of that, you can also add the Habla Internacional plan, which allows you to make phone calls abroad at prices similar to those of local calls.


 

Yoigo.logo_yoigo_verde

We recommend from this carrier the plan tarifa del uno 1 Gb., in which, for 10 euros a month, you can have:

  • 1 Gb. data.
  • 20 minutes of calls to spanish numbers.
  • You can also use VoiceIP services such as Skype, Whatsapp, etc., which are disabled in the other prepaid plans of this company.

 

Carrefour.650_1200

With this carrier, you can buy a SIM card for 10 euros with 10 euros credit, and then purchase plans such as the Bono Mejorado, which, for 7.9 euros/months, gives you:

  • 1 Gb. data.
  • 30 min. in calls to Spain.

You can purchase this card in all the Carrefour supermarkets.


 

Lebara Móvil.lebara-500x500

Just like Carrefour, this carrier lets you buy a SIM card for 10 euros with 10 euros of credit, and use it to add, for example, the Todo en Uno 500 plan, which offers for 15 euros:

  • 1 Gb. data.
  • 500 minutes in calls to Spain and abroad (to more than 40 countries).

 

Questions? Contact us.

These are only some of the possibilities if you wish to have an Internet-enabled phone line during the Camino. However, if you want to save yourself some work, we at Caminofácil can help you. We can make the arrangements to provide you with a SIM card and leave it at the hotel of your choice. Contact us for more details.

 

What to carry in your backpack for the Camino? A personal perspective

One of the most frequently asked questions among would-be pilgrims is: “what do I pack?” There are practically as many different answers as people travelling along the Camino, since each person’s needs and tastes are different, specially when it comes to more “personal” equipment, such as boots or backpacks.

Neverthless, we can always look towards the experience of veteran pilgrims, since, after walking the Camino a few times, patterns start to emerge and we start finding ourselves facing the same situations, while other problems never end up taking place, despite us packing for them “just in case”.

This is why today we have asked Joaquín Luján from the “Club Caminante de Badajoz”, a nine-Camino veteran, for his packing list.

 

Joaquín insists us that he doesn’t want to tell anyone what to carry (since each person’s needs are different), but just to share his experiences. Thus, the first thing he tells us is that, when it comes to trekking equipment (boots, backpacks, walking sticks…), the best thing to do is to go to our local sports store and ask for advice there. After this caveat, Joaquín tells us about the things that he has found useful along his many Caminos:

  • A light guidebook with towns and hostels.
  • Shoes. Whatever they are (boots, sandals…), they should be one size bigger than your usual size, and ideally you should wear them for a couple of months before beginning the Camino. “In the beginning I used boots and two pairs of socks“, Joaquín tells us, “but now, after nine Caminos, I just wear sandals with no socks. A group of basque pilgrims saw me and called me ‘the sandals guy'”.
  • First aid kit. A female hygiene pad might be useful, to treat foot blisters.
  • Safety pins.
  • Needle and thread for sewing.
  • Even during the summer, it’s advisable to carry a rain jacket, as well as warm clothing, in case you decide to start your walk early in the day.
  • The walking stick. As we have mentioned here before, it must be tall enough to carry it at “heart height”, so that your upper body takes part in the exercise.

 

Aside of this, the australian author Doug Ericson also has his own list, in which we find some other pieces of equipment that might be interesting:

  • A LED lamp.
  • Sunglasses.
  • A hat or cap to protect yourself from the sun.
  • A water bottle.

 

Anyway, since each person has his/her own tastes, our advice is again to ask in our local trekking store for the most specialized equipment, as well as exchanging advice with other pilgrims. And of course, remember that if you got it wrong and packed more than you need, you can always use our services to carry your luggage day by day along the Camino.

Santo Domingo de la Calzada

One of the best known legends associated with the Camino is the one of Santo Domingo de la Calzada, town where, as the saying goes, “the chicken crowed after being roasted” (la gallina cantó después de asada). What’s the source of this legend?

As it goes, in the XIV century, a german family was walking the Camino when they spent the night in Santo Domingo. The hostess at the inn fell in love with the son of the family, but when she was rebuffed, she falsely accused him of robbery.

SantoDomingo2

The son was hanged, and the bereaved parents could only pray to the saint. The surprise took place when they retook the Camino and passed in front of their hanged son, who started speaking to them. They rushed to warn the mayor of the town, who was about to have dinner and didn’t wished to be interrupted. The impatient mayor told them: “your son is as alive as this chicken that I have in front of me…” at which point the chicken jumped and started crowing.

And this is why there are always a live rooster and chicken in Santo Domingo de la Calzada’s cathedral.

UNESCO adds Camino del Norte to World Heritage List

UNESCO‘s  World Heritage Committee approved yesterday an extension of the Route of Santiago de Compostela, in order to cover the “Camino Francés” and the Routes of Northern Spain.

whc2015_spain_rt_santiago_03_parawp

The Camino on the Gipuzkoa coast. (C) Gouvernement du Pays Basque

The Camino, as such, had already been added to the World Heritage list en 1993; this decision extends the definition of the “Camino” to cover the following routes: coastal, interior of the Basque Country–La Rioja, Liébana and primitive routes.

Here is UNESCO’s press release.

Tau’s cross

One of the most important symbols associated with the Camino is the Tau Cross, which we can see, for example, in the Glory’s Portico at the Santiago Cathedral, where the apostle is represented with a staff shaped in this way.

Santiago---Portico-da-Gloria

The cross has a long tradition behind it, starting in the egyptian and greek cultures. In the Christian era, the cross first became the symbol of St. Anthony of Egypt, and then of the congregation that bore his name, the Hospital Brothers of St. Anthony, who founded several hospices along the Camino (for example, at Castrojeriz). Later, St. Francis of Assisi also adpoted the cross as his coat of arms.

Camino way marker with San Anton cross

Besides all of that, the Tau Cross is also associated with a medieval navigation instrument. Jacob’s Staff, which has a shape similar to that of the cross, was used to measure the height of the stars over the horizon.

Jacobstaff

Cemetery of Navarrete (old pilgrim’s hospital)

Navarrete1

One of the monuments that can be admired along the Camino is in the town of Navarrete (Logroño). Here we see the facade of the old San Juan de Acre’s pilgrim hospital, which was founded in 1185. The hospital was named after the city of Acre, located in the Middle East and used by the Knight Hospitallers of Malta as their base of operations during the Crusades.

navarrete2

In the XIXth century, given its state of disrepair, the old hospital ruins were demolished, and the facade was moved to the town’s cemetery, where it can be seen now.

The walking staff

One of the most important elements for the pilgrim is the walking stick. The traditional sticks that we associate with the Camino, called “bordones” in spanish, are about as tall as a man, which gives them several advantages: since they are at “heart height”, they facilitate blood circulation in the upper body, and allow your arms to support part of your weight while walking. This way, your upper body takes active part in the exercise, which won’t happen while normally walking.

fotos-bordones

Obviously, the same benefits can be achieved with a modern trekking pole or hiking staff, as long as they are tall enough to achieve the aforementioned effects.

The scallop, symbol of the Camino

vieira

The scallop (vieira, pectinidae) is a mollusk that has turned into the symbol of the pilgrims in St. James Way. There are several theories as to why: some claim that, since it’s a species typical of Galicia, pilgrims carried them back home as proof of having reached Santiago. (Curiously, the species most often associated with the Camino, the pecten jacobaeus, is actually most common in the Mediterranean, while the species found in Galicia is another one, called pecten maximus).

Other sources, however, trace its origin to a well known medieval legend, according to which, while carrying St. James’ body to Santiago, one of the horses fell to the water and emerged covered in shells (a variant of this legend claims that, while disembarking the saint’s body, they found a knight on the beach whose horse got scared and ran to the sea, from which both emerged covered in shells).

Aside of this symbolic meaning, the shell also had a practical purpose. According to these sources, during the Middle Ages, pilgrims would carry a scallop with them and present themselves at abbeys, farms… where they would be given as much food and drink as they could pick up in one scoop.