Saturday, July 08, 2017

Pilgrims Pratice Tips.

    Barcelona is the heart and soul of Iberia. Its a vibrant, multicultural, blend of past and modernity with deep religious references. Its now one of my and Ernest Hemmingway's favorite cities. The three must see Cathedrals in the City are the Sagrada Familia (thank you Captain Obvious), the city's main Cathedral and the Saint Maria del Mar- Saint Mary by the Sea (the Med.)  I posted some photos on Facebook. Pilgrimmage electronics/loading/bandwith are a bit challenging so more photos are going to appear on Facebook than on here. I hope to put them all in a book one day.

   If visiting Montserrat I highly recommend staying in a small town (sort of a suburban enclave) in between Montserrat and Barcelona center city called Sabadell. Its the Bethesda of Barcelona only not as many restaurants (kind of industrial) (There are train stops for Sabadell Sud, Centre and Nord)- and an ApartHotel Terassa in the Nord part  (french style studio apartments in a hotel complex). I booked this cheapie one on Hotwire and found three beds in the room (two King size, one twin) so for the ridiculous price of $57 a night including hotel tax I could have put a family or half a boy scout troop or 3 seminarians in this ApartHotel. (for under $15. a piece a night). This Aparthotel is on the same train line of Monastorio Montserrat from where one gets the funicular incline up the hill to the famous Benedictine Monastery which has the Black Madonna that inspired the conversion of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. (Replica in the church of St. Ignatius of Loyola in NYC). One of the most brilliant modern of statues of Ignatius of Loyola is in the church of Santa Maria del Mar.

   Barcelona attracts people from everywhere and there is an element. Something I bought which was hanging in a plastic bag from my purse had a mysterious slash in the bottom with the contents missing and It happened without my noticing. One is told there is a serious pickpocket element there.
In future I won't carry anything in a plastic bag around town. Too easy.

   The midnight bus to Pamplona is 28 Euros. There is only one bus daily and its the overnight bus that leaves at 10:30 pm and takes 6 hours.  Pamplona is a Spanish starting point for the French Camino route.  Lucky me, my timing was such that I landed on day 2 of the famous Fete of San Fermin aka the Running with the Bulls where a city of 200,000 people host over a million people coming to partake of the festival. Note to file, read Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises." The bus arrived at the main station in Pamplona which was lined with people in the mandatory white pants and shirt and a splash of red (for the martyr San Fermin) in a scarf tied about the neck. Wandering outside the town were teeming youth awake tottering from the night of revelry with what can only be described as catholic boys gone wild-because every sort of debauched revelry could be seen en plein air. People were making out, dancing in the streets with bottle in hand singing loudly in a manner that would put a British soccer match to shame. From about daybreak to 8:00 when the bulls run into the stadium as people watch from every balcony en route to be poked and slashed after goring a few people who dare think they can outrun them, who have to be carted out in Ambulances (two Americans died from Bull goring the day before which makes an interesting death certificate-death by Bull goring), city street cleaners have the herculean task of getting rid of piles of plastic debris, broken bottles in hosed down rivers of piss and vomit. I saw no less than five people pissing against buildings and statuary walking around. This would never happen in America. This happens every night and morning for a week in Pamplona. They start drinking beer and hard liquor at 8:00 am and don't let up.

   I don't recommend arriving in Pamplona during this Festival (while it makes interesting street fair market window shopping) if your goal is the Camino because the usual places to get Pilgrim Passports for the Camino de Santiago de Compostello are all closed for the week.  It took forever to figure out how to get the passport credentials, which one needs to get into the cheapie hostels along the way. After asking clueless shopkeepers I found an information tourist center who gave vague if not useless directions. I went to the only place where they could be issued: the actual House of the Archbishop next to the main Cathedral in town. This gave me an opportunity to catch a Mass at the Cathedral which had the most divine singing by priests and monks who treat the Festival of San Fermin as a religious fete. It started out that way. Mandatory incensing of the statute of San Fermin mid Mass said-this guy was important leading me to wonder:

   Who is San Fermin? This drove me to the googler and wikipedia (Trump's favorite legal authority). And I learned that  he was a convert who became a priest and Bishop. He was martyred in Amiens France (where the current French President is from.) I have a new friend in heaven. That's why everyone is wearing a red scarf (red for martyrdom not for bull taunting). Why Bulls? Apparently his mentor, a close friend was also martyred by tying his feet together to a bull who dragged him to his death. Its been Saint Fermin's vengeance on the species ever since. Thus the sport of taunting and killing Bulls in the name of Saint Fermin. Anti-Bull racism running rampant, you could say. The blood of the martyrs is the unlimited cerveza of the church-or something.

   After no sleeping on a bus all night, walking around wooden bull barriers to make it to Mass and walking about ten miles past the University of Navarro down beautiful grassy tree lined countryside  I landed at an Auberge with wifi (hence I can make this post).  I was at that point near heat stricken with the weight of my backpack crushing bones In my feet I feared. I am clearly not in shape for this adventure. My deeply sedentary legal job did not prepare me for this. There are serious athletic hikers here. One should seriously train. I make no excuse for being almost 57 (birthday on July 24-the vigil of the Feast of Saint James in Compostello-hence the call of the wild). There are older people here. You can do the entire Camino from Pamplona on a bike in about 15 days. Walking it takes a month.

   I don't recommend going in July (I have a break in contract projects so the timing worked for me but in future would turn it down in July) because of the oppressive heat/humidity and because everything is four times as expensive during the July-August period. A hostel normally 3 Euros is 12. If you walk for a month it ads up to the price of an studio apartment in DC just for lodging. Then there is food because its hard to keep up the stamina without eating, and emergency transport should you actually drop of heat stroke on the "way." I am doing a lot of "offering up" and hope I am getting hordes out of purgatory but somehow think this self inflicted penance isn't helping.

   This is an enormous exercise in trusting God for guidance and miracles. He hasn't let me down yet while there have been some brief very scary heart palpitating moments. My bad pidgeon Spanish is enough to get me the basics but its woefully deficient for an actual conversation.  One of my goals is to get the proper training to be able to speak fluently.  My excuse is that catholic charities has already trained me as an asylum attorney and I should be able to speak real spanish for the Central American clients.
I find more French, Irish, Italians, Polish and Americans at the Auberge. Also, Spanish speakers want to impress you with their English.  God, are you sure you wouldn't just prefer I take a class?



   (If you are enjoying these travelogues and tips I encourage you to throw paypal bucks to so I can keep doing this. If people show appreciation it encourages me to keep writing, hopefully soon a book and keeps me from sleeping in the mountains. In search of a sugar daddy I don't have to sleep with ;-) Living on air a prayer and a vending machine dinner ;-)

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