I have been home almost a week now,but want to wrap things up with one final posting for this 2013 Camino of mine. After Cordoba, I took the train back to Madrid, where I visited the Prado and Reina Sofia art museums, also took a half day trip to Toledo and visited another favorite spot, the cathedral in Madrid.
The high speed (180 mph) train that I took from Cordoba to Madrid. The transit systems in Spain are fantastic
It is not a major city in Spain unless there is some sort of demonstration going on. This group in Madrid was protesting Monsanto's transgenic seeds.
Here is the interior of Madrid's cathedral. I like it because it was only completed in the twentieth century and has such a modern feel to it.
To wrap things up, a friend of mine just emailed me to mention that I never really said why I am doing camino after camino. It made me stop and think and put it down in words. Here is what I wrote back to him:
I am afraid my blog can be a bit boring at times, since I usually just talk about the ease or difficulty of the day's walk and maybe mention the food or something else that caught my attention. I refrain from talking very much about the many people that I meet as sometimes I may not have the nicest observations to make and I don't want to hurt any feelings since they sometimes read my blog, too. That said, I am glad you enjoyed following along.
Why do I walk the various caminos? Good question that I am not sure I can really answer satisfactorily, but there are several reasons why I continue to do it.
Religious? Definitely not now, perhaps to some extent, my first one in 2009, but seeing the effects of organized religion (the Inquisition, harsh treatment of the Moors and Jews, and other violence committed in the name of religion) has made me a firm agnostic.
History? Yes, I love seeing the various cathedrals, bridges, castles, etc. and it is always a source of wonder that these were built hundreds of years ago without the modern equipment we have today.
Spiritual? I suppose this would be the discovering oneself part. Perhaps I have to some extent, especially in regard to the religion question, but not really something that I think about a lot. Walking alone for hours does give a person lots of thinking time. I prefer to walk alone and I rarely listen to music while I am walking. I think I am generally a happy, well-adjusted person anyway, so there is not something that I am trying to find or some problem that I am hoping to get an answer for. I have not had any great revelations along the way. I know there are a lot of pilgrims there that are walking for these reasons.
Exercise? Well, I am glad that I am physically able to walk 14-22 miles a day, day after day. I think that perhaps only 5 % of the population, all ages, would be able to do that. I am thankful that I can, but the only way to know that I can is if I go out and do it. It is always a challenge year after year to see if I can still do that and so far I have been able to. One of these years, I know that will not be the case.
Why do some people such as I go on multiple caminos? This is a question that has been discussed many times on a camino forum that I subscribe to. As one other pilgrim on this forum put it-
"Not walking itself, but continuing to walk caminos. I can speak only for myself, of course, but I regard it strictly as another manifestation of OCD. How else can I explain doing something that is costly, unproductive, and taking up time from more responsible endeavors. Cheap vacation?? Ha! Trips to Europe are not cheap no matter how cheap the lodging might be. I live in an area that is the destination of a great many tourists from around the world and I can find plenty of low cost places to visit within one or two day's drive. I can only view the camino trips as an addiction and not necessarily a healthy one, not even physically."
I don't know if I agree totally with his outlook, but I know I do not have the starry eyed feeling that some people have and I am probably a bit more realistic about my expectations in completing the walk. Sometimes it can be a bit unnerving walking on a long road with traffic and sometimes boring, when you are just tired of reading another book on Kindle and its not time yet to eat or go to bed. But all in all, the people you meet from all over the world (not too many Americans), the scenery, the food, it is all enjoyable.
Bottom line? I enjoy walking and I enjoy Spain. The infrastructure is there for these extended walks in a way that it is not in other countries. The food is great, the people are great, I enjoy seeing how their agriculture is different than ours. It is even fun walking in the rain once in a while, but not too often. I don't want to do wilderness backpacking trips anymore carrying 50 pounds of food, tents, stoves, etc. but I do like carrying my 25 pound pack knowing that I will be able to spread out my sleeping bag on a cot under cover (even if there are 10 to 50 other people in the same room) and go out for a nice restaurant meal pretty much every day, too.
So why do I do it? I give any compellingly good reasons. I just enjoy it.