Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Along the The Way of St. James, there are some hostels or other accommodations that require that you are carrying a pilgrim passport or credential. You can also get stamps from all the different places you have been along the way. Not only does it get you discounts on your pilgrimage, but it is a cool souvenir to keep. If you are an American, you can pre-order your credentials for free(or with a small donation) from American Pilgrims on the Camino. Be sure to order at least two weeks before your departure. If you would rather get one on route, there on many places along the way in Spain. In Switzerland, however, I struggled to find where I could obtain a pilgrim passport. Finally, I found a place in St. Gallen that has credentials for purchase (Pilgrims Sankt Gallen). So with pilgrim passport in hand, I am ready to start my pilgrimage!
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Once again I find myself on the precipice of a new chapter in my life. With several months before I head out for medical school, I decided what better to do than walk across a country? In one week, I will set out for my journey that begins in Rorschach, Switzerland, ending in Geneva. I will travel an ancient pilgrimage route called The Way of St. James or Jakobsweg. This route is roughly 430km long and will take me about 25 days to complete. While I'll have a tent on my back, I am also planning on sleeping in some of the popular "sleep in straw" (schlaf im stroh) locations. You literally sleep in these families' barns!
So why did I choose to spend an entire month of my short summer trekking across a country? People do pilgrimages for many reasons now-a-days. While in medieval times, this route was steeped in religious tradition, today it is walked by people searching for a challenge, calling upon faith, who appreciate the beautiful scenery, or who just need an escape from their mundane life. Of course, the religious history is still present with many churches and landmarks scattered along the route (such as shrines to St. Niklaus or the abbey in Einsiendeln). I chose to do a pilgrimage because I had the time and I wanted to spend it challenging my mind and body. What better way to do that than a long walk by myself! The other reason, of course, is due to my itch to travel again. For once the travel bug bites, there is no known antidote and I will be happily infected for the rest of my life.