Category Archives: Inspiration for the Road

Oliver Schroer Radio Documentary Update

You can now listen to the documentary I wrote about recently online. It’s a great documentary with amazing music and tells a wonderful Camino story.

Check it out on the CBC website. Don’t press the “play” button at the top; scroll down the page and press the button next to “Listen to Inside the Music? on Radio 2 on Sunday 3 p.m. (3:30 NT) and Radio One on Sunday 9 p.m. (9:30 NT).”

Be sure to leave a comment—it’s always good to encourage such wonderful documentaries.

Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 4:00 pm
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A Radio Documentary about Oliver Schroer on the Camino

I wrote over a year ago about fiddler Oliver Schroer and photographer Peter Coffman’s amazing (and highly productive) Camino journey.

Canadian pilgrims have a chance to learn more about (and listen to) Oliver Schroer’s musical pilgrimage and the album that came out of it by tuning into CBC Radio this weekend. David Tarnow’s radio documentary uses extensive interviews with Oliver and some of his unreleased recordings from the Camino. It will air on Inside the Music on CBC Radio this weekend. Choose from these listening options:

  • CBC Radio Two on Sunday, May 13 at 3:00 p.m., 3:30 p.m. in Newfoundland
  • CBC Radio One on Sunday, May 13 at 9 p.m. in Ontario, Quebec, Central, Mountain and Pacific; 10 p.m. in Maritimes; 10:30 p.m. in Newfoundland
  • Sirius Satellite Radio on Saturday, May 12 at midnight, and Sunday, May 13 at 6:00 a.m.

No matter where you are, you can listen to the documentary on the CBC website. Be sure to leave a comment—it’s always good to encourage such wonderful documentaries.

Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 5:24 pm
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Leonard Cohen … Just Because

Leonard Cohen’s music was a theme of my Vía de la Plata pilgrimage. It started a few days in, when I saw a bird sitting on a barbed wire fence and Like a Bird on a Wire started to play in my head.

Anthem was another song that often ran through my head when I was feeling discouraged—and one I heard at the bar in Alberguería. It has possibly the best chorus ever:

There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.

And then there was Hallelujah. I heard it in a grocery store in Mérida, and it made that gloomy day a little brighter. I had a wonderful time in Alberguería because I stuck around to hear Hallelujah, and couldn’t seem to leave. I heard it again in Santiago, played by protesters in the Praza de Obradoiro.

The Solitary Walker collected some of Leonard Cohen’s thoughts on this amazing song. Here’s a snippet:

… [R]egardless of what the impossibility of the situation is, there is a moment when you open your mouth and you throw open your arms and you embrace the thing and you just say “Hallelujah! Blessed is the name.” And you can’t reconcile it in any other way except in that position of total surrender, total affirmation.

(If you got this by e-mail, you might have to click through to the post to see the videos.)

Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 10:21 am

A Monument to Three Faiths on the Via de la Plata

Poetry on the Vía de la Plata, just before Zamorra.

Just before Zamora on the Vía de la Plata, there’s a circle made up of three modern monoliths, with a well at their centre.

When I walked past this tableau, I took some photographs but didn’t have the dictionary I needed to puzzle through their inscriptions. Recently, I came across my photos and decided to see what I could find out about the stones. A bit of Internet research proved helpful.

A closer look at the Via de la Dalmacia poem.

It turns out the stones were erected in summer 2009 by two Spanish organizations to mark the intersection of three paths: the Vía de la Plata, the Vía Mirandesa, and the Vía de la Dalmacia. The monument is dedicated to peace and understanding between Christians, Jews and Muslims.

Each of the three four-metre granite monoliths has a poem dedicated to one of the routes. In the centre is the Brocal de las Promesas, or Well of Promises, into which pilgrims, from what I understand, are meant to drop a stone as a symbol of the promise referred to in one of the poems.

I’ve copied out the poems below. Since I can’t find an English translation of the poems on the Internet, I’ve attempted to do it myself. My Spanish is far from perfect, but this way those who don’t speak Spanish can at least get the gist of the meaning.

I really would welcome any suggestions—small or large—on the translations (especially the end of the first one, which I’m quite sure I’ve muddled).

(For more on the three faiths in Spain, see my posts about the Muslims in Spain.)

Vía de la Plata: Encuentro de Culturas en la Paz

Deja aquí peregrino la promesa
que quieras hacer guía de tus pasos
y llama viva de tu alma.
Su espíritu moverá el corazón
de la tierra y algún día
florencerá en las espigas
del pan de los hambrientos,
susurrara en todas las fuentes,
correrá como ríos,
saciando la sed de justicia,
volará a las nubes y sera
rayo de sol para los tristes.
Porque la verdad de las promesas
es siembra amorosa, destellos
del ser, que espera y necesita
el mundo nuevo, solidario y en paz.
Deja aquí peregrino la promesa
y sea cual sea tu andadura
habrás hecho camino antes de llegar.
– A. Ramos de Castro

Vía de la Plata: Peaceful Meeting Between Cultures

Leave here, pilgrim, the promise
that you want to guide your steps
and the living flame of your soul.
Its spirit moves the heart
of the earth, and one day
will flower in the wheat
of the bread of the hungry,
will whisper in all the fountains,
will run like rivers,
quenching the thirst for justice,
will fly to the clouds, and be
a ray of light for the sad.
Because the truth of the promises
is that love is sown, in flashes
of being, that it waits and needs
the new world, in solidarity and in peace.
Leave here, pilgrim, the promise,
and may your walking be that which your journey
has made a camino before you arrive.

Vía de la Dalmacia: Calzada y Camino de San Francisco al Islam

En este cruce de la senda que ahora andas
antiquísimo camino del alba de la historia
confluyen las calzadas:
Vía de la Plata, La Mirandesa y La Dalmacia.
Es entrada de creencias, culturas y comercio
vía de conquistas, reconquista y repoblación.
Camino Mozárabe que hizo a Santiago.
Paso de San Francisco al encuentro del Islam.
Salida de Judíos que echaba el desamor
y siempre encuentro de pueblos, ideas y de fe.
Añade caminante en tu andadura
la tolerancia y el valor al diferente,
que necesitamos, como parte del mismo amor
que todos somos, para juntos hacer
un mundo humano,
y el encuentro de creencias y culturas,
el camino florecido de la paz.

Vía de la Dalmacia: Road and Way of San Francisco al Islam

In this crossroads that you now walk,
ancient way of dawn of the history,
the roads join:
Vía de la Plata, the Mirandesa and the Dalmacia.
They are an entrance to beliefs, cultures and commerce,
route of conquests, reconquest and repopulation.
The Mozarab road that goes to Santiago.
The San Francisco path that encounters Islam.
The doorway of the Jews who left with heartbreak
and always found towns, ideas and faith.
Add, walker, to your walking,
the tolerance and the value of difference,
which we need as part of the same love
that we are, to together create
a humane world,
and add too the meeting of beliefs and cultures.
The road blossoms with peace.

Vía Mirandesa: Camino de la Amistad y Camino Judio a la Libertad

Que los caminos traigan paz
y los amanceres justicia
que hermane a todos los pueblos,
que socorra a todos los humanos
y quebrante al violento.
Que dure tanto como el sol,
como la luna, de edad en edad.
Que el amor de tus pasos,
como riego sobre el césped
como llovizna que empapa la tierra
haga florecer la vida, abrace
fraterno a todas las creencias,
y sea bálsamo para el necesitado.
Que tu corazón lo pregone,
de mar a mar, mas allá
de la senda que ahora andas,
hasta el fulgor de las estrellas.

Vía Mirandesa: Road of Friendship and Jewish Road of Freedom

May the roads bring peace
and the dawns, justice,
that brings together all cities as brothers,
that helps all humans,
that ends the violence.
May this last as long as the sun,
and as the moon, from age to age.
May the love in your steps,
as water on grass,
as drizzle that soaks the ground,
make life flower, embracing
as brothers all beliefs,
and may it be a balm for the needy.
May your heart cry it out
from sea to see, and farther still,
from the path that you walk now,
to the brilliance of the stars.

Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 3:23 pm
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Stones on the Camino: A Photo Essay

[Stones in the Pyrenees]

On the Route Napoleón in the Pyrenees.

One of the constants of my walk along the Camino de Santiago was the presence of stones.

They were in the walls of many of the buildings I slept in and the the old churches I visited. In some places, they made up the walls that lined the trail. Sometimes the stones were the road itself, in the form of gravel or cobblestones.

Then there were stones people left—often in heaps on crosses and memorials to fallen pilgrims, and sometimes near way marks. Occasionally they were piled into little towers (Inukshuks, as we’d say here in Canada), or assembled into arrows on the ground.

And of course there was the pile at the Cruz de Ferro. The tradition of bringing a stone from home to leave there may be a recent one, but every tradition has to start somewhere.

Especially in France, where I walked alone more, I’d sometimes pick up a stone and hold it in my hand as I walked. I’d leave it at the next pile of rocks I came across—usually on or around a wayside cross.

[Stones in the wall]

Stones in the wall of the lovely Gîte Dubarry, on a farm between Nogaro and Aire-sur-L'Adour.

It seemed like the right thing to do, though I’m not really sure why.

In part, I suppose, it was because the other stones were there already. People had left them in the past and would leave more in the future. Leaving my own stones made me part of that.

There’s something about stones.

We use them to mark graves. Some of the earliest altars were stones piled on top of each other in sacred places. And of course there’s Stonehenge, and the Easter Island moai, and so many other examples of sacred art or architecture, built up or hewn from stone.

In Cambodia, Angkor Wat and the other temples in the area are all that remain of a once-thriving city because only sacred structures could be built with stones. And when all the wood buildings turned back into jungle, the stones remained.

[Cross and rocks on the Chemin de Saint-Jacques]

On the Chemin du Puy, between Bessuéjouls and Estaing.

Maybe it’s the seeming immortality of stones that makes them sacred. Compared with living things, they seem to last forever.

And so we use them, perhaps, to represent the eternal.

Or maybe not. I don’t really know. I just know they were there, and they mattered.

I couldn’t take any with me, for obvious reasons, so I did the next best thing: I took photos. Here are some of my Camino stones.

[Stone walls on the Chemin de Saint-Jacques]

On the Chemin du Puy, between Chapelle de Bastide and Nasbinals.

[On the Chemin de Saint-Jacques]

Markers on the Chemin du Puy. A) A wayside cross between Chapelle de Bastide and Nasbinals. B) A modern pilgrim sculpture on the way into Aubrac. The inscription reads (in my translation from the French): "In the silence and the solitude, we hear no more than the essentials."

[Way mark on the Chemin de Saint-Jacques]

A Chemin du Puy (GR-65) way mark, with stones.

[Bible verse]

People also left notes, poems and Bible verses in piles of stones. This one was around a cross just past Labastide-Marnhac on the Chemin du Puy.

[Roman mosaics]

A Roman mosaic at the Villa Gallo-Romaine at Séviac, just off the Chemin du Puy. The gîte d'étape was right at the historic site, so I got to wander around the ruins in the morning before any tourists arrived.

[Cross and rocks on the Chemin de Saint-Jacques]

Past Uhart-Mixe on the Chemin du Puy, with the Pyrenees in the background.

[The Route Napoleón]

On the Route Napoleón in the Pyrenees.

[Arrow and rock piles on the Camino Francés]

Stones on the Camino Francés. A) Before Villatuerta. B) Between Navarrete and Ventosa.

[Pilgrims and arrow on the Camino Francés]

Pilgrims between Castrojeriz and Itero de la Vega.


Before Astorga.

[Cruz de Ferro]

The Cruz de Ferro.

[Sonya at 100 km]

Sonya at the 100 km marker.

[Stone hermitage near Ferreiros]

Stone hermitage near Ferreiros where pilgrims leave messages.

[Galicia on the Camino Francés]

Walking in Galicia on the Camino Francés.

[Plaza del Obradoiro]

Pilgrims in the Plaza del Obradoiro, in front of the Santiago cathedral.



Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 12:35 pm
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A Counting Rhyme for Small Pilgrims

I spend a lot of time with my two-year-old nephew. Between library books and his own collection, we’ve read a ridiculously huge number of counting books.

So just for fun, I decided to go through my photos to see if I’d be able to write and illustrate my own counting rhyme. Here’s the result. (In a few pictures, you have to really look to get the right number.)

* * *

[Chemin de Saint-Jacques]
One road that meanders toward Compostela.

[Yellow arrows]
Two arrows pointing, their colour is yellow.

[In the abbey at Conques]
Three steps well worn by tired pilgrim feet.

Four beds and four pilgrims who’re ready to sleep.

[Backpacks in Carrión de los Condes]
Five backpacks waiting outside of a store.

Pilgrim Sculpture in Burguete
Six pilgrims walking; they say they don’t snore.

[Shells over Washroom, Albergue Ave Fénix]
Seven large shells, adorning a wall.

[Climbing the Alto del Perdón]
Eight tired pilgrims, trying not to fall.

[Candles in a church in Saint-Alban-sur-Limognole]
Nine candles burning in a church—and then:

[Boots in the Grañon refugio]
Ten boot pairs waiting to walk out again.

Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 12:14 pm
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