Next year, my big plan is to walk the Camino again in medieval style. Brave words, I know. Let me explain.
Why walk? Because it is an incredible way to really experience the country, to meet local people, to make friends with other hikers and, of course, to see all the magnificent monuments that nature and humanity have left behind.
What is the Camino? El Camino de Santiago or the Way of St James is the now every year more popular medieval pilgrimage route leading to the (believed) shrine of St James the Greater in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, northwestern Spain. In medieval days, it was one of the most important pilgrimages ever, right after Rome and Jerusalem.
There is no single route to Santiago but some are considered main ones. Along those people from different countries have congregated and travelled together. The most famous and therefore the most popular is Camino Francés from St Jean Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Atlantic Pyrenees to Santiago. There are other, however. Spain has a veritable network of them and there are three main routes through France, with extensions to Germany and Eastern Europe.
My 2009 plan was to start in Torino on the branch of Via Francigena (connecting Canterbury with Rome) also called Via Domitia (after the Roman road connecting France and Italy), cross the Alps at Col du Montgenevre, descend to Arles via the valley of the Durance and the mountains of les Alpilles (GR 653D, following the course of Via Domitia), there join Via Tolosana (GR 653) through Toulouse, cross the Pyrenees at Col du Somport, where Via Tolosana becomes Camino Aragones and then join Camino Francés in Óbanos or Puente la Reina. For the beautiful conclusion I will also walk Camino Fisterra from Santiago to the end of the world at the Atlantic coast. All in all, about 2250km.
My 2012 plan is a whole lot more ambitious than that. I want to start at home and finish in Muxia. And follow a different route, too. Although there is now a waymarked Jakobova pot (Way of st James) across Slovenia, I won't follow it because I prefer following in the steps of one Paolo Santonino, who in 1486-87 travelled two times across Slovenian territory while accompanying his bishop and whose travelling notes and remarks have been preserved to this day. So, from Ljubljana I will go on Passum tulmini, one of the (medieval) routes that connected the middle part of Slovenian territory with Italy - this was the preferred route of Aquileia bishops. From Cividale dei Friuli I will haul S to Aquileia - this is now Cammino Celeste or Iter Aquileiense - then make it over to Venezia on Via Grado-Aquileiense which connect Trieste (and Jakobova pot) with Venezia. From there on I will abandon the most popular route to France which is via Torino and then along Via Domitia. To San Felice del Parano I will be on Via Romea-Leona, then there is a two-day link via Carpi to Parma where I will join Via Francigena till Sarzana. From here along the Ligurian coast runs Via della Costa - which I think is not yet waymarked but there are already good descriptions on the net - although I will skip the first part because I want to walk Cinque Terre's Camino Azzurro. At the French-Italian borfer I will change Via della Costa for Via Aurelia (GR 653A) which is being developped as I write (there is already a preliminary guide available, and maps on the net) until Arles. There I will join one day with Via Tolosana, and from Saint Gilles-du-Gard make may way along the Mediterranean coast to Agde, then skip a little into the interior to Narbonne. Here runs Voie du Piemont Pyreneen but I will join it later, in Mas d'Azil, because I want to see the Cathar castles along Sentier Cathare first. From Mas d'Azil to Arudy is then Voie du Piemont Pyreneen, then I will join Voie d'Osseau until Somport. From here Camino Aragones, but the northern variant via Leyre, to Olatz, where I will hop to GR 220 around Pamplona to join Camino Frances in Huarte and follow it to Pamplona. And here starts perhaps the most abmitious part, Viejo Camino, all the way to Ponferrada where I chose Camino Invierno then Camino Sanabres to end in Santiago. And, of course, the last skip to Fisterra and Muxia. I did some calculations and it came to somewhere about 3300km. Seems about right, compared to 2009 plan.
Why the Camino? Because there is something unique there. I walked it once before and felt it. I cannot say what it is and since I am not a Christian, for me it doesn't connect with religion. Perhaps it is the draw that makes the walkers strive to achieve the same goal? Perhaps thousands that have walked it in the past with this goal in their minds left their mark on the route? Perhaps medieval pilgrims weren't the first to travel there? Perhaps we will never now. But it's definitely there.
Why medieval style? I like Middle Ages. Don't ask me why. I don't know. I just feel... at home in the Middle Ages. And somehow it feels right to walk such a route in medieval garb. It has a very strong medieval presence.
And, well, since I am a female, I think that in the Middle Ages a pilgrimage was one of the very few ways the vast majority of the respectable females could take to explore the world outside their cottage and outside their village. :o)