Saturday May 25, 2013
Pilgrimage was big in the middle ages. The movement of people, the protection of them, the granting of indulgences, the development of facilities for pilgrim, all played a big part in the development of city life.
Today those long and arduous walks that end up at religious shrines are less likely to be undertaken by those with the single-minded purpose of having their sins washed away.
As we look for purpose on our vacations, perhaps walkers should look at the vast network of pilgrimage trails that exist in Europe. Everyone knows about the Camino de Santiago, taking pilgrims from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostella in Spain. But did you know there was a Portuguese route to the same destination?
Julie Fox did a bit of the Portuguese trail. In Sampling the Portuguese Way of St James she shows us the tourism side of pilgrimage, different from the purist's insistence that the walk be undertaken only for religious reasons:
"For some, it's a safe way of hiking in Portugal and Spain with time to enjoy the scenery and observe village life close up. For others, it's a personal ambition, even a 'bucket list' item. The general consensus is that if your intention is to make it to Santiago de Compostela, that makes you a pilgrim, not just a tourist. If you get your pilgrim's passport stamped along the Way, you'll get a certificate at the end to prove it."
Skeptics like David Downie have left their own tracks in the controversy. Downie's Paris to the Pyrenees: A Skeptic Pilgrim Walks the Way of Saint James has recently hit the bookstores, and offers up tale of physical regeneration and and discovery peppered with astute historical observances as the author's weak knees hobble along the historic pathway in France.
Europe is webbed with a great many pilgrimage trails, many of which are being regenerated from old maps and made walkable again. It's a great time to be a pilgrim, even if you have bad knees.
More: Rural Europe | European Hiking - Pilgrimages both Religious and Artistic
Friday May 24, 2013
Travel seems to be getting more interesting, more adventurous, every day. What meticulous planning would it take to enable you to sail a small boat, a gulet* say, between the historic town of Millazzo in Sicily (where Ulysses was shipwrecked) and the entrance to the earth's vast underground, the volcanic archipelago of the Aeolian Islands?
Sure, you can swim and enjoy the Mediterranean, but of course you'd want to get off the boat a bit to stretch your legs and then you'd probably want to lace up the hiking boots and scramble up the slopes of Stromboli to witness the sound and light display of the nighttime eruptions, wouldn't you?
Sound like a great trip? All you have to do is sign up. That's it. I'm describing a trip called Walking & Gullet: Volcanoes of the Aeolian Islands put on by an outfit called One Foot Abroad, who also offers another interesting tour: Walking & Gullet: Amalfi coast and Capri.
I haven't been on one of these tours, but man, they sound so much more interesting than a coach tour, don't they? And walking uphill will allow you to eat more of that Sicilian cooking. I'm all for that.
* A gulet is a two or three masted wooden sailing vessel (usually two), today used mostly around coastal turkey, where gulet tours are quite a bit more common than in Italy.
Wednesday May 22, 2013
Mozart's city, Augsburg, has a lot going for it. It's on the Romantic Road. There are lots of museums stuffed into historic residences, so you get a sort of 2 for 1 deal, museum with antiques. There's a university and a Roman Museum, too.
Then there is the interesting story of Jakob Fugger the Rich and his social housing complex, still in use, still cheap, from back in the day, a day in 1521 that is, when the upper class felt a need to give back a bit.
Interesting place, this Augsburg. Read all about it: Augsburg Germany Travel Guide.
Tuesday May 21, 2013
What could be better than a cozy b&b, a great meal, and a visit to a famous rock art engraving site at night, when flashlights can provide the glancing, dancing light that brings the animal figures to life? Fiona Maclean describes it all for you: A Passion for Portugal - Rock Art in the Foz Côa Valley.
When you're ready to go, here are the essentials: Foz Côa Guide.