Sunday, February 15, 2009

Walking to Jerusalem

What am I reading now? A great account of a pilgrimage from Madrid to Jerusalem. The book El Camino del Alma (Andando a Jerusalén) (The Way of the Soul (Walking to Jerusalem)) was published in late 2008 and tells the story of the pilgrimage made by its author, Miguel Angel Gimeno, and a friend, Kiko Fernández, to Jerusalem. The men had done the Camino de Santiago together a few years earlier and decided to try for Jerusalem, one of the traditional 3 great pilgrimages (Santiago, Rome and Jerusalem).

It’s a difficult pilgrimage because there is no clearly defined route and, of course, no albergues (pilgrim lodgings) or pilgrimage infrastructure. In addition, they decided to do it by appealing to people’s better nature for lodging and food, While they received some assistance from friends and the Spanish companies DATISA (information services) and Colonel Tapioca (hiking and expedition clothing and supplies), it was still considerably more demanding on many levels than the average pilgrimage to Santiago in this century, particularly because they were often regarded as wandering derelicts looking for handouts.

In any case, I’ve been reading it in little bits at a time, so they’ve only gotten into Italy and I have about 2/3 of the book ahead of me (it’s a big book). But it’s very entertaining reading. Somehow, despite doing what seems to be an average of 40 km per day, they seem to have found time to write every night, sp the accounts of the day’s events are fresh and lively. If you’ve done a pilgrimage, you’ll love this; even if you haven’t, you’ll love reading about their encounters with hostile village priests, nice village priests, grifters, drifters and holy men and women.