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Musings after completing the Camino

pepi

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Last: Sept 2022
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We Peregrinos love the idea of crossing Spain on an ancient path through a quaint, picturesque but humble land and do not, in general, associate the country with its remarkable economic and social progress.
On my CF last month, I could not help noticing a general mood of departure, self-confidence, and pride; do other pilgrims share similar impressions? Is it a wake-up call from the post-Covid?
Yes, the CF and the other Caminos lead through large predominantly rural areas, but there is purpose among the local people and the larger towns are bustling. Do we pilgrims realize that Spain is a very first-world country with impressive achievements?
I was struck by the extraordinary punctuality of Spanish trains. (Germany pales in comparison). Renfe will get you from Barcelona to Madrid – a distance of 500 km – in less than 2h30; there's nothing even close to that in the USA, the similar distance from Los Angeles to San Francisco takes more than 4 times longer.
Local transportation in the cities is not only efficient but very cheap, 1 Euro for the bus ride from Santiago center to the airport. Spain has annual economic growth of 0.38%, exceeding the US (0.10%) by far. It is the leading European exporter of fruit and vegetable but it is also a very important car producer. In 2010, Spain became the solar power world leader when it overtook the US; it is also Europe's largest producer of wind energy. I could go on.
Yes, pilgrims as a whole contribute to some extent to the local economy, though only 38% bring in foreign currencies, a drop in the proverbial ocean in the world's second-most visited country (after France). Should we therefore perhaps have more appreciation that we, as humble, thrifty pilgrims, are so generously welcomed by a country that is very high in the rankings of nations?
 
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We Peregrinos love the idea of crossing Spain on an ancient path through a quaint, picturesque but humble land and do not, in general, associate the country with its remarkable economic and social progress.
On my CF last month, I could not help noticing a general mood of departure, self-confidence, and pride; do other pilgrims share similar impressions? Is it a wake-up call from the post-Covid?
Yes, the CF and the other Caminos lead through large predominantly rural areas, but there is purpose among the local people and the larger towns are bustling. Do we pilgrims realize that Spain is a very first-world country with impressive achievements?
I was struck by the extraordinary punctuality of Spanish trains. (Germany pales in comparison). Renfe will get you from Barcelona to Madrid – a distance of 500 km – in less than 2h30; there's nothing even close to that in the USA, the similar distance from Los Angeles to San Francisco takes more than 4 times longer.
Local transportation in the cities is not only efficient but very cheap, 1 Euro for the bus ride from Santiago center to the airport. Spain has annual economic growth of 0.38%, exceeding the US (0.10%) by far. It is the leading European exporter of fruit and vegetable but it is also a very important car producer. In 2010, Spain became the solar power world leader when it overtook the US; it is also Europe's largest producer of wind energy. I could go on.
Yes, pilgrims as a whole contribute to some extent to the local economy, though only 38% bring in foreign currencies, a drop in the proverbial ocean in the world's second-most visited country (after France). Should we therefore perhaps have more appreciation that we, as humble, thrifty pilgrims, are so generously welcomed by a country that is very high in the rankings of nations?
History, stunning cities and architecture… Thank-you Pepi, I had no idea, very impressive indeed. And yes, I do feel humbled.
Buen Camino
 
We Peregrinos love the idea of crossing Spain on an ancient path through a quaint, picturesque but humble land and do not, in general, associate the country with its remarkable economic and social progress.
I think that's a pretty sweeping generalisation! Many of us here on the forum have seen Spain changing in many different ways over several decades. Not only along the Caminos but in our visits to other parts of the country too. I hope that most of us are not so blinkered as to assume that Spain is all rocky paths, heat and dust and the menu peregrino! :) "Is it a wake-up call from the post-Covid?" No - a movement far longer and deeper in the making.
 
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I think that's a pretty sweeping generalisation! Many of us here on the forum have seen Spain changing in many different ways over several decades. Not only along the Caminos but in our visits to other parts of the country too. I hope that most of us are not so blinkered as to assume that Spain is all rocky paths, heat and dust and the menu peregrino! :) "Is it a wake-up call from the post-Covid?" No - a movement far longer and deeper in the making.
Yes, my September Camino musings are general but in comparison to pre-covid years, I observed a distinctly new atmosphere. This is what I wanted to share. Others may see this differently, or not at all, and I am honestly interested, in how they perceive this.
And, alas, it can be said that many of the native-English-speaking peregrinos assume that Spain is all rocky paths, heat, dust, and the menu peregrino.
 
The entire reason that we are able to walk *all over* Spain in relative comfort is that it has been for over 2000 years a major, thriving jewel that everyone wanted to get their hands on. Naming names likely violates the "no politics" forum rule, so I will abbreviate by citing the carved granite walkway we passover when entering SdC from the Frances:

"Europe was built on the road to Santiago" (whether pre-Christian or as Catholic pilgrimage route that welcomes all faiths/ no faiths).

Also -- Via Romani XIX which is often enough one and the same with "the camino".

The vibrancy of Iberia is as old as the peninsula itself.
 
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We Peregrinos love the idea of crossing Spain on an ancient path through a quaint, picturesque but humble land and do not, in general, associate the country with its remarkable economic and social progress.
On my CF last month, I could not help noticing a general mood of departure, self-confidence, and pride; do other pilgrims share similar impressions? Is it a wake-up call from the post-Covid?
Yes, the CF and the other Caminos lead through large predominantly rural areas, but there is purpose among the local people and the larger towns are bustling. Do we pilgrims realize that Spain is a very first-world country with impressive achievements?
I was struck by the extraordinary punctuality of Spanish trains. (Germany pales in comparison). Renfe will get you from Barcelona to Madrid – a distance of 500 km – in less than 2h30; there's nothing even close to that in the USA, the similar distance from Los Angeles to San Francisco takes more than 4 times longer.
Local transportation in the cities is not only efficient but very cheap, 1 Euro for the bus ride from Santiago center to the airport. Spain has annual economic growth of 0.38%, exceeding the US (0.10%) by far. It is the leading European exporter of fruit and vegetable but it is also a very important car producer. In 2010, Spain became the solar power world leader when it overtook the US; it is also Europe's largest producer of wind energy. I could go on.
Yes, pilgrims as a whole contribute to some extent to the local economy, though only 38% bring in foreign currencies, a drop in the proverbial ocean in the world's second-most visited country (after France). Should we therefore perhaps have more appreciation that we, as humble, thrifty pilgrims, are so generously welcomed by a country that is very high in the rankings of nations?
Yes, I did notice.It’s a great country and I loved it!
 
We Peregrinos love the idea of crossing Spain on an ancient path through a quaint, picturesque but humble land and do not, in general, associate the country with its remarkable economic and social progress.
On my CF last month, I could not help noticing a general mood of departure, self-confidence, and pride; do other pilgrims share similar impressions? Is it a wake-up call from the post-Covid?
Yes, the CF and the other Caminos lead through large predominantly rural areas, but there is purpose among the local people and the larger towns are bustling. Do we pilgrims realize that Spain is a very first-world country with impressive achievements?
I was struck by the extraordinary punctuality of Spanish trains. (Germany pales in comparison). Renfe will get you from Barcelona to Madrid – a distance of 500 km – in less than 2h30; there's nothing even close to that in the USA, the similar distance from Los Angeles to San Francisco takes more than 4 times longer.
Local transportation in the cities is not only efficient but very cheap, 1 Euro for the bus ride from Santiago center to the airport. Spain has annual economic growth of 0.38%, exceeding the US (0.10%) by far. It is the leading European exporter of fruit and vegetable but it is also a very important car producer. In 2010, Spain became the solar power world leader when it overtook the US; it is also Europe's largest producer of wind energy. I could go on.
Yes, pilgrims as a whole contribute to some extent to the local economy, though only 38% bring in foreign currencies, a drop in the proverbial ocean in the world's second-most visited country (after France). Should we therefore perhaps have more appreciation that we, as humble, thrifty pilgrims, are so generously welcomed by a country that is very high in the rankings of nations?
I would like to add to your list - toilet facilities. After walking two Caminos, in 2015 and 2018, I took a road trip in the U. S. and became shocked by the deplorable toilet facilities for travelers in the U.S. compared to the Camino. I felt like I had returned to a first world country. Yes, there were exceptions to the norms in both countries. but overall the facilities in Spain and Portugal were far cleaner and better appointed and maintained. Can’t wait to get back on the Camino in May of next year. Buen Camino!
 
I was quite surprised by your post although I understand it’s just opening thoughts for further discussion. I have spent a lot of time in Spain, both before, during and since Covid. I have not noticed any changes since Covid. It has always been a major country, politically, culturally and financially, and I am not sure what you expected. Always a huge tourist destination with its culture, islands, food, arts and weather. It’s always been innovative across its key strengths. Most of the big bands include Spain on their itinerary! And of course, football, winners of the World Cup in 2010 and the European Championships in 2008 and 2012. Not to mention home to two of the world biggest football clubs and the two best players in world until recently. Pretty good at Tennis too!

The public transport is great though I think Renfe need to develop their network so that not nearly everything requires a change in Madrid (see Italy for best practice). Iberia is one of the worlds best and most improved airlines. BCN and MAD are quite new airports. Alsa as good as any bus company outside South America.

A great health system.

One of the best things in Spain is the regionalisation, which brings huge variety across culture, arts and food. . It’s obviously brings challenges too.

It’s very cheap too if you come from many European countries.

This post makes me interested as to what people who travel to the Camino expect of Spain. What are folks from USA and Canada expecting? Alot of people criticise North Americans for their lack of knowledge of countries beyond their borders but I have absolutely never found that whether on Camino or not, the vast majority being very knowledgable!

I don’t know if anyone here subscribes to ‘The Local’ which is an excellent daily online ‘magazine’ covering key activity across each of the key European countries but it’s worth it.

Lots of great and wonderful things about USA too and we know public transportation and toilets aren’t two of them in most parts! That said I love an Amtrak and Greyhound trip!
 
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I was quite surprised by your post although I understand its just opening thoughts for further discussion. I have spent a lot of time in Spain, both before, during and since Covid. I have not noticed any changes since Covid. It has always been a major country, politically, culturally and financially, and I am not sure what you expected. Always a huge tourist destination with its culture, islands, food, arts and weather. It’s always been innovative across its key strengths. Most of the big bands include Spain on their itinerary! And of course, football, winners of the World Cup in 2010 and the European Championships in 2008 and 2012. Not to mention home to two of the world biggest football clubs and the two best players in world until recently.

The public transport is great though I think Renfe need to develop their network so that not nearly everything requires a change in Madrid (see Italy for best practice). Iberia is one of the worlds best and most improved airlines. BCN and MAD are quite new airports. Alsa as good as any bus company outside South America.

A great health system.

One of the best things in Spain is the regionalisation, which brings huge variety across culture, arts and food. . It’s obviously brings challenges too.

It’s very cheap too if you come from many European countries.

This post makes me interested as to what people who travel to the Camino expect of Spain. What are folks from USA and Canada expecting? Alot of people criticise North Americans for their lack of knowledge of countries beyond their borders but I have absolutely never found that whether on Camino or not, the vast majority being very knowledgable!
Ah, you’re young. Your perception of always is very different to that of those whose starting point predates your own.
Spain in the ‘60’s and early’70’s while himself still had his grip on its jugular was a very different place. “The past is a different country, they do things differently there…”
Those who walk the 740km long, 1km wide linear city that is the Camino Frances will engage with a rural Spain entirely different to that to be found 5km north or south of that little band of economic opportunity.
The late Caudillist period introduced mass tourism to the Costas and saw the eviction of farmers and fishermen from their holdings and their children subjected to all the possible abuses that can be heaped on low paid seasonal workers.

I could bang on but we try to avoid politics on this forum.

@pepi posits a sound impression. Spain is a first- world country with the infrastructure and facilities that that implies. And it also has severe youth unemployment, savage urban poverty and all the other problems that most first-world economies demonstrate.
It ain’t all dust and stone but it’s scarcely Eden
 
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Ah, you’re young. Your perception of always is very different to that of those whose starting point predates your own.
Spain in the ‘60’s and early’70’s while himself still had his grip on its jugular was a very different place. “The past is a different country, they do things differently there…”
Those who walk the 740km long, 1km wide linear city that is the Camino Frances will engage with a rural Spain entirely different to that to be found 5km north or south of that little band of economic opportunity.
The late Caudillist period introduced mass tourism to the Costas and saw the eviction of farmers and fishermen from their holdings and their children subjected to all the possible abuses that can be heaped on low paid seasonal workers.

I could bang on but we try to avoid politics on this forum.

@pepi posits a sound impression. Spain is a first- world country with the infrastructure and facilities that that implies. And it also has severe youth unemployment, savage urban poverty and all the other problems that most first-world economies demonstrate.
It ain’t all dust and stone but it’s scarcely Eden

I wish I was young!!! But I disagree with you based on travelling there over the last 40 years and yes am aware of the high youth employment, inflation and so on! Yes acknowledge the era that cannot be discussed! But it’s a good discussion and beats airline fares and atm fees so grateful to @pepi. I took the gist to be pre and post Covid and aware of the ‘bad old days’!

Btw, a tengent, I was suprised to see the term first world’ used …got reprimanded by HR for using that term 15 years ago and advised never to use first and third world as descriptors!
 
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I would like to add to your list - toilet facilities. After walking two Caminos, in 2015 and 2018, I took a road trip in the U. S. and became shocked by the deplorable toilet facilities for travelers in the U.S. compared to the Camino. I felt like I had returned to a first world country. Yes, there were exceptions to the norms in both countries. but overall the facilities in Spain and Portugal were far cleaner and better appointed and maintained. Can’t wait to get back on the Camino in May of next year. Buen Camino!
There are a few threads in these forums that would benefit from this comment.
 
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We Peregrinos love the idea of crossing Spain on an ancient path through a quaint, picturesque but humble land and do not, in general, associate the country with its remarkable economic and social progress.
Well, I have been glad to see that the number and frequency of questions about whether it’s safe to drink the water in Spain seem to be declining — that’s one step forward!
 
Well, I have been glad to see that the number and frequency of questions about whether it’s safe to drink the water in Spain seem to be declining — that’s one step forward!
That’s my all times fave. When I first went there in 80s (from UK) that was the number one question. I won’t tell you what the fish were meant to be doing in it. In fact they even sold t shirts to that effect!
 
This post makes me interested as to what people who travel to the Camino expect of Spain. What are folks from USA and Canada expecting?

Well, I have been glad to see that the number and frequency of questions about whether it’s safe to drink the water in Spain seem to be declining — that’s one step forward!
I think that too many in the US (I don't know about Canada) think that all Spanish speaking countries are similar, and the one that most have any experience with is Mexico, where the drinking water is not safe in many areas. Some even expect to find spicy Mexican style food in Spain! But of course we know that the reality is that Spain has a very different culture, cuisine, etc. than Spanish speaking countries in the Americas.
 
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I had work related interactions/ visits to Spain befor my first Camino. I noticed there is very little WILD Spain. Most of the forests are planted in rows. The majority of the country I've seen is manicured or cultivated. In 5 weeks, I saw 3 wild animals. I see more wild animals every morning looking out into my yard. We are spoiled to nature and WILD America at home.

Private home yard art has to have government permits in Spain. "Substandard" housing (trailers) are prohibited. There seems to be very little ethnic diversity besides tourists. Spain has "boundaries" and restrictions that would not be tolerated in the states.

IT IS a beautiful country! I love to visit!
It has been building for ages (first world). It took longer to build some of those magnificent churches than America has even existed! I will continue to return, but I could not live there.

I won't engage the toilet discussion because being very well traveled in the US, I can tell you why many facilities here are so deplorable 😉
 
I had work related interactions/ visits to Spain befor my first Camino. I noticed there is very little WILD Spain. Most of the forests are planted in rows. The majority of the country I've seen is manicured or cultivated. In 5 weeks, I saw 3 wild animals. I see more wild animals every morning looking out into my yard. We are spoiled to nature and WILD America at home.

Private home yard art has to have government permits in Spain. "Substandard" housing (trailers) are prohibited. There seems to be very little ethnic diversity besides tourists. Spain has "boundaries" and restrictions that would not be tolerated in the states.

IT IS a beautiful country! I love to visit!
It has been building for ages (first world). It took longer to build some of those magnificent churches than America has even existed! I will continue to return, but I could not live there.

I won't engage the toilet discussion because being very well traveled in the US, I can tell you why many facilities here are so deplorable 😉
It’s a good point about diversity and certainly something I, and friends, notice hugely though I guess coming from London it’s never likely to match that!
 
By the way, what does the phrase 'first world' mean? I thought the term that is widely accepted is the phrase'developed world' as opposed to the 'developing world.'
 
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Well, I have been glad to see that the number and frequency of questions about whether it’s safe to drink the water in Spain seem to be declining — that’s one step forward!
I've seen several places with a sign warning against drinking the water at that particular spot. Which is good, but since most potable water sources do not have signs, it made me wonder about how many people might get sick from a spot where a vandal had removed the sign.
 
By the way, what does the phrase 'first world' mean? I thought the term that is widely accepted is the phrase'developed world' as opposed to the 'developing world.'
Yes a few folks in my office got reprimanded for using ‘third world’ about 15 years, so quickly moved on the to ‘developing world!.

Not a debate for this thread I guess but keeping up with what is deemed acceptable and non acceptable can be quite hard once you leave the corporate world esp. across different national cultures!
 

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