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Veterans... who walked first?

LesBrass

Likes Walking
Camino(s) past & future
yes...
My title is a bit odd but what I mean is this...

Reading another thread David said that he walked first in 1989 and it got me wondering about how the Camino Frances or indeed any route looked back then. It’s changed a lot over the last 6 years so it must have been transformed in the last few decades. And then I wondered, of the folks within this group, who walked first? When was your first Camino? And what was it like? How many albergues? Were towns and villages quieter or more lively? Did local politics have any impact? How was the Trail? How did locals react to a pilgrim? What was Santiago like? Do you have photos?

I’m really just curious... I wish I’d discovered the Camino years ago!
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
@LynnT walked the Camino in 1974 as part of a student group led by David Gitlitz.

See also https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/walking-the-caminos-in-the-70s-or-80s.51565/
In 1974, Galicia was very different.
Appart from the Spanish names ( El Cebrero, Mellid, Ferrol del Caudillo, etc,) the landscape in summer was full of yellow fields of wheat, rye and oats after harvest, much less prairies, meadows, corn fields and eucalyptus forests and much more gorse and heather fields and traditional style houses.
Few bars, few hotels, no Centros de Salud, hot beer, lots of caldo , no tapas, no paella, no Albariño (only bad and hot Ribeiro)......
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) Portugues(2013)
San Salvador (2017) Ingles (2019)
In 1974, Galicia was very different.
Appart from the Spanish names ( El Cebrero, Mellid, Ferrol del Caudillo, etc,) the landscape in summer was full of yellow fields of wheat, rye and oats after harvest, much less prairies, meadows, corn fields and eucalyptus forests and much more gorse and heather fields and traditional style houses.
Few bars, few hotels, no Centros de Salud, hot beer, lots of caldo , no tapas, no paella, no Albariño (only bad and hot Ribeiro)......
My first camino was only in 2006, so I really ought not to be commenting at all. However, I do have one significant photo to contribute...in the sense that it is no longer possible to pose this way... I am on the left.
 

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C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016), VDLP (2017), Mozarabe (2018), Vasco/Bayona (2019)
I enjoyed watching the film of the three guys from Estella in 963
I wasn't able to play that video. Not really a surprise, for a video from that year! :p

When I looked at a few of the other photos on those links, I have to say that I thought how familiar and timeless it looks. I come from a city where only one building has survived from before 1900 (at least, according to the list of identified heritage buildings).
 

nycwalking

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Ourense to Santiago (2019), CF: (2014, 2004, 2002, 2001). On to Fisterra, (2002, 4, 14).
My first camino was 2001.

Roncesvalles albergue only had huge dormitory with rickety steel bunk beds.

I visited Internet cafes to stay connected. The one in Pamplona was the first.

I do not remember anyone using transport for backpacks.

Spain was still on the peseta.

Therefore, 3 peseta a night for albergues was ridiculously inexpensive.

I walked August to September: no bed race.

Very few local folk spoke English.

I had to use all my junior-high-college Spanish. I miss that a bit.

This year I rarely needed what bits and bobs of Spanish I speak and understand.

Because, I went just before 9/11, and Spain’s bout of train terrorism, entering trains and Cathedrals required no depositing of backpacks, no sentries, nothing, no security checks: you just walked on or in.

That, is what I miss the most!
 
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Ekelund

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
“It’s your road, and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.” Rumi
I walked the Camino Frances in 2005, I haven't walked it since so I can't tell, how it has changed.
One thing I remember was walking into the Cathedral in SdC (carrying my backpack) and there was a huge rock. You could walk around the rock and there was a rounded dent in the rock, this particular spot had been touched by the pilgrims arriving at the Cathedral. It was a very special moment touching the spot knowing that it had been touched by so many before me and I was overwhelmed by feelings of gratitude and humbleness.
I have not been able to find the rock again, maybe it has been in storage and now the Cathedral has been restored, it will be displayed once again.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) Portugues(2013)
San Salvador (2017) Ingles (2019)
I walked the Camino Frances in 2005, I haven't walked it since so I can't tell, how it has changed.
One thing I remember was walking into the Cathedral in SdC (carrying my backpack) and there was a huge rock. You could walk around the rock and there was a rounded dent in the rock, this particular spot had been touched by the pilgrims arriving at the Cathedral. It was a very special moment touching the spot knowing that it had been touched by so many before me and I was overwhelmed by feelings of gratitude and humbleness.
I have not been able to find the rock again, maybe it has been in storage and now the Cathedral has been restored, it will be displayed once again.
Is this what you mean? If so, it is still there, but access is restricted and you need to go on the tour of the Portico de la Gloria to see it now.
047.jpg
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
I'm hardly the oldest vet, but I met a good priest during my long 2005 Camino from home who had walked his own pilgrimage to Santiago in the 1950s. From his point of view, all of the mod-cons started in 1965 under Franco in the sparse beginning of the commercialisation push were a complete betrayal of the true pilgrim spirit. There are very likely few pilgrims today who have walked the Camino any earlier than 1965 at earliest (the year when one of my most persistently annoying friends did his, coincidentally my birth year and a Holy Jacobean year) -- as that is the year that the several European Catholic pilgrim associations, particularly the English and French and some Spanish, took a stand to reclaim the Way from the Galician tourist board in particular, and return it to the walkers and the horsemen. Some Anglicans helped too.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
As to your questions about what it was like -- you can still find out for yourself by walking from home and/or along a less-trodden path. Part of my own current Camino this year (unfinished so far) was along a lengthy stretch of the traditional Catalan Way in both France and Catalonia that no more than 15-20 people walk upon each year towards Santiago.

Walk for example upon the more westerly and northerly Camino Way in Britain via St Michael's Mount in Cornwall and Mont St Michel in Normandy, crossing as possible the most traditional way by boat, private preferably, and then get down from Normandy towards Tours maybe via Chartres, and I can guarantee that you will have no dearth of experience in the most traditional manner of being a pilgrim, far from the commercialisation (not all bad, far from it) of the Francès nowadays.
 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
In 1974, Galicia was very different.
Appart from the Spanish names ( El Cebrero, Mellid, Ferrol del Caudillo, etc,) the landscape in summer was full of yellow fields of wheat, rye and oats after harvest, much less prairies, meadows, corn fields and eucalyptus forests and much more gorse and heather fields and traditional style houses.
Few bars, few hotels, no Centros de Salud, hot beer, lots of caldo , no tapas, no paella, no Albariño (only bad and hot Ribeiro)......
Following with this:
The big change in landscape in Galicia (C.F) since 1974 has been determined by the evolution from a primary self- sufficient economy to a milk and timber production economy. The Meseta, Rioja and Navarra have changed much less.
Now talking again about Galicia.
-At bars where cold Estrella was possible, they used to ask "fria o del tiempo ?". Cold beer was more expensive.
-Tapa with the drink was not a custom yet and paella was still a foreign food.
-All the fountains were safe.
- You should always walk on roads because dirt paths were a mess and you had more chances to find loose agressive dogs (a real problem for a pilgrim then).
 

Tia Valeria

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pt Norte/Pmtvo 2010
C. Inglés 2011
C. Primitivo '12
Norte-C. de la Reina '13
C. do Mar-C. Inglés '15
Not as walking pilgrims - we first came to Santiago in 1994.
Walking to the cathedral steps we found a small hand-written notice hanging on the gates:-
'Feast of the Visitation - Pilgrim Mass 12.00'
We went and easily found seats at 12.00 when a few pilgrims processed in from the west door with their packs and in their boots etc to be welcomed by the celebrant. A simple service, no botofumeiro and I don't remember any singing.
That was how we learnt about the walking pilgrimage.
So different now with the crowds etc.....and I believe even more so in 2019 than when we last reached Santiago in 2015.
 

Dave

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 2002; most recent: Norte/Primitivo 2019
I’m really just curious... I wish I’d discovered the Camino years ago!
It's funny, I have to work really hard to fight against my impulse to just have the podcast be about interviewing earlier pilgrims on the Camino. Even still, I've hunted down a bunch of people to chat with about this topic, like Jack Hitt, and David Gitlitz and Linda Davidson, and Edwin Mullins, just because it's so fascinating. I love reading those older pilgrimage accounts.

My first walk came in 2002 and at that time private albergues were still a rarity. I followed my folded-paper Confraternity guide--no maps! no pictures!--and got by just fine. I am glad my first experience came with all of us pilgrims packed into a single municipal albergue in each town; whatever was lost in creature comforts was gained back in the shared experience. But I also try not to be too nostalgic about it. It's really nice to be able to find a supermarket open at 2pm to buy food these days!

Now, walking the Via Francigena in 2004--that was literally a trailblazing experience.

Dave
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
My first Camino in May 2002 wasn't really the romantic stroll people think the Camino was 18 years ago!
In the monastery at Roncesvalles they had triple bunks. I slept in the middle, on top of a German, with a Dane on top of me . (It was the first time in 32 years of marriage that I'd 'slept' with another man!)
The walk down to Zubiri was rocky, muddy and excruciating (ditto to El Acebo and to Molinaseca).
We had to sleep on the floor, cheek by jowl in an office in Larrasoana.
The 2002 CSJ Guide for the CF listed about 165 albergues (now there are probably 465) and many were "Completo" by the time we got to them in the afternoon.
The distances in between villages were much longer so it was not always possible to walk less than 40 km in a day if you passed the first albergue at the 15km mark. There was much more road walking with heavy vehicles thundering down on you from both directions. This was improved when I walked again in the 2004 Holy Year.
We slept on concrete slabs in a cold storage room that was a like a morgue, on the floor in three kitchens, in a makeshift barn (60 people and one porta-toilet) and in a number of lofts. The 'albergue' of wooden cabins in Burgos was 3km out of town and was bitterly cold. Romantic? Not really.
No smartphones (didn't even have a dumb phone) meant that after a long hard walk you had to go in search of a working Telefonica (public phone) in order to phone home with a World Call card that had a 16 digit pin code.
Internet Cafes usually had a foreign keyboard which made finding the @ key impossible and messages with any Capital letters sent home were often gibberish! We queued for ages to use the internet in the few albergues that had them and it cost €1 or €2 for 20 minutes. They were so slow that your long message often timed out and vanished before you could send it!
Some small villages had a bar but no cafe-bars (no food) or shops to buy food and we often went to bed hungry. Romantic? Not really.
 

Bradypus

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
@sillydoll I also walked in summer 2002. My second Camino - my first was in 1990. Most of what you write sounds very familiar. And despite the occasional long day and hard floor I much preferred those first two Camino Frances walks to my far easier and more "comfortable" third Camino Frances in 2016.
 

nycwalking

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Ourense to Santiago (2019), CF: (2014, 2004, 2002, 2001). On to Fisterra, (2002, 4, 14).
My first Camino in May 2002 wasn't really the romantic stroll people think the Camino was 18 years ago!
In the monastery at Roncesvalles they had triple bunks. I slept in the middle, on top of a German, with a Dane on top of me . (It was the first time in 32 years of marriage that I'd 'slept' with another man!)
The walk down to Zubiri was rocky, muddy and excruciating (ditto to El Acebo and to Molinaseca).
We had to sleep on the floor, cheek by jowl in an office in Larrasoana.
The 2002 CSJ Guide for the CF listed about 165 albergues (now there are probably 465) and many were "Completo" by the time we got to them in the afternoon.
The distances in between villages were much longer so it was not always possible to walk less than 40 km in a day if you passed the first albergue at the 15km mark. There was much more road walking with heavy vehicles thundering down on you from both directions. This was improved when I walked again in the 2004 Holy Year.
We slept on concrete slabs in a cold storage room that was a like a morgue, on the floor in three kitchens, in a makeshift barn (60 people and one porta-toilet) and in a number of lofts. The 'albergue' of wooden cabins in Burgos was 3km out of town and was bitterly cold. Romantic? Not really.
No smartphones (didn't even have a dumb phone) meant that after a long hard walk you had to go in search of a working Telefonica (public phone) in order to phone home with a World Call card that had a 16 digit pin code.
Internet Cafes usually had a foreign keyboard which made finding the @ key impossible and messages with any Capital letters sent home were often gibberish! We queued for ages to use the internet in the few albergues that had them and it cost €1 or €2 for 20 minutes. They were so slow that your long message often timed out and vanished before you could send it!
Some small villages had a bar but no cafe-bars (no food) or shops to buy food and we often went to bed hungry. Romantic? Not really.
Ditto!

I’d forgotten distances I walked 2001, 2002.

By 2004, there were more albergue options.

In 2001 and 2002, my Lozano guidebook had me walk from Carrion de los Condes to Sahagun; 37’6km.

I liked Burgos’s albergue in the woods.

But, I hated walking back to city to sightsee, then hike back.

Somewhere along the way I asked how to find @ symbol.

Every now again, the albergue had a Telefonica.

In, 2002, I rented a cell phone. Not too expensive and was so exciting to “phone home” from Atapuerca albergue.

My last high-season CF was in 2004. Oddly enough I can’t wait to walk another high-season CF to experience the various and sundry changes along the way.

Thanks for the memories!
 
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cathal Ferris

Member
Camino(s) past & future
29th April to May 31 2014
April to May (2015) starting in Burgos on the (27th April 2015) completing in Santiago on the 10th May flights booked from Dublin into Madrid and alsa bus up to Burgos
12th August 2015 Starting at Croagh Patrick Clew Bay to Downpatrick known as Camino Way of St Patrick
My title is a bit odd but what I mean is this...

Reading another thread David said that he walked first in 1989 and it got me wondering about how the Camino Frances or indeed any route looked back then. It’s changed a lot over the last 6 years so it must have been transformed in the last few decades. And then I wondered, of the folks within this group, who walked first? When was your first Camino? And what was it like? How many albergues? Were towns and villages quieter or more lively? Did local politics have any impact? How was the Trail? How did locals react to a pilgrim? What was Santiago like? Do you have photos?

I’m really just curious... I wish I’d discovered the Camino years ago!
 

cathal Ferris

Member
Camino(s) past & future
29th April to May 31 2014
April to May (2015) starting in Burgos on the (27th April 2015) completing in Santiago on the 10th May flights booked from Dublin into Madrid and alsa bus up to Burgos
12th August 2015 Starting at Croagh Patrick Clew Bay to Downpatrick known as Camino Way of St Patrick
I noticed on my last camino on the St Francis that a lot of the old verge roads along the dual carriageways have been consumed by new road widening and bridges mostly encroaching into towns that are expanding and Melide could be an example and there is more and more tarmac footpaths were once another area would be the choices going into Burgos by the Industrial route which is all commercialised or the more scenic route. For sure there are a lot of changes to accommodate vehicles along the camino going on and the original camino track will be lost for sure
 

Dromengro

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPdP - Leon 1984
Frances (2021)
I walked the Frances from Saint Jean in August, 1984. Some memories are a bit vague and I have no idea how I found out pre internet days about the Way of St James, as I knew it.

If there was any pilgrim infrastructure other than churches I didn't see any, But I was wild camping so wouldn't have noticed Hostels or Albergues although I did stay in a campsite in Saint Jean.
I started my pilgrimage by attending church, but the old woman who ran the pilgrim office from her house, refused to give me a credential because I hadn't walked from home and no letter from my priest, and shooed me out telling me I couldn't walk HER route. In my confusion I set off in the wrong direction only realising my mistake at nightfall,
There were lots of Basque flags and ETA separatist graffiti and I had to evacuate a train on the way to Saint Jean because of a bomb threat and stopped by a mobile military patrol somewhere towards Roncesvalles who gave me a bar of chocolate.
Many villages seemed rather run down and deserted. Apart from in larger towns I don't remember there being bars or cafes but this may have been because I couldn't afford them. Although I do remember being in a bar with a cobbled floor that was part of a cow barn, where the cows were munching happily on hay on the other side of a low wood partition which they occasionally stuck their heads over mooing loudly.
Whilst I rested by and occasionally in village water fountains to escape the heat, the locals would bring out their kettles and pans to fill, presumably they had no water in their houses, I also remember seeing the women washing clothes in outdoor communal sinks
I don't remember any supermarkets, and shops were few and far between and often shut. Several times I would be directed to a house, where the shop was just a spare room with the barest essentials, sometimes large hams and sausages were hanging from the ceiling, Buying small quantities of identifiable food suitable for a camping meal wasn't easy. I once downed half bottle of juice as I was so thirsty, after not finding any water, and nearly killed myself as it was pure concentrated lemon juice.
Once I had to eat in a rather posh restaurant as I hadn't found any shops that day, but the owner refused payment, some shops wouldn't accept money either and occasionally passers by would force money on me. I was invited to a local bull run and several religious services by the friendly locals who would wave or shake hands as I passed.
However wild farm dogs were not so friendly, rushing towards me ferociously, luckily mostly on chains. I soon learnt to carry a stick..

I don't remember any arrows and certainly no large markers, I think the markers were yellow stripes like on the French GR routes, but whatever they were, I do remember they were well hidden on the yellow rocks or yellow stone houses, in a landscape of yellow stubble fields and yellow dirt tracks with yellow post boxes and yellow mail vans and yellow dogs.
I didn't carry a guide book, but a Michelin road map of Spain and some tourist leaflets and navigated by instinct and asking directions in towns,
I also carried or wore no technical gear: Just cut off jeans, desert boots, sports socks and cotton t shirts and a light tarp which doubled as a poncho, a goatskin water bottle, and a portable sundial which I bought in St Jean I think.
I probably sent a few postcards home to let them know where I was or at least had been. That was keeping in touch back then.

Maybe it was because I was camping, but I saw no other Pilgrims or anyone else walking in the countryside apart from an occasional farmer. Unfortunately I abandoned half way near Leon due to the unbearable heat, being used to the cold wet mountains of the Scottish highlands.
Things have certainly changed a lot from what I've read here but I'm glad I experienced it before the infrastructure, commerce and crowds, the technical gear and internet gadgets although I am looking forward to seeing the changes either in 2020 or 2021,
 

Bradypus

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
I started my pilgrimage by attending church, but the old woman who ran the pilgrim office from her house, refused to give me a credential because I hadn't walked from home and no letter from my priest, and shooed me out telling me I couldn't walk HER route.
:) Not much different in 1990. Madame Debril also refused to give me a credencial - I am not Catholic, I did not have a letter from my local priest and worst of all I had interrupted her lunch :cool:
 

Phil Smith

Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2016)StJ to Viana (2017): Viana to Castrojeriz (2018) Castrojeriz to Leon
(2019) León to Sarria
I'm only a part-time, and only recently walking the Camino. However, I was hooked in the late 90s when my mum bought me Paulo Coelho's The Pilgrimage. Lately, though, I have been looking for more descriptive than fictional accounts. I found this fascinating book in Barter Books in Alnwick (The Way of St. James - See images below). It was produced by the Spanish Ministry of Information and Tourism in 1965. Some great photos from the time. Also, a friend lent me Edwin Mullins' The Pilgrimage to Santiago, published in 1975; again, some great pictures - but also some descriptions that paint a picture of a much more sparsely populated Way. I have found these fascinating ... oh for a time machine!
 

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JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
:) Not much different in 1990. Madame Debril also refused to give me a credencial - I am not Catholic, I did not have a letter from my local priest and worst of all I had interrupted her lunch :cool:
Madame Debril cheerfully supplied me with a credencial (I had been using a notebook until then ; I had wanted to ask Mlle Warcollier in Paris, but her voice on the phone when I called made me realise she was really quite aged by that point and so I just couldn't bring myself to disturb her) in 1994, although I wasn't Catholic (but by the time I got to SJPP I'd had one week of just starting my conversion, so was rather confused) -- as I had walked from home and I had a letter from the archpriest of the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

(and no, she did not like having her meal interrupted, nor her afternoon tea, but that was OK and she cheered up greatly if you had the correct documentation)

I had decided quite firmly at the end of my botched 1993 job that I would be doing things 100% properly the following year. :cool:

But I'm pretty sure that those having walked far and having the stamps to prove it, especially if it were the right sort of stamps from places like parishes, abbeys, monasteries, convents, cathedrals, etc were acceptable to her (in a tsk! tsk! sort of way) even without a letter from a priest.
 

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