Greetings from Villafranca!
The Update: Every day I give thanks for my health. You really don’t appreciate it until it gets taken away for a while. Right now, I can go 30 kilometers without even needing an ibuprofen!
I’ve logged about 365 miles so far! That’s more than the distance between Omaha and Wichita.
The Insights: The other day I came to a crossroads. The left pointed to a smooth, paved walking path. After walking on rocks all day and risking rolled ankles, pavement is always a welcome sight for me. But the right arrow pointed to “the Roman road.” It was anything but smooth as chunks of brick and stone jutted up from the path. A slightly riskier and longer path for my tired feet, I chose it anyway. I was glad I did.
Sometimes it’s amazing just to think about the ground I walk on. Over the course of thousands of years, literally millions of people have traveled west to east along the Camino’s ancient paths. Pagan devotees, Roman armies, Christian conquerors, Muslim troops, French soldiers, popes, saints, emperors, and regular people from all over the globe have walked this ground before me. And now, I am a part of this road’s history.
The roads are just one reminder of the history. I’ve come across several sites detailing the archaeological remains of humans from hundreds of thousands of years ago. In Leon, I visited a museum showcasing columns and cornerstones from the Roman settlement two millennia ago. And of course, every day I pass centuries-old churches, walls, city halls, and (coolest of all) castles that still stand today. It’s amazing to think that these buildings are all older than the country of America; this type of history doesn’t exist in the States.
A couple kilometers down that Roman road I came across a small park and an unmanned refreshment stand. I donate a euro for a banana and an orange and sit down to eat. A few minutes later, a man in his 30s comes around a corner pushing a large wheelbarrow and greets me. We got to talking: he constructed the park himself over the course of three years and organized the donation-based refreshment stand. Before that, he helped restore the 5 kilometer stretch of Roman road. At one point in time, locals thought the ancient road would be lost forever, but thanks to him and a few others, volunteers dug it out. Now, pilgrims like me can join in the history of the road.