Camino Tales Old and New.

Over winter break, I had the opportunity to read two books about the Camino de Santiago by people I sorta know that capture the Camino Francés before and after the boom of the 2000s and 2010s. Durante las vacaciones de invierno, tenía la oportunidad de leer dos libros sobre el Camino de Santiago escritos por personas que casí conozco y sus libros capturan el antes y después del auge de peregrinos en los años 2000s y 2010s. 

Road of Stars to Santiago by Edward Stanton was published in 1994 and is about his early 1990s pilgrimage to Santiago on the Camino Francés. Stanton was a Spanish language and literature professor at my undergraduate university, University of Kentucky, and while I never had any classes with him, one of my professors told me about this book every time we met up for Christmas lunch over the years. I finally tracked it down at the U of Illinois library and read it. It was a refreshing time capsule about a time before peregrinos were so common and albergues weren’t in every pueblo along the Francés. Sometimes he had to search for arrows. It was fascinating to read how the Camino was before its popularity took off. Camino de Estrellas a Santiago por Edward Stanton fue publicado en 1994 y trata de su peregrinación a Santiago en el Camino Francés. Stanon era un profesor de lengua y literatura española donde hice mis carreras de periodismo y estudios hispánicos. Aunque nunca tenía ninguna clase con él, el profesor con quien suelo comer una vez al año durante Navidades siempre me habló de este libro. Por fin, lo encontré en la biblioteca de la Univerisdad de Illinois y me lo leí. Era una capsula de tiempo fresco sobre una época antes de los peregrinos eran tan común y no todos los pueblos tenía albergues. A veces tenía que buscar las flechas. Me fascinó la historia del Camino antes de ser tan popular. 

One of my favourite Camino blogs, Camino Times Two, written by Beth Jusino, has recently published a book about her experiences on the Camino Francés post-boom. Walking to the End of the World: A Thousand Miles on the Camino de Santiago recreates her Camino, starting with the Chemin du Puy in France and the Camino Francés from Saint Jean Pied a Port to Finisterre at the end of the world in Galicia. Uno de mis blogs favoritos sobre el Camino, Camino Times Two, escrito por Beth Jusino, ha publicado un libro sobre sus experencias en el Camino Francés después del auge del Camino Francés.  Walking to the End of the World: A Thousand Miles on the Camino de Santiago nos cuenta su Camino, empezando con el Chemin du Puy en Francia y el Camino Francés desde Saint Jean Pied a Port a Finisterre en el fin del mundo en Galicia. 

I related more to her story and her tales of the Ugly Americans and the Black Eyed B’s. I had decent shoes, but my backpack was just about as horrible as her first pair of boots were, I believe. I also realise how much I benefitted from living in Spain, as I knew where to go to find the amazing menús del día that had things other than French fries! Her book made me yearn to be back in my beloved Spain, preparing for another Camino. Me relacioné más con su experiencia y sus relatos de los Ugly Americans (estadounidenses feos que se comportan mal en extranjero) y los “Black Eyed B’s” (P’s con moretones de ojos). Aunque tenía zapatos buenos, tenía una mochila de mierda que era tan horrible como su primer par de botas, creo. También me di cuenta tanto beneficié de vivir en España, ¡porque sabía donde buscar los menús del día DPM que ofrecen más cosas que patatas frías! Después de leer su libro, anhelo estar en mi España querido, preparando para otro Camino. 

Both books are recommended for fans of Camino-related literature. Recomiendo ambos libros para los aficionados de literatura sobre el Camino. 

Mi Camino de Santiago (book)

In 2011, I was browsing the Valencia library and stumbled upon a random book by a Valenciano, Enrique Estivalis Rodrígo, who wrote about his Camino de Santiago, from Burgos to Santiago. It was one of the first accounts I ever read about the Camino, and it was definitely one of my inspirations to plan on doing it one day. En 2011, estaba echando un vistazo en la biblioteca de Valencia y encontré un libro al azar por un valenciano, Enrique Estivalis Rodrígo, quien escribió sobre su Camino de Santiago, desde Burgos a Santiago. Era una de las primeras cuentas del Camino que me leí, y era una inspiración para hacer planes de hacer el Camino. 

I checked it out again this summer to reread it, and I enjoyed it just as much as the first time. When I read it, I thought “Wow, not very many people do this Camino thing and here is an account. So cool.” Little did I know how popular the Camino (especially the Camino Francés) actually was. Me lo llevé otra vez este verano para leerlo de nuevo, y disfruté leer la historia tanto como la primera. Cuando me leí la primera vez, pensaba “Vaya, no habrá mucha gente que hacen ese Camino y aquí es una historia. Que guay.” No sabía que el Camino era muy popular (especialmente el Camino Francés.) 

It’s a typical Camino story, and it was the 2000s version of self-published. The Valencia library probably has it due to him being from the city. It was a bit sad when I found out the peregrino had died not long before I discovered the book in the library. Es una historia típica del Camino, y era la versión de los años 2000 de auto-publicación. Creo que la biblioteca de Valencia tiene una copia dado que es de la ciudad. Era triste cuando me enteré que el peregrino había muerto un poco antes de descubrí el libro en la biblioteca.

I don’t know why this book stayed with me over the years, but it formed part of my fascination with the Camino. No sé porque el libro me quedó durante los años, pero formé algo de mi fascinación del Camino. 

Mi Último Suspiro (1982).

My Last Sigh is the autobiography, sorta, of Luis Buñuel, published in 1982, the year before his death. Mi Último Suspiro es la autobiografía, bueno…casí, de Luis Buñuel, publicado en 1982, el año anterior de su muerte. 

The work is a fitting look at his life and various commentary and inspirations for his film. He talks a lot about his friendship with Federico García Lorca and Salvador Dalí and how they met as students in Madrid. I am somewhat jealous of the fact that these three creative people hung out together in 1920s Spain. El libro es una mirada introspectiva de su vida, comentario del mundo y inspiraciones de sus libros. Habla bastante de su amistad con Federico García Lorca y Salvador Dalí y como se conocieron cuando eran estudiantes en Madrid. Me pongo celoso pensar que estos hombres creativos eran amigos en la España de los años 1920. 

Another fun chapter is when he talks about his likes and dislikes. He talks about his experiences with the church and a lot more about his experiences making movies and the stars he met along the way. Otro capítulo divertido es cuando habla de sus gustos y disgustos. Habla de sus experiencias con la iglesia y mucho más de sus experiencias haciendo películas y los actores que conoció por el camino. 

He could have spent more time talking about his family and his relationship with his wife, but being Buñuel, he skipped it. He spends more time talking about brothels than he does talking about his actual love life. Creo que quizás pueda tener más palabras dedicadas a su familia y su relación con su mujer, pero como era Buñuel, no lo escribió mucho. Escribe mucho más sobre las burdeles que su vida romántica actual. 

Buñuel may have been a filmatic genius, but let’s face it: the guy was a jerk. It happens a lot. Buñuel era un genio de película, pero vamos: el hombre era bastante gilipollas. Suele pasar. 

While the memoir is nothing extraordinary, and a lot of the information about the films is posted in the Trivia sections on IMDB, the book is well worth a read for his fans. Aunque el libro es nada del otro mundo, y mucho de la información de las películas ya está en la sección de “Trivia” en IMDB”, el libro vale la pena si eres un fan de Buñuel. 

Rating: A-



The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho.

I started falling in love with the Camino by reading about people’s various accounts of the Camino. I’ve heard of Paulo Coelho’s book before, but I never had the chance to read it until now. I read the Spanish translation, so I can’t say if the English translation is any better or not. Me empezó a encantar el Camino de Santiago cuando empecé a leer las historias de las personas que lo han hecho. Me sonaba el libro de Paulo Coelho, pero nunca tenía la oportunidad de leerlo hasta ahora. Me leí la traducción a castellano, y por eso, no puedo decir si la traducción al inglés es mejor o no.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Coelho, he is a Brasilian writer most famous for The Alchemist, a great book about looking for treasure and what treasure really means. He is sometimes considered to be new-age, but a lot of his books reflect his Jesuit childhood and his current Catholic faith (which he had abandoned for a while.) Para los que no conocen Coelho, es un escritor brasileño. Su obra más famosa es El Alquimista, un libro de buscar tesoro y lo que significa tesoro de verdad. Se considera muchas veces a ser “New Age”, pero muchos de sus libros son un reflejo de su juventud como un jesuita y su fé católica como adulto. Para ser sincero, había abandonado su fé durante mucho tiempo antes de volver a encontrarla. 

In 1987, Coelho wrote the book The Pilgrimage which details his personal journey on the Camino de Santiago. It is vastly different from what pilgrims nearly 30 years later find on the Camino (there were barely any other pilgrims!) In fact, the book is part of the reason the Camino surged in popularity. En 1987, Coelho escribió el libro Diario de un Mago para contar su viaje en el Camino de Santiago. Es muy diferente del Camino que los peregrinos encuentran hoy en día, 30 años después. Apenas había otro peregrinos. De hecho, el libro es parte de la razón que el Camino empezó a crecer en los años 80. 

The book is more about Coelho’s spiritual camino than the physical Camino. However, it’s much more interesting than Shirley MacClaine’s spiritual Camino. Coelho, in the now trendy “using the writer as the protagonist and calling it a novel”, is on a journey to find a sword as part of his training for the Regnus Agnus Mundi (RAM) order. He goes through a series of meditation exercises as he treks through northern Spain. He also battles with a dog. Whether the dog is spiritual or physical, I am not clear. El libro se trata más del Camino espiritual que su Camino físico. Sin embargo, resulta mucho más interesante que la historia de Shirley MacClaine y su Camino espiritual. Coelho, usando el estilo de “el escritor es el protagonista pero es novela”, es en una búsqueda de encontrar una espada como parte de su entrenamiento para el Regnus Agnus Mundo order católico. Hace una serie de meditaciones durante su senda por el norte de España. También lucha con un perro, aunque no me quedó claro si el perro era espiritual o físico. 

I am a casual fan of Coelho, and I wanted to see his insight onto the Camino. As usual, I want to learn more about the experiences and daily life, but his spiritual journey was a good read. I recommend it for fans of the author or the Camino, but it isn’t a must-read for casual fans of either. Soy un fan casual de Coelho, y quería leer de su experiencia del Camino. Quería más de sus experiencias y la vida cotidiana, pero su viaje espiritual me gustó leer. Lo recomiendo para los fans del escritor o del Camino, pero no es necesario para sus fans casuales. 

Kafka, German films and the Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Before travelling to a new place, I like to immerse myself in popular films and books from the places. I didn’t have anything related to Bratislava or Slovakia unfortunately, but I did a ton of reading for Prague and a ton of film watching for Berlin/Germany. Here is what I saw and read: Antes de viajar a un sitio nuevo, me gusta ver las películas y leer los libros que se trata del sitio adónde voy a viajar. No tenía nada para Bratislava o Eslovoquia, pero leí mucho para Praga y ví muchas pelis relacionada con Berlín y Alemania. Aquí es lo que me leí y lo que vi, en inglés. 


Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Kafka: Like many university students, I had read The Metamorphosis in university. In the collection I picked up at the Bilbao Alhóndiga Azkuna Zentroa, there were many other stories just as fantastic as The Metamorphosis. I was quite pleased, and The Metamorphosis remained just as great as it did in 2002.

The Castle by Kafka: I had not read this novel by Kafka though, and I enjoyed the tale of a man running a “castle” in a city that may or may not be Prague. Great reading.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera: I had asked for some recommendations on what to read to prepare myself for Prague, and someone suggested this book and film. I am over film adaptations, so I read the book and enjoyed this philosophical romance.


Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood: The book that inspired Cabaret and introduced us to Sally Bowles is, of course, better than the film (although I did enjoy seeing the musical on stage in Broadway in 2002 with Jane Leeves as Bowles and John Stamos as the M.C.)  Several short stories about Berlin in the days just before Hitler and the Nazis took over the city.

Goodbye Lenin! I watched this film in 2005 and loved it, and I loved it just as much when I rewatched it. Daniel Brühl, son of a German father and Catalán mother, plays a son whose die-hard Communist mother has a heart attack and falls into a coma on the eve of the Berlin Wall fall and unification of Germany. When she awakes, the West has entered the East with all their commercial activities and Coca Cola products, and the son, fearful what the shock might do to his mother, tries to make believe East Germany is doing strong and well. Amazing.

Lola Rennt (Run Lola Run) Another one I had seen before, and another amazing one that holds up on rewatching. Lola (Franka Potente) has to save her boyfriend (my new fave German actor Moritz Bleibtreu) from making a big mistake by getting him a major amount of money. She has three chances to do it. Incredible rush of energy from the awesome soundtrack.

One, Two, Three Billy Wilder is one of my favourite directors, but I hadn’t even heard of this comedy from 1961. It was made in the days before the construction of the Berlin Wall, and on set they suddenly found the wall going up where they wanted to film, so production went to Munich. A Coca Cola executive is trying to get a better job while preventing the President from finding out his daughter has married an East German communist while staying in Berlin.

Das Experiment A psychological experiment to see what happens when ordinary men are placed into prison like circumstances. Of course, it goes wrong. Moritz Bleibtreu stars.

Cabaret The classic 1970s film works better on stage for me, honestly.

Die Welle (The Wave) A teacher uses unorthodox methods to teach about dictatorships and autocracies, and the school sees an uprising called “The Wave” as a result. Could Hitler happen again?

Lammbock. Germany does stoner films…starring Moritz Bleibtreu. Nothing special about it for me, but they are making a sequel.

The Edukators: Two friends try to teach the rich a lesson by breaking into their houses and rearranging furniture. When they are caught, things go out of control as they try to protect themselves.

Shout out to a Spanish film I saw last year called Perdiendo el Norte, about two Spanish friends who go to Berlin to try to find a job. They find Berlin to be cold and themselves not living the life they thought they would.

Two Camino Books for the Road

Camino Books It’s been a winter. I’ve only done 3 of the 40 hikes I wanted to do for the year due to either weather or injuries from my return to the gym and other issues. However, that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped thinking about the Camino de Santiago at all. Vaya invierno estoy pasando. Solo he hecho 3 de los 40 rutas que he querido hacer para el año 2016 dado al mal tiempo o estar lesionado después mi vuelta al gimnasio y otras cosas. Sin embargo, no quiere decir que he parado en pensar en el Camino de Santiago. 

If all goes well, at some point this summer I will tackle Santander-Oviedo. Exciting! The Camino is such a big part of my life now that I like to read and watch films (The Way and Buñuel’s La vía lactea are two good films to get your feet wet.) about it, and, of course, read awesome blogs about the Camino. Si todo va bien, este verano espero hacer las etapas entre Santander y Oviedo. ¡Que emoción! El Camino es una parte grande de mi vida ahora que me gusta leer y ver películas (The WayLa vía lactea de Buñuel son dos buenas para empezar) sobre El Camino. Y claro, también me encanta leer blogs geniales sobre El Camino. 

(For the record, I’m going to keep to a theme of Spanish entertainment related posts on Thursdays and travel/Spain related posts on Mondays. After Julieta premieres on 8 April, I will delve into the word of Alex de la Iglesia. Voy a seguir con un tema de cine o libros españoles y cosas relacionadas con ese mundo los jueves, y escribir sobre España y viajar los martes. Después del estreno de Julieta el 8 de abril, exploraré el mundo de Álex de la Iglesia. 

I’ve recently read two famous books, at least famous among the pilgrims: The Camino: A Journey of the Spirit by Shirley MacClaine and Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim’s Road into Spain by Jack Hitt. Me he leído dos libros famosos en el mundo de peregrinos: The Camino: A Journey of the Spirit de Shirley MacClaine Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim’s Road into Spain de Jack Hitt.

MacClaine is best known as an actress. I remember growing up with Animaniacs they made fun of her new-age beliefs, but I never really knew what they were until this book. I just knew MacClaine from her 00s films like Rumour Has It…(Team Aniston even if she makes horrible movies). I was interested in seeing what her Camino was all about. MacClaine es conocida como actriz. Recuerdo cuando era joven veía Animaniacs y siempre se burlaba de ella y sus creeincias New Age, pero nunca sabía que eran exactamente sus creeincias hasta leerme este libro. Solo le conocía de sus películas de los años 2000, como Rumour Has It… (Equipo Aniston aunque suele hacer pelis malas). Me interesaba ver su experiencia en el Camino. 

I was quite disappointed in her book. I’m not going to challenge her beliefs, but the book was not much about the Camino but her personal Camino whilst walking to Santiago and hiding from the paparazzi. She liked to nap under trees, where she had dreams of her past lives and a time when humans were one gender. The writing isn’t bad, but I hesitate to recommend it as a book on the Camino. I would’ve been much more interested in her insights to the Camino and life as a pilgrim. Instead, it was her interpretation of her dreams, waking and sleeping alike. They are certainly a part of one’s personal Camino, but the book just left me wanting a lot more. Rating: C Me decepcionó su libro bastante. No voy a decir nada sobre sus creencias, porque creo que todo el mundo tiene derecho creer en lo que quiera, pero el libro no se trababa mucho del Camino pero su Camino personal durante su peregrinaje a Santiago y esconderse de paparazzi. Le gustaba echar siestas abajo los árboles, donde soñaba de sus vidas anteriores y una epóca cuando los humanos solo eran un genero. No escribe mal, pero dudo en recomendar este libro como un libro del Camino. Me habría interesado más sus experiencias en el Camino. Pero se trabata de sus interpretaciones de sus sueños, cuando estaba despierta y durmiendo igual. Sí, son parte del camino personal de alguien, pero el libro me dejó queriendo mucho más. 

On the other hand, Hitt’s Off the Road was a joy to read. Hitt is an American magazine editor for Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine and This American Life. His pilgrimage took place before the Camino was a big tourist destination for thousands of pilgrims every year, and it was quite interesting to read about how the infrastructure was 20 years ago. The arrows weren’t as bright, and there wasn’t an albergue in every village. People still were amazed to see pilgrims and welcomed them with open arms. Por la otra mano, Off the Road de Hit era una joya leer. Hitt es un editor estadounidense, y ha trabajado con revistas como Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine and This American Life. Su peregrinación era en los años 90, antes de El Camino se convertió a un gran destino de miles de peregrinos cada año. Era bastante interesante leer sobre las infraestructuras desde hace 20 años. Las flechas no eran tan obvíos, y no había un albergue en todos los pueblos. La gente todavía estaban alucinado cuando vio un peregrino y les hizo sentir como si estuviera en casa. 

He wrote some amazing insights into Spain, especially on the Basques. (To paraphrase: The Devil came to Euskadi to learn Euskera so he could corrupt the Basques, but he gave up after seven years of studying the language and only mastering three words in those seven years.) Hitt escribió algunos percepciones interesantes sobre España, especialmente sobre los vascos. (Para parafrasear: El Diablo vino a Euskadi para aprender Euskera para corruptarles a los vascos, pero después de siete años se rindó de estudiar el idioma porque solo sabía tres palabras.) 

Hitt also wrote about the history of the Camino and towns along the way. It makes me want to learn more about the long history of Spain and the Camino. His conclusion is that the Camino has always been used for the tourist peseta, Euro or dollar. He still writes about his experiences and what he was going through at the time. His quest is to be a real pilgrim and to define what exactly constitutes a real pilgrim. También escribió sobre la historia del Camino y sus pueblos. Quiero aprender más sobre la historia larga de España y del Camino. Su conclusión es que el Camino siempre ha sido usado para aprovechar la peseta, Euro o dollar de la turista. Todavía escribe de sus experiencias y como se sentió en el momento. Su busqueda es ser un peregrino verdadero y definir que es exactamente ser un peregrino de verdad. 

I definitely recommend the latter book to anyone interested in the Camino. Rating: A Recomiendo el segundo libro a cualquier que le interesa el Camino. 

If you’re interested in reading the books, I leave you with their Amazon links. Si tienes interés en leer los libros, te dejo los links de Amazon.


The Cemetery of Forgotten Books

In 2007, when I returned to university for a year to make my Spanish minor a major, I discovered a Spanish book in the library that had been translated into English. I read the book voraciously, unable to put it down in spite of all my studies and papers analyzing why El País used “ser” instead of “estar” and papers analyzing the symbiotic excess of Alex de la Iglesia’s El Día de la Bestia.

I had no idea that this marvelous book was one of the most popular books in Spain and had become popular throughout the world. I have since returned to read it in Spanish, and I can say not much was lost in translation for once, thanks to the expertise of English translator Lucia Graves, daughter of poet Robert Graves.

In Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s masterpiece La sombra del viento (The Shadow of the Wind), readers are taken back to Barcelona of the 1940s. Franco’s regime had just come into power. A young Daniel Sempere is taken by his father to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, where he is allowed to rescue one book that he must promise to always protect. He chooses The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax and devours it (much like I devoured the book!) and sets out to find out more about this mysterious writer. Too bad all books by Julián Carax are being burned in post-Civil War Spain. The book then follows Daniel as an adult and his quest to learn about the mysterious man, putting himself into danger.

The 2001 successful was followed by a 2008 novel, El Juego de Ángel, which goes back to 1920s and 30s Barcelona to follow young writer David Martin, who is asked to write a book by a mysterious stranger. The Cemetery of Forgotten Books and Sempere and Sons bookshop make appearances. This was one of the first books I read in Spanish upon my arrival in Spain in December 2008, and I remember loving it, or what I understood of it, almost as much as the original.

The 2011 El prisionero del cielo, (The Prisoner of Heaven) is a disappointment after the first two. I remember being on the waiting list for about six months to read it, and it relies too heavily on being an homage to The Count of Monte Cristo and trying to make connections that aren’t really there between the first two novels in the series. It is nice, however, to return to see how Daniel Sempere is doing as an adult.

This series of books are not only a love affair to the city of Barcelona but also a love affair to books. They combine mystery, suspense, history and romance. And thankfully, neither Hollywood nor Spanish cinema has made a lesser film version yet. I’m knocking on wood here.

In a world of Twilights and 50 Shades of Grey, it’s nice to have a well-written suspense novel ride to the top of the literary world. For anyone who loves Barcelona as much as I do, these books are a must-read for insight on how it was during a tumultuous time in Spain’s history.

I just wish the Cemetery of Forgotten Books was real, as I’d probably never leave it.