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Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Who are these people who want to walk or bike hundreds of kilometers just to get to a particular city? Well, as I mentioned in an earlier blog Santiago de Compostela is a holy city and especially in the Middle Ages millions of people from all over Europe walked or rode their horse to Santiago for religious reasons. Nowadays many people still do so for religious reasons, although many others do it for a variety of reasons: it is an historic long distance path, it is easier than for instance the Continental Divide or Pacific Crest trail where you have to prearrange food drops because you are crossing so much wilderness. It is much easier than the Trans Canada trail which is still incomplete and is missing many sections. It is extremely well marked and you rarely wonder where the trail runs.
Nowadays about 55% of the pilgrims are male and (obviously) 45% is female. Many females are walking it by themselves and it is safe. Eighty seven percent of the people walk it, 12% do it on a bike and nowadays only 0.5% do it on a horse. Even 0.03% do it in a wheelchair (66 total in 2013).
How old are these pilgrims? Well, 28% are under 30, 56% are between 30 and 60 and still 15% are over 60. That last statistic surprises me, because the number of people I have seen of my age or older I can count on 2 hands. 
Where do they come from? Well, not surprising, 50% of the pilgrims are from Spain, then Germany and Italy each 'supply' 14% of the pilgrims, Portugal 10%, the US 9%, France 7% and good old Canada does have 3% of the pilgrims on the trail. 
There are many roads that lead to Rome, so there are also many routes that lead to Santiago. Of course in the Middle Ages people left from home and made their way to Santiago. My brother Rob in 1999 walked all the way from Amsterdam before I joined him in Pamplona to for the last 720 kms.
Nowadays 70% of the pilgrims follow the most common route, The Camino de Frances. However 14% are coming via the Camino de Portugal and the remainder are using one of the 9 or 10 other routes through Spain to Santiago. 

In an earlier blog I stated that last year about 150,000 people made their way via de Camino to Santiago. Well, the latest figures from the Head Quarters in Santiago show that I was way too low: it states that in 2013 over 215,000 people did so and in the last holy year in 2010 272,000 people made their way to the holy city. 

I am taking a rest day today in Burgos and spent a very interesting few hours visiting the cathedral in the old part of Burgos. Beautiful.
Tomorrow back on the trail, only about 20 km awaits me tomorrow, should not be a problem (famous last words)

Talk to you soon.

Kees in Burgos

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