Spain

A river of life

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As a whole, the country of Spain is old, dusty, and crackled. Average rainfall across the peninsula measures about 25 inches annually, comparable to the state of Nebraska. Of course, proximity to the sea, elevation, and other factors fudge the numbers and create local variations of temperature and precipitation.

Water from the sky must be augmented with irrigation efforts in order to meet modern agricultural demands. For this reason, canal systems to transport/distribute this life-giving moisture are common. In the Meseta, Spain’s inner plateau, these systems crisscross the surface of this baked anvil.

While walking alone on the Camino de Santiago the trinkling sound of the water makes for pleasant company. I snapped this image near the village of Villavante. 

Buen caminó!


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Our next adventure in the land of the Bible is slated for March 12-23, 2019. We’ll be doing a study-tour with Master’s-level students in Johnson University’s residency program. I’m already excited. Student trips are always fast-paced, high-energy, and full of great conversation.

For a complete list of travel opportunities in 2019, see our schedule here. You may also contact me at markziese@gmail.com for more details.


Open border

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This may be the border between France and Spain.

There were no signs. There were no guards. There were no lines. There was no passport control.

Actually the only thing that went through my head when I took this picture was “cool cattle guard.” It was only later, as I was trying to figure out when I passed the international boundary, that I reckoned it must have been here. It may have been somewhere even less noticeable.

The line between these two countries was established in 1659. As members of the EU, France and Spain are practicing the dream of the borderless Europe project (admittedly, not without wrinkles).

History teaches that walls and fences are ineffective in shutting down the flow of illegal immigration. What works? Cooperative engagement between prosperous and liberal societies who require and enforce clear rules.

Buen Camino!


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We have many travel experiences planned for 2019 (see list here). These are organized on behalf of educational institutions or church groups. If you are a leader who is interested in crafting a unique travel opportunity for your organization or if you are an individual who would like to join a group, shoot me an email at markziese@gmail.com.

The last pilgrim cruceiro

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Over the course of the last few days we have been thinking about the monuments in northwest Spain known as the cruceiro (see here, here, and here). The one pictured here rises near the lighthouse on Cape Fisterra. It overlooks the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean as well as the zero-marker for those following the Camino to this cape at the “end of the world” (more on this another day).

A Portuguese inscription on the pedestal of this cruceiro reads, “CRUZ DA COSTA DA MORTE 1987.” It is a “Crucifix of the Coast of Death 1987,” a recent addition to the assembly of wayside crosses in the Galician hills.


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We have many travel experiences planned for 2019 (see list here). These are often organized on behalf of educational institutions or for church groups. If you are a leader who is interested in crafting a unique travel opportunity for your organization or if you are an individual who would like to join a group, shoot me an email at markziese@gmail.com.

One of 12,000

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Yesterday I shared an image of a Galician cruceiro from Sarria (see here). While it communicated the texture of the granite from which the crucifix was cut and the iconography of the Christ and Mary figures upon it, it did not capture overall sense of the monument.

I came across this more austere presentation in the town of Portomarín, Spain. It was standing in the courtyard outside the apse of the Iglesia de San Xoán (see our image of the church here). This shot captures the feature design of the traditional Galician cruceiro from ground to sky. At the bottom is the platform and pedestal. Rising from this is the shaft. Atop the shaft is the crucifix. As in Sarria, Christ and Mary are pictured on the crucifix, facing opposite directions. It is tall and slender: perhaps four meters in height.

While no one knows for sure how many cruceiros have survived the ravages of time and traffic in this region of northwest Spain, one estimate suggests there may be as many as 12,000 still standing (see here).

Note the lovely red flower someone left on the base.

Buen Camino!


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We have many travel experiences planned for 2019 (see list here). These are often organized on behalf of educational institutions or for church groups. If you are a leader who is interested in crafting a unique travel opportunity for your organization or if you are an individual who would like to join a group, shoot me an email at markziese@gmail.com.

Cruceiro

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The monumental public crucifix or cruceiro (pronounced “kroo-THAY-EE-roe”) is a regular feature the Galician landscape. You can find these slender towers in church courtyards, busy intersections, or windswept hills. They are typically cut from granite and date to the period between the 16th and mid-18th centuries. Some are just a simple and empty cross; others are adorned with figures like the one pictured above that I found in the town of Sarria, Spain. On one side is the crucified Christ. On the other is a figure of the Virgin Mary.

The steeple of the Church of Santa Mariña de Sarria rises in the background.

The prompts behind these monuments are many. One is tied to a Catholic belief that time spent in purgatory may be redeemed by pious works. This dogma was famously defined at the fifth session of the Council of Trent in the year 1546 (see here). Erecting a cruceiro was seen as a way to earn indulgences for loved ones or for self.

Similar stone crosses are found on waysides in France and Belgium. There they are known as calvaires.

Buen Camino!


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We have many travel experiences planned for 2019 (see list here). These are often organized on behalf of educational institutions or for church groups. If you are a leader who is interested in crafting a unique travel opportunity for your organization or if you are an individual who would like to join a group, shoot me an email at markziese@gmail.com.

Fountain inspection

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Bob inspects a water fountain along the road into Pamplona, Spain. Drinking water is readily available along the Camino. We filled our bottles from open fountains like this each day. Fountains without signs or fountains marked agua potable are safe for drinking. Only occasionally did we find a dry fountain or one marked non potable.

Not once in five weeks of hiking in France and Spain did I struggle with the ol’ traveler’s malady. Of course, going into it with a gutfull of bacteria from the Middle East is pretty good prep.

Buen Camino!


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The Sea of Galilee is at the end of our journey as we hike the Jesus Trail in January, 2019. Following our hike we’ll head south for a quick visit in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. You are most welcome to join us, but realize that the window for signing-up is closing very soon. Click here for more information or email me directly at markziese@gmail.com.

The good and the bad (and the ugly)

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With all the fine eats in Spain, you wouldn’t really go to Burger King for lunch, would you?

Maybe.

*Oreos are difference makers.

Buen Camino!

(Photo by Bob)


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There is some pretty good eats in Israel-Palestine if you know where to look. We’ll be walking across Galilee in January of 2019 and aim to find some local food. Stops include Nazareth, Cana, Magdala, and Capernaum. Click here for more information or email me directly at markziese@gmail.com.

For those who have far to travel

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A quiet road under the morning light stretches between the village of Hontanas and the ruins of the Convent of San Antón. The Spanish Meseta is an appropriate place to remember an Epiphany blessing by Jan Richardson titled, "For those who have far to travel.” It works on the Camino, at home, or in the Christmas story.

. . . .


If you could see the journey whole,
You might never undertake it,
Might never dare the first step that propels you from the place you have known toward the place you know not.

Call it one of the mercies of the road:
That we see it only by stages as it opens before us,
As it comes into our keeping step by single step.

There is nothing for it but to go and by our going take the vows the pilgrim takes:
To be faithful to the next step;
To rely on more than the map;
To heed the signposts of intuition and dream;
To follow the star that only you will recognize; 
To keep an open eye for the wonders that attend the path;
To press on beyond distractions, beyond fatigue beyond what would tempt you from the way.

There are vows that only you will know; the secret promises for your particular path
and the new ones you will need to make when the road is revealed by turns you could not
have foreseen.

Keep them, break them, make them again:
each promise becomes part of the path;
each choice creates the road that will take you to the place where at last you will kneel

to offer the gift most needed—
the gift that only you can give—
before turning to go home by another way.


You can find Jan’s webpage containing this poem here.


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It is not too late to sign on for our hike across Galilee (but it will be soon). This coming January we will be walking portions of the “Jesus Trail.” You are cordially invited to come along. Stops include Nazareth, Cana, Magdala, and Capernaum. Click here for more information or email me directly at markziese@gmail.com.

Galician soup

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This traditional soup of the Spanish highlands will fill your belly and stave off the Atlantic chill. What goes in the pot sounds like the old "stone soup" story: beans, potatoes, pork fat or sausage (chorizo), pork bones or knuckles, paprika, garlic, bay leaf, salt and pepper, etc, whatever. The one thing that is a must for honest Galician soup is turnip tops!

I know you are thinking of lawnmower clippings about now, but it is truly tasty stuff, especially with toasted Italian bread for dunking.

Galicia is located in the northwest corner of Spain. It takes its name from Celtic folk who settled there in the first millennium BC.

Here's a recipe if you want to try Galician soup in your own kitchen (pull some turnips and poke the link here).

Buen caminó!


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Consider this your invitation to join us this winter in Galilee, Israel. We will be hiking the Jesus Trail between Jan 8-16, 2019. This trip is facilitated by the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies and is a bargain at only $2,588 from New York. For more details click here or contact me at markziese@gmail.com.

 

 

 

How far in one day?

It is tough to keep gravel on an 18% grade. Its tough to keep people on it too.

It is tough to keep gravel on an 18% grade. Its tough to keep people on it too.

Distance traveled per day for long-distance walkers in bible lands hinges on many things. Weather, slope, surface, health, and pack weight make a difference.

Consider these estimates offered by experienced biblical scholars.

Beitzel: 17-23 miles.

Ramsay: 16-20 miles.

Casson: 15-20 miles.

Charlesworth: 16-20 miles.

Bob and Mark on their excellent adventure: Yup.

We sweat a lot, don't have much hair, have large butts, short toes, springy ligaments, a windlass mechanism, upright balance, a brain that coordinates it all,  . . . why, tramps like us were made for distance! Twenty miles is just getting started. Curious? Check this out here and here.

Buen caminó!


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Want to start 2019 in a unique way? Join us for a walk across Galilee! Hike the Jesus Trail and do some additional sightseeing in Israel-Palestine. This trip is facilitated by the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies and is priced at $2,588 from New York. Dates are Jan 8-16, 2019. For more details click here or contact me at markziese@gmail.com.

Tomato jam

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The morning meal of tortilla de patatas that I favored on the Camino Francés was not so popular in the northwest corner of Spain. I'm not sure why. I had to find other options.

Here's one.

Toast a couple of hunks of bread. Smear with tomato jam (Portuguese Doce de Tomate).* Dip or sprinkle with olive oil  (note the plastic sprinkle bottle with all the table essentials: salt, pepper, and olive oil). Augment it with a couple of thin slices of pork and a cup of cafè americano.

Don't think toast and jelly. Think pizza. 

Bingo. Trail ready.

Buen caminó!


*See here for more on this Portuguese-style condiment.


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The cuisine in Israel-Palestine is Mediterranean in character but different from what I experienced in Spain and Portugal. If you are curious, why not join us for a walk across Galilee and do some additional sightseeing in Israel-Palestine? This trip is priced at $2,588 from New York. Dates are Jan 8-16, 2019. For details click here or contact me at markziese@gmail.com.

Savor the morning

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Walking the Camino is often a group exercise. You see the same faces over and over again on the trail, at the cafes, in the hostels. A camaraderie begins to build. 

But every so often the explorer finds himself/herself alone. It might be for mile or it might be for a morning. This was one of those mornings. I'll not forget it. The sky was cool and overcast, the mountains were rising, the birds were in full song, and the forest had an earthy smell. 

Rabbits darted across the road. Twice.

These are the mornings to savor.

The road leads to Cacabelos, Spain. Beyond that, the trail climbs into Galicia.

Buen caminó!


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Want to start 2019 in a unique way? Join us for a walk across Galilee! Hike the Jesus Trail and do some additional sightseeing in Israel-Palestine. This trip is facilitated by the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies and is priced at $2,588 from New York. Dates are Jan 8-16, 2019. For more details click here or contact me at markziese@gmail.com.

Poppy pods

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Bob and I came across a large poppy field while hiking through the La Rioja region of Spain. We saw no cameras.

The poppy belongs to the Papaveraceae family, a group of plants known for the production of a milky latex.

Poppies are most often found in dryer corners of Europe and Asia. Australia is a notable exception. Many genera are prized for their flowers.

However, one species, Papaver somniferum, has been engineered specifically for its production of latex. I don't know if the plants we found in this field belong to this species, but I do know that alkaloids obtained from its latex are opiate; they have deep physiological effects on humans and other animals. Seed pods are scratched, the latex drips out and dries. Collected and processed, we call this residue by names like morphine or codeine or heroin.

Use of opiates in the Mediterranean basin goes back a long way. It is well-documented in the Hellenistic period, centuries before the time of Christ (see the interesting article here).

Spain is the second largest producer of opiates in the world. The government keeps a close eye on the fields. See the article here for more on this Spanish industry.

Buen caminó!


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Want to start 2019 in a unique way? Join us for a walk across Galilee! Hike the Jesus Trail and do some additional sightseeing in Israel-Palestine. This trip is facilitated by the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies and is priced at $2,588 from New York. Dates are Jan 8-16, 2019. For more details click here or contact me at markziese@gmail.com.

Not the capital I was expecting

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The portal that leads into the Church of Santiago el Mayor in Puente la Reina, Spain, is elaborately decorated. Stone columns rise on either side of the doorway. These are topped by capitals that function as arch supports.

This particular capital caught me by surprise. 

The motif is not unique to this Romanesque church and has been described as a "column-swallower" or a "column-spewer" (depending on which way the imagination reads the architecture.). It may be related to the "foliage-spewer," another common figure. The stone "canvas" of medieval church portals seems to attract presentations of heaven and hell and those destined for each.

The column-swallower may be suggestive of the evil forces that must be resisted. They eat at the church. 

Medieval art is just macabre.

Buen caminó!


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Want to start 2019 in a unique way? Join us for a walk across Galilee! Hike the Jesus Trail and do some additional sightseeing in Israel-Palestine. This trip is facilitated by the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies and is priced at $2,588 from New York. Dates are Jan 8-16, 2019. For more details click here or contact me at markziese@gmail.com.

The Cathedral awakens

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The Cathedral of Saint Mary of Burgos (La Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica Metropolitana de Santa María) awakens at sunrise. Its spires curl skyward, sprouting one upon another. It stretches horizontally as well as vertically, expanding in all directions over the centuries.

Work on the Cathedral began in the year 1221. Its lines were determined by gothic trends already established in Paris and Reims. Later styles were introduced as the structure developed over the course of the next five hundred years.

Bob and I visited the Cathedral in the afternoon when it was busy with tourists. I captured this photograph on the following morning when Burgos was still asleep and the plaza was deserted.

The path of the Camino Francés crosses the shadow of this World Heritage Site.

Buen caminó!


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If you are interested in other fantastic medieval structures, you should join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean cruise in October, 2018. See the link here for details. Naturally, we'll be visiting sensational sites near the water like Messina, Taormina, Valletta, and Rhodes. I plan on bringing my camera. There are more views than my mind will remember.

Lean back for pan food

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You will lean back in your chair when the server brings out the Spanish paella! 

Carried directly from the fire to the table in its own special pan (paella is derived from the Latin word for pan), it comes with a warning: "Don't touch!" It is bubbly, sticky, and delicious.

Ingredients in paella include rice, olive oil, and saffron. Beyond that, common gives way to the creative. Pictured here is standard paella of rice, chicken, and beans. Other cooks add seafood, rabbit, snails, artichokes . . . well, you get the picture. 

Paella seems to have originated in Valencia, the orange capital of the world. In that setting, the ideal paella is cooked over an open flame fueled by wood from citrus trees. Pine cones are added to the fire to produce a unique flavoring smoke.

It is a regularly featured dish on the Camino Francés.

Note: You will lean back in your chair when you are finished as well. I promise.

Buen caminó!


I hope to exhibit some self control while dining aboard the luxury liner, the Celebrity Reflection. Care to join us? We'll be cruising the Mediterranean between October 11-22, 2018, eating great food, visiting famous port cities, and talking about "the Great Sea" in the New Testament period. See the link here for details. An optional add-on visit to Rome is possible on either end of the trip. Consider this your invitation!

It got my attention

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No words. I simply have no words.

You might look at this though.

Buen caminó!


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Want to start 2019 in a unique way? Join us for a walk across Galilee! Hike the Jesus Trail and do some additional sightseeing in Israel-Palestine. This trip is facilitated by the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies and is priced at $2,588 from New York. Dates are Jan 8-16, 2019. For more details click here or contact me at markziese@gmail.com.

Running with the big dogs

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Until you come nose to nose with one of these canines, it is difficult to imagine their size. The Spanish Mastiff (mastín español) is GINORMOUS. These fellas have been defending cattle and sheep against wolves and other varmints on the Iberian peninsula for a long time.

The Spanish Mastiff is one of the oldest members of the Molosser family, a heavyweight class of dog.* It is possible that they were brought to the region by Phoenician or Greek traders. They were well established by the time of Christ.

Much later, the mastiff accompanied Spanish explorers to the New World as war dogs. They terrified the native Americans. And for good reason.

Some of the big boys go over 200 pounds and stand 36 inches tall at the shoulder. They are smart, powerful and loyal.

They are also loud. When they bark you should put your fingers in your ears (notice the young man on the left in the photograph above).

I met this amiable fellow while lunching at a café/bar in Alto do Poio. I'm glad he didn't take interest in my sandwich. I'm not sure I could have said no.

Buen caminó!


*The term Molosser hails from the rugged mountains between modern Greece and Albania. It is derived from Molossus, an eponymous ancestor of an ancient tribal group located there. Molossus was the grandchild of Achilles, a famous character from the Trojan War.


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Want to start 2019 in a unique way? Join us for a walk across Galilee! Hike the Jesus Trail and do some additional sightseeing in Israel-Palestine. This trip is facilitated by the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies and is priced at $2,588 from New York. Dates are Jan 8-16, 2019. For more details click here or contact me at markziese@gmail.com.

Strange company

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Question: What is wonderful and unpredictable and funny and odd and unintelligible and  . . . ?

Answer: the people you meet everyday on the Camino Francés.

Naturally, I am the only totally normal person on the trail. Walking across Spain and over three mountain ranges with nothing more than a pack on your back is the sort of thing that totally normal people do. Right? Right!

I encountered this interesting bit of wall art one morning while exploring the village of Cacabelos (after a caffè americano and some wonderful tortilla de patata, of course).

Buen caminó!


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Here's a totally normal idea: hike along the Jesus Trail in Galilee and do some additional sightseeing in Israel-Palestine! This trip is facilitated by the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies and is priced at $2,588 from New York. Dates are Jan 8-16, 2019. For more details click here or contact me at markziese@gmail.com