Camino de Santiago

A heavenly display

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The architecture is lovely along the Camino de Santiago in rural Spain. But every so often even the medieval stonework must take a back seat to the stunning display of the heavens. On this day, we found shelter just in time. Thunder boomed and lighting and hail fell with fury.

Buen caminó!


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The art of pilgrimage is not easily learned. It involves a journey, most certainly, but not the journey of a tourist who seeks to appease the gross senses only. The pilgrim seeks to satisfy a deeper longing, the need to find his/her place in the world. If you are interested in exploring past, present, and future in land of the Bible email me at markziese@gmail.com or consider joining an excursion listed here.

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.

It's like coin in the bank

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Just so you know: those who complete the pilgrimage of the Camino receive a certificate of accomplishment or compostela. Rights and privileges that pertain thereto include: (1) having a free souvenir to remember weeks of painful marching under Spain's brassy sky, (2) owning a way-cool Latin document to hang on the wall and (3) receiving a partial indulgence. 

As for (3), I could just kick myself. I was unaware that the indulgence was only partial. I now know that in order to receive a plenary indulgence one must hike the Camino on a Jubilee Year or somehow manage to die some horrible death on the trail. Chalk that one up to my bonehead Protestant roots.

Oh well.

I'm currently looking for some really good ways to spend my partial indulgence. Reasonable ideas (except those from Jason Wilcoxon) will be entertained. Please email me.

Buen caminó!

First look into Spain

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The route through the mountain chain of les Pyrénées is known as the way of Napoleón because the great general favored this arduous climb in and out of Spain during the Peninsular War (1807-1814). Pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago favored it as a way to avoid bandits.

It is reported that many pilgrims fell to their knees when they saw Spain (and the land of Saint James) for the very first time. I guessing they were also thankful because after 3,200 feet of steep climbing the road goes downhill from here. 

Buen caminó!


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Join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean experience in October, 2018. We'll be cruising aboard the luxurious Celebrity Reflection. See the link here for details. Onboard lectures will provide focus as we visit the ports of Malta, Rhodes, Santorini, and Athens among others. An optional add-on visit to Rome is possible on either end of the trip.