This announcement of the 2015 Slow Travel Fest is so intriguing (and tempting) that I am sharing it in its entirety. The website, alas, is only in Italian. Here it is:
The inspiring new Slow Travel Fest, taking place in and around medieval Monteriggioni, near Siena in Italy from October 9 to 11, is offering walkers of all levels some unique propositions, as well as the chance to explore stunning Tuscan landscapes and the ancient pilgrim route – the Via Francigena.
This sustainable tourism focused festival – Italy’s only festival devoted solely to slow travel – will be welcoming walkers who wish to reconnect with nature, increase their health and fitness, discover incredible new villages, beauty spots and architecture, or simply walk for pleasure.
The melody is catchy. The lyrics are in German and English — and sometimes a few English words (Nordic Walking is “cool and easy”) embedded into German. The walkers are slim, energetic and attractive. And the scenery of what looks like Bavaria is lovely.
I stumbled on a Spanish Nordic Walking page on Facebook and was impressed by (and a little envious of) the amount of information and activities Xabier Medina Ayerbe manages to post about. His corner of Spain seemingly has a lot going on, Nordic Walking-wise, including courses next month on November 15, 21 and 29.
I have to click on Facebook’s translation button, but if you read Spanish, you probably won’t have to.
I was intrigued by this poster, which I found on the Facebook page of Dorota Sosnowska of Poland. She posted it in January, but this competitive event is about to take place at a Polish seaside resort called Zdrowtel Leba that seems to focus on family activities, outdoor sports and fitness. All I know is that I’m impressed by the notion of a “great rivalry” of some sort involving Nordic Walking.
A Facebook friend from Spain posted the clipping below of Queen Beatrix of Holland, age 75, with Nordic Walking poles. The newspaper refers to her as “princess,” but she has been Queen Regnant since her mother, Queen Juliana, abdicated in 1980. She in turn is abdicating soon in favor of her son. I don’t know much more about the royal walk with poles, but I am happy that Nordic Walking has such a high-toned practitioner in Europe. I can’t even credit the publication, because I don’t know what it is.
The site lists records for men and women for “Nordic Walking” (both on the road and on the outdoor track track (5km to marathon). It also lists”Ultra Nordic Walking” records on the road for distance (5km to 500km) and on the track (50 km to 100 miles), as well as for time (6 hours to 6 days). Click on the site, read the stats, look at the pictures and get an idea of what is required at the highest level of Nordic Walking competition. Amazing stuff.
I recently learned about Gabriel Abraham, a Spaniard who broke absolute and M-45 Word Records of Ultra Nordic Walking st 30 and 50 miles. His Wikipedia entry alludes to his previous athletic career in “road running, track running and cross-country races.” He was born in 1966, so he’s no longer a kid, which might explain the reason that he, like other runners, picked up poles and started excelling as a Nordic Walking competitor.
There is no indication as to whether he set these records in a race an if so, which?, or whether he was walking by himself with someone was timing him. Department of Unanswered Questions — except maybe for those who read Spanish. If I could, I would know more, at least from the external links on the Wikipedia page, but I don’t. So there you have it: an amazing athlete with a fairly high profile (given his sports) in Spain whom we know virtually nothing about. I invite anyone with more information to leave an enlightening comment. Please.
Martin Sheen on screen is paving the way for American tourists to walk across northern Spain
When Eat, Pray, Lovebecame a bestseller and then a movie, American women (in particular) headed for Italy, India and Indonesia to find themselves and their soulmates. Sheen carries a single picturesque wooden walking pole, but of course, modern-day pilgrims are likely to use a pair of poles. In any case, what author Elizabeth Gilbert and movie star Julia Roberts did for those three I-countries (was that intentional?, I wonder), “The Way” will doubtless do for the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain. It stars Martin Sheen and is less of a chick flick than EPL, so men as well as women will most likely be motivated to follow the fabled pilgrimage route, known in English as the Way of St. James.
The Plot: Sheen is an American doctor named Tom who goes to France to retrieve the ashes of his grown son who died during a storm while walking the ancient pilgrimage route (a Roman route before that) to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. In his grief and to honor his son’s personal mission, he decides to walk the same ancient spiritual trail where his son perished. Carrying his son’s pack, he embarks on a journey that ultimately includes encounters with others from around the world, some of whom are also lost or grieving, and seeking for greater meaning or spirituality in their lives. Call it Canterbury Tales for the 21st century.
The Prediction: American travelers (in particular) will start looking at northern Spain as they never did before. By mountain bike, on horseback, in organized tours complete with sag wagons but especially on foot, they will follow the path that Christian pilgrims have followed for more than a millennium. It has been designated a European Cultural Route and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, at roughly 750 kilometers for the whole route, surely the longest, skinniest such “site.”
The Pilgrimage Route: There is not just one El Camino de Santiago (the well-known Spanish name, or O Camiño de Santiago in Galacian, Chemin de St-Jacques in French, Jakobsweg in German, O Caminho de Santiago in Portuguese and Done Jakue bidea in Basque, which is useful to know since the long route crosses the Pyrenees, Sheen’s fictional son perished). The four main tourist/pilgrim routes start in various places and measure out to various distances, All are are well mapped, marked with a scallop symbol, documented in media from books to blogs, and on film and video. Churches, inns and other simple places of refuge where pilgrims can spend the night, have a meal and wash are the traditional accommodations, but greater comfort is available in hotels along the way too.
The Passport & The Certificate: Much like the National Park Service’s popular passport that can be stamped at all NPS units, there is a Compostela passport called the credencial (or something like that). Collect stamps along the way to earn the compostela, a certificate of accomplishment given to those who arrive at the cathedral after walking a minimum of 100 kilometers (roughly 60 miles) or bicycling at least 200 kilometers. To earn it, many walkers make their way to Sarria by bus or train, and head out from there. A daily Pilgrim’s Mass at noon includes the “Hymn to Santiago” synchronized with the swinging of the Botafumeiro, an enormous metal incensory above the pilgrims’ heads.
The Tour Packages: Something like 150,000 pilgrims have completed the route in recent years, but I’m betting interest soars. As the film gains traction, additional tours will be added and more tour operators will get into the game, adding “The Way” package options. Here are a couple that can be booked now: