Saturday, June 19, 2010

An Odd Occurrence in Madrid

Tuesday June 15th, 2010 began as another day on the job for one officer of the Madrid Police Department. However at around 5pm, his routine patrol of the park was shaken up by the appearance of a very strange site... A frightened and confused Templar Knight.
Now the truth behind the Myth:
Kevin S followed directions from Lucy and Elizabeth and found his way to a Medieval armor shop. Exercising an incredible amount of self control (as opposed to last summer when buying a full suit of Roman Centurian armor), Kevin purchased a Templar cape instead of armor. Eager to take his new look for a spin, he went to the park with Mike D, Diana, and Colleen. As soon as the coast was clear and no tourists were in sight, he donned the armor and went for a run... right into a police patrol. Stricken with fear of being arrested for general buffoonery, he discarded his knightly valor and fled.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Santiago: We have arrived

On June 12th, the Fordham Camino 2010 came to its conclusion as we made our triumphant arrival in the city of Santiago de Compostela. Apologies for the delay in blog posting, but internet access was limited in the hectic excitement of our journey's end.

Our day began early, nearly an hour before dawn, when we awoke to find that, at long last, the rain had stopped. We rejoined the Camino and headed into a dark patch of forest, still before sunrise, and began our walk. Despite being a respectable 20 kilometers, the day's walk felt much shorter, since we left so early, and walked so eagerly once Santiago was in sight.

When we got to around ten kilometers left, Katie J, Sarah, and myself (Kevin) stopped for a break and encountered a busload of what can best be described as "fake pilgrims." If their lack of backpacks had not given away the fact that they were only walking for the day, their pristine white sneakers would have done the job just as well. After spending two weeks trudging through the sun, rain, and mud, we felt entitled to looking down on these folks, and question the necessity of walking sticks for the mere two hour walk from the point where the bus dropped them off. Almost everyone in our group had a similar experience with these ¨bus pilgrims.¨ A group of tourists even parted to make way for Diana and Kevin S., calling them ¨pelegrinos,¨ and giving them a sense of superiority over their pristine walking companions. However, we were put back in our place upon remembering that others had walked four times as long as we had, and by the thought that our very own Dr Gyug had completed the walk multiple times.

After a frustrating diversion from the traditional route of the Camino which took us around the modern airport, the city of Santiago de Compostela came into view from the top of the Monte del Gozo (Mountain of Joy). Despite having roots in earlier Roman and Swabian settlements, Santiago de Compostela derives its name and its prestige from events which took place in 813. A hermit by the name of Pelayo saw a mysteriously glowing mound of wood for several nights. He informed the bishop Theodimir, who returned with his entourage to find the bones of the apostle James and two of his disciples. Santiago, of course, is the Spanish for Saint James, while "compostela" means "field of stars," an allusion to the lights seen by Pelayo.

As is often the case with our large group, we arrived at the cathedral in Santiago in various smaller groups. The first to arrive were Dr Gyug, Katie B and I (Colleen). For the next half an hour we met our other walking companions in the plaza. Our arrival in front of the cathedral was something of a whirlwind, at least for me (Kevin). The combination of bagpipe music, cheering crowds, and the daunting facade of the cathedral we had walked so far to see was quite disorienting. The group met up again with congratulatory hugs from one another, and a quick group picture, before rushing over to drop our bags at the hotel and make it back in time for the pilgrim's mass.

As 2010 is a holy year, Santiago's streets were teeming with people. We arrived at the pilgrim's mass 15 minutes early and waited in line until we were able to enter the cathedral through the southern facade. Unfortunately, the mass was so crowded that three of our group were turned away at the door and those of us who were able to attend had to stand. The cathedral, as it is now, was built from 1075 to 1122 and finally consecrated in 1128. It is the largest Romanesque church in Spain and one of the largest in Europe. The outside is decorated in an ornate, baroque style featuring almost countless depictions of St. James.

Inside the church, one of the most impressive features is the Botafumeiro. (See the video, located at the end of this post). The Botafumeiro is the largest censer in the world. It was created in 1851 and is usually not in use. However, luckily for us, it is used in every pilgrim mass during holy years. Eight men are needed to control the censer, which while swinging almost reaches the top of the cathedral and hits speeds of up to 60 km an hour.

After mass we split up for various lunches, after which many of us collectively agreed that, having grown tired of the choice between wearing pants or muddy shorts, some shopping was in order. In preparation for our final evening together, at least half of our group headed out to the retail shops of Santiago, where we worked as a team to make sure everyone was looking their most stylish. We eagerly await the shopping montage, set to the song "Supermodel," in the final act of the film adaptation of our story.

We later met up at a local restaurant to have our final meal together. Many toasts were made over our raciones and pilgrim meals. Since the World Cup also began a few days ago, we were able to watch the United States and England play while we ate. Afterward, we headed to a bar nearby to partake in a drink called queimada. Queimada is a traditional Galician drink that is made by stirring various alcohols together and lighting the concoction on fire. (Our Queimada is pictured above, prior to its being lit.) More toasts followed and the night ended with dancing and David Bisbal at another local bar.

The next day, many of us parted ways. Some of the group continued on to other cities in Europe to further their travels and many of us returned to Madrid for a few days of sightseeing and readjustment to city life after weeks in the Spanish countryside.

-Kevin C. and Colleen

Kevin Soravilla's Video Roundup

Hola friends!
If words are not your thing, here is a video to demonstrate the glory of Santiago!

P.S. Here is the queimada in its more or less full glory, being prepared. - Elizabeth

Friday, June 11, 2010

How´s the Walking?

For anyone that wanted to ask, ¨How has your trip been so far?¨

Please let this response from James Franco sum up our collective opinion:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Melide! (pulpo y llueve) or the day we sang the "I love mud" song

Today was a shorter day, only 14 k from Palas de Rei to Melide. However it has not stopped raining! Apparently Saint James heard our prayers for agua while we were walking on the other side of the mountain and is, well, he is sending us water.

The rain let up a bit today and we´ve all invested in this amazing garment called a poncho! Not only does it keep you mildly dry and colorful on a grey wet day it can keep your pack dry while making you look like a turtle or a funky cult member! We continue to be a party of poncho wearers.

Walking up to Melide was quite shocking. For the past week and a bit we´ve been walking through cow town, meaning one building aside from the barn and possibly a cobble stone road. If you look on google maps (as I did in preparation for my in-class presentation) you may think to yourself "wow, only two roads such a small town!" Sorry to dissappoint it is in fact a small city, in comparison to the past week. We´re all a little worried about how we´ll react to a "true" city. We got to see the Iglesia de Santi Spiritus, a church built from the stones of the Castle and part of the Convent in town. The castle and the wall were destroyed during the revolts in 1467. We dodged the rain drops to see the Crucero San Roque, which is in the center of town and upon discovering that the romanesque church next to it was closed we dashed to the Pulperia Ezequiel for pulpo!

The reaction to the pulpo, the famous dish of Melide, was mixed, personally it was good, but not for people who dislike seafood. The best part of the restaurant was the large group of locals singing, quite boistrously, and banging the table in a quasi rythmic manner. Very entertaining for the first twenty minutes, they unfortunately left before us but most of them waved goodbye. We also got a couple orders of shrimp and razor clams; one is not supposed to eat the pico peppers that come in the shrimp sauce, which is what Kevin C, Mike, Collen and Reed did do, they had a lovely twenty minutes of breathing fire.

Fortunately we are all doing well physically with slight dismay when we think about walking the 32k in the rain tomorrow. We´re off to tackle our penultimate day of waking, (que triste!) all of us surprised how quickly time has passed since O´cebreiro. With three minutes left I bid you Hasta Luego, stay dry and warm and there will hopefully be pictures added later, as well as information about the lovely museo in town!


B Squad Radio

Today we´re in Melide, and despite it being Emilee´s official day to post on the blog, we, Kevin C, Mike Diamond, Katie J and Sarah wanted to share a few thoughts with our fans back home. As we are usually among the last to finish walking each day (mostly by choice), and proud occupants of top bunks each night, we have dubbed ourselves the Fordham Camino 2010 ¨B Squad.¨ Not as glamorous as the A Squad who lead the way into town, we do fulfill a few vital roles. Since we take our time travelling, we need to find ways to occupy our time. Thus, ¨B Squad Radio¨ was born, in the pouring rain somewhere between Portomarin and Palas de Rei. Here we share with you some of what we spend our time talking and thinking about. We feel we´ve produced enough innovative and entertaining discussions to fill a 24 hour talk radio station. Without any further adieu, we give you B Squad Radio: where getting there is half the fun.

First up, is a representation of everyone´s favorite aspect of Spanish culture, the incredibly overdramatic, overproduced, over the top music video. The following is the group´s collective favorite example of Spain´s greatest export since Antonio Banderas. The song is called BulerĂ­a, performed by the velvet throated god otherwise known as David Bisbal. Make sure you stick around for the anguished scream at the end, much like our own anguished screams tomorrow, as we walk thirty two kilometers through the rain and mud (we hope its mud, though there are a lot of cows around).

Second, inspired by the casting of ourselves in the roles of Lord of the Rings characters, B Squad Radio determined who will be cast as each member of our own group in the inevitable film adaptation Steven Speilberg´s Fordham Camino 2010: The Major Motion Picture Event. (In 3D, naturally.)

What follows is the tentative cast list, and a few backups, in case artistic differences split apart the original crew:

Dr Richard Gyug: Anthony Perkins (Backup: William Hurt)
Lucy: Gwyneth Paltrow (Backup: The Ghost of Ingrid Bergman)
Elizabeth: Liv Tyler
Katie B: Heather Graham circa 1997
Reed: Bradley Cooper (Young Reed (in a flashback): Zach Efron)
Diana: Reese Witherspoon
Colleen: Joan Cusack
Emilee: Sandra Bullock
Maryann: Rosario Dawson
Kevin S: A Back to the Future-era Michael J Fox
Mike: Keanu Reeves
Katie J: Charlize Theron (Only because Katie broke the ¨don´t try to cast yourself¨ rule so many times that we were completely out of ideas for her, since she had said every talented and attractive actress working today.)
Kevin C: Joel McHale
And Natalie Portman as Sarah Mutter

This has been B Squad Radio: We´ll get there when we get there.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Portomarin: Mother Nature and Cake

Snakes. Why´d it have to be snakes?

-Indiana Jones

Rain. Why´d it have to be rain?

- Mike Diamente

The brave group of pilgrims from Fordham University awoke in Sarria today to cloudy skies, a wet ground, and rain on the forcast for the foreseeable future. Undeterred however, the group set out to our next destination, the glorious city of Portomarin.

The rain held out for a good while, with the cloud cover keeping everyone cool, and morning coffee assuring that everyone was warm. Today´s walk took us through a variety of landscapes, starting with an uphill climb through areas of thick forests (in which my first Camino traffic jam occured. It involved two bikers and a steep hill) straight out of an enchanted Disney universe, and across rolling dairy fields with countless number of cows.

Along the way to Portomarin our group passed a road marker showing that we were 100 kilometers away from Santiago. According to the Church, 100 kilometers is the minimum distance that one has to walk in order to obtain the same indulgences and spiritual rewards as someone who walks any other greater distance.

Before I continue I must say that both the Kevins had a rough day today. While making his trip to Portomarin, Kevin S. unfortunately was unable to avoid the fresh droppings of a cow, while Kevin C. had water and wine spilled on him at lunch.

Once we reached Portomarin I felt I was obligated to start off our tour in style. We unofficially began our tour at a local bar after lunch, where everyone in the group tasted a local traditionally made liquor that was 100 proof. This liquor is not regulated by the Spainish government in any way, as long as it is made using traditional equipment and techniques. Although many did not like the moonshine, it was good to see everyone trying something unusual together as a group.

Since the city of Portomarin is the unofficial captial of the Spanish dessert cake ¨Tarta de Santiago,¨ I felt that I should provide my fellow pilgrims with some to start off our tour. With our taste buds satisfied I was able to start the tour of the city.

The city of Portomarin was originally built on either side of the river Mino, the largest river in Galacia. People began to settle there in the 12th century becuase of the bridge built by the Romans. The left bank of the river was known as the town of San Pedro de Portomarin, and the right bank was known as San Juan de Portomarin.

This bridge was one of th eonly ways to cross the river without using a boat, which made Portomarin an important location, not only for pilgrims, but also for economic and military reasons. Because the bridge allowed for control of the river, the town was always garrisoned in its history. During the Middle Ages the city became an important location for the Christian orders of the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller.

In the 1960´s the river Mino was dammed to create the Belesar reservior, putting the old village of Portomarin under water. However, most of the buildings of the town were moved brick by brick and reconstructed in a new location on top of a hill. This means that the town we viewed today is not actually the same city of mearely 50 years ago. The Spanish King Franco was the main voice behind the preservation of the city of Portomarin which I find interesting to note considering how strongly Franco felt towards the Camino and the Middle Age history of Spain. Franco believed that the Camino could be used as a symbol of a new Christian Spain, and the preservation of Portomarin was certainly a step towards that plan.

After talking about the history of the city, and finishing up any last pieces of cake, we moved on to the Templar Church of San Nicolas of Portomarin. The Templar church is located in the middle of town and was built in the late Romanesque style, but is unusual becuase it is designed to be both a church and a fortress. The church contains the usual elements of Romanesque architecture such as rose windows and rounded arches, however the church also includes parapets and other defensive military features to allow for its protection. The religious and warlike nature of the Templar´s is personified very well in this particular building.

After viewing the church, a few of us in the group went to find the famous factory of the Tarta de Santiago of which we were told that earlier Fordham groups were kicked out of. Although we were not kicked out, we did not find any more success as far as figuring out the secret of the holy cake, as the old woman running the shop simply closed the door on us and went back to her grandchildren.

Finally, a couple incidents during the day made me believe that I was truly a long lost resident of Portomarin. First, walking through the city I was asked 3 seperate times if I lived in the city and if I could give directions(I don´t and I couldn´t). Lastly, the waiter at the bar where many in the group had dinner was supposedly an identical twin of mine, so much so that Dr. Gyug came to find me to tell me to go see myself at the bar. Of course I was better looking.

(Since no one has the city after Portomarin let me just say, it rained really hard after Portomarin).

Mike (is awesome)

Chanson de Geste

You have already read about our band´s thrilling experiences in Ponferrada, and our appreciation of its mighty stronghold. There is, however, still more to come. Dr. Gyug, our fearless leader, suggested that it would be only proper to honor this noble fortress with a tournament. And having had a tournament, we decided that it would be only proper to honor it with a chanson de geste. (It´s like ¨If you give a mouse a cookie...¨ for medievalists.) And now it is time for this chanson, three days in the composing, to make the transition from memory to written record.

´Twas early in the month of June
When but half waned was the moon,
When on Ponf´rrada´s grassy height,
There met a troop of noble knights.

These knights so brave, so fair, so bold,
They rivaled worthies sung of old,
Kevinus led the Templar band
Against the Frenchmen for their land.

The leader of the chevaliers
Was Reid ycleped, a prince of peers,
While Pious Kevin with his lance
Did lead the Templars against France.

Ah! had I the true poet´s art,
O hearers, it would glad your hearts
To hear the histories of each,
But my tongue lacks heroic speech.

Now Ponferrada, castle strong,
Had been a Templar fortress long,
But now the French do claim their right
In Ponferrada´s stony height

Whose noble walls and towers high
Do proudly greet the Spanish sky
As Ponferrada through the years
Keeps its inhabitants from fears.

Bright in the sun the armor shone
and bravely, silken pennants flown
Proclaim of every knight and dame
The noble house and nobler fame.

¨´Twere shame indeed,¨ the leaders said,
¨To see the blood of heroes shed
In putting valor to the test;
We´ll break our lances but in jest.¨

For such a conflict ´twixt such foes
Three chroniclers the heroes chose:
Kevin, Colleen and Katie hight
The scribes for this most valiant fight.

Eager the knights to start the fray;
The marshal cries, ¨Laissez aller!¨
And ¨Deus vult!¨ the Templars cry.
The French do bravely shout ¨Mountjoy!¨

Of mickle valor Maryanne:
Couched is her lance; she takes her stand.
But Lucy´s spear her shoulder found--
The damsel´s body met the ground.

Elizabeth, with leveled spear,
Of Sarah´s flail showed no fear.
Undaunted heart, unwearied arm
From Sarah´s flail take no harm,

For Sarah, on her taking ruth,
Did hold her blow--so ´twas, in truth--
Noble the maids, noble the deed,
On Ponferrada´s grassy mead.

Fair Katie rode into the fray
Upon a mettled steed of gray.
At Kevin and at Liz she thrust;
Her stirrup breaks--she greets the dust.

On Kevin´s shield Mike´s shattered lance
Did strike a mighty blow for France.
Then wheeling round to join his king,
Mike´s sword against Diana´s rings.

...Believe it or not, dear readers, there is a LOT more of this. But: another day, another day´s walking, and another afternoon´s tour, which is calling me now. But like the good medievalists we are, we are keeping this poem alive in our vibrant oral culture! Watch this space for the rest of the battle and the poem´s moving conclusion!