Germany - JacobsWeg (The Way of St James)

by Kimp 16. June 2016 20:51

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Camino de Santiago - The Way of St James

The apostle James was very close to Jesus. Some believe that the mother of James, was the Virgin Mary's sister, which would have made Jesus and James, first cousins.  After Jesus was killed on the cross, the apostle James set out to spread the teaching's of Jesus, throughout Israel. When he felt that was complete, he sailed to Iberia (Spain), to spread the word there as well. While he was in Iberia, a vision of the Virgin Mary carried by angels appeared to him. She gave him a small statue and the vessel (Pillar of Jaspar) that the angels used to carry her, to Saint James, and told him, "Build a church upon this spot and place these items on the alter. Then return to Israel."

St James complied, however when he returned to Israel, King Herod decried him, beheaded him, and pronounced that James could not be buried in Israel. The Students of Saint James, then carried his body to Spain to be buried in the city of Compostela, which is in North-Western Spain.

In 711 A.D. the Moor's conquered most of Spain.

Then in 778, the Roman ruler, Charles the Great (Charlemagne ), took an Army into Northern Spain and reclaimed that part of Spain, as part of the Holly Roman Empire. When Charlemagne discovered St James tomb, he decreed that a church be built on top of those remains, and that large pilgrimages from the rest of the Holly Roman Empire, should be made to Santiago de Compostela. Santiago is the Spanish name for Saint James. 

For hundreds of year's, the pilgrimage on foot from a Holly Roman's front door, to Santiago de Compostela, was considered a rite of passage into Christianity. In those day's, pilgrims would stop at churches about a days walk apart, along the way, seeking shelter and boarding.

In the 1900's there was an Irishman, by the name of Walter Starkie. He was very interested in Gypsies, so he traveled extensively with Gypsy tribes, and wrote about his experiences in a whimsical manner, as only an Irishman can do. His writings became very popular, and Walter soon amassed a wide following. In 1957 he wrote a book named "The Road to Santiago" subtitled "The Pilgrims of St. James". That book started a revitalization of "The Way of St James" Pilgrimage. Today, it ranks high in Christian pilgrimage locations, prompting a republishing of Walter's book in 2003.

It is customary for pilgrims to attach a scallop shell to the back of their backpacks. The scallop shell is native to the Galatia area of Spain, where the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral is located, and it is said to symbolize the many paths that pilgrims take, from all over the world, to get there.

Modern day pilgrims (about 200,000 per year) usually start at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France (close to the North-Eastern border of Spain), then walk across the Northern part of Spain, ending at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral (which is close to the North-Western coast of Spain). That walk takes about 30 days at a moderate pace. Many inexpensive hostels, are maintained all along the most traveled route, ready to take in pilgrims for a night. These hostels, usually include a modest dinner, served to all pilgrims, at a the same specified time. It is kind of a bonging time, for strangers all sharing in the same goal.

The standard backpack for the Camino is fairly small and lite. Since there are many hostels along the main route, one does not need to carry tent's nor bedding, and only needs to carry a single day of supplies. Supplies can easily be replenish each evening, before the next leg. Most people rise early, get the hike out of the way, then relax and enjoy the evenings, maybe doing a little sight seeing in whatever town they are in.

Pilgrims usually pick up a Camino passport in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. It is stamped at several church locations along the route, to certify that a person made the entire trip, then turned in at the end, for a certificate. Actually a certificate may be obtained even if the entire distance is not covered. The only certification requirement, is to walk for a minimum number of kilometers along the route. A person could start at the minimum point before the Cathedral, finishing at the cathedral, and still qualify for the certification. Most people start in France, because it is in the mountains, and the walk down the mountains into Spain, gives a person an early feeling of accomplishment.

The most traveled years are Jubilee Years (Years in which St James Day, July 25th, falls on a Sunday). A jubilee year is designated by a church, to signify a special year of remission of sins and universal pardon. The future Jubilee Years will be 2021, 2027, 2032, and 2038. The pattern of 11-6-5-6 years between Jubliee Years, then repeats.

This pilgrimage has been on my bucket list for quite a while. I am hoping to make the trek in April 2021, health permitting. If not on foot, then probably via bicycle. By bicycle it takes about 7 days. 

History of Germany

The real name for Germany is Deutchland, which was derived from the word duit. In the language spoken by Southern Germanic people, during Martin Luther King's day, Duit meant race or nation. Therefore Deutchland means the land of our race or the land of our nation. In my opinion, that has a really nice sound to it.

In Julius Caesar's time, there were hundred's of tribal nations occupying the land that is modern day Germany. Those tribes were continuously harassing and causing problems for Caesar. The tribes spoke different dialects of a language known in Rome as Germanic. So Caesar generically referred to that region as Germania.

Over a thousand years, in order to survive in the changing times, the tribes merged and merged again and again into successively larger tribes. In 1815 there were 39 separate countries that loosely formed an alliance, called the German Confederation. By 1870, that loose confederation had strengthened into a Northern half that shared somewhat tighter bindings, and a Southern half that shared its own, somewhat tighter bindings.

France feared that the Confederation would form one one strong country. Prompting France to declare war against Prussia (the strongest of the Northern alliances). This was an attempt to break them apart, but It backfired. The Southern alliances immediately joined with the Northern alliances to defeat France in 1871. After that, the German Confederation became the Country of Germany.

Germany Today

Since Germany developed slower than many other large countries did, and since it's population was always spread out. Today, many of it's cities feel small (Many cities are more like several villages that just happen to be in close proximity to each other) and the country as a whole, still feels like many, many small interconnected, independent villages, each with its own flavor. .

Usually each village has something that it specializes in. For instance, one village might have the awesome bicycle shop, another might have the awesome dive shop, another might have the awesome horse stables, another might have the awesome agriculture university, and another the awesome medical facilities.

The other unique property that Germany has, is that they have always maintained their ancient paths, between these village's. Germans have always enjoyed spending time outdoors, in socially engaging atmosphere's, so they respect and care for the nature that supports their favorite pastime.

It appears to me, that when someone purchases a piece of property in Germany, any path's on it, remain open to the public. A person can randomly pick any two points in the current country of Germany, and always find a way to walk unabated between them, via these ancient highways.

While walking on any trail in Germany, we are likely to pass close to a village, about every 5 kilometers. This means that we can effectively walk very long distances, over many days, and all we need is a very basic backpack, containing a few changes of clothes, some foul weather gear, and enough room for one day of provisions.

That coupled with the gently rolling hills, which make up most of Germany,  makes it a great place for moderate long distance hiking, with minimal planning. Enough visual changes to make it interesting and visually pleasing,  and enough exercise to make it moderately challenging without wearing a novice out.

The more I hike in Germany, the more I want to hike in Germany.

When we hike a trial in Germany, we are walking the same path that people have walked for thousands of years, and we are seeing the same beautiful things that those people have seen, over thousands of years. One creator, one path, one current enjoy'er, many past enjoy'ers. Awesomeness at its finest.


Jacob is the Latin name for the apostle named James (English name). Therefore, in Germany, the trails that were used for "the Way of St James" are named JacobsWeg.

Someone took the time, energy, and initiative to research and map out a special section of trails in Western Germany, under the moniker JacobsWeg. They link the village of Speyer near Frankfurt, with the village of Kloster Hombach, which is very close to the border of France.

One winter, I walked the red route which is 137 km (75 mi)  total from Speyer to Kloster Hombach. Loving every minute of it.

Photo Blog (click to view)

Thank you for reading.

I'll see you next time.


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Comments (2) -

Jessica Buchanan
6/23/2016 1:27:09 PM #

Fantastic description of your experience on these trails. My favorite picture was 31. The crystal clear water was also neat. It really is a beautiful country. nice to see it not ruined by man. Architecturally that is. The pilgrimage sounds  like something to look forward to for sure. I enjoy reading about your travels. It makes me want explore more, just closer to home. - Jessica


6/26/2016 3:33:31 AM #

Thanks Jessica.
Great to hear from you.
Glad that you find some enjoyment in my writings.
I believe that there are plenty of things close by, that one can find interesting, no matter where a person lives.
We just need to look for something that we haven't experienced before, go experience it, think back and reflect on that experience, then start again.


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