Greece and Spain – 2006 Journal

E-mail Journal

Pilgrimages in Greece and Spain,2006


Greece, Spain, and 2 Apostles – July 1, 2006

Dear All,
I guess by now everyone’s been wondering what’s been happening with Seraphim/Bill/William.  Well, I’ve been busy, way to busy.  I was working evenings for a long time and had no time at all to do anything like write long e-mail’s like I used to.  Or any e-mails at all.  I have pretty much been working and resting.  The last several weeks have been the worst, I’ve been getting ready to go to Europe.  I’ll be going to Thessoloniki, Greece (as in I&II Thessalonians in the Bible) and then to Mt. Athos, a monastic area not far away.  I’ll be visiting several monasteries there, staying in one near my priest’s monastery there.  From there I’ll go to Patras to the church where the body of the apostle St. Andrew lies.  From there I’ll go back to Athens to see some more old stuff.  Then I’ll fly to Pamplona, Spain and start walking to Santiago de Compestella where the body of St. James the brother of Christ lies.  Then I will come home and go to work the next day.  So that’s the background, if you hear anything from me later you’ll have some perspective on what I’m doing.  And that is about all I can think of to write.  My head isn’t working too well, I haven’t slept much lately, or rested much.  I’ll add some more stuff in later e-mails.  I’ve got my PDA with wireless internet so I may be able to write when I’m in a city if I can figure out how to use it. I’ll post pictures on my web site when I get back.
Love you all, write soon.

Thessaloniki – July 4, 2006

Dear All,
Well, I got safely to Greece with almost no problems other than linguistic.  I keep hearing people say words that I heard on the Pimselur Greek audio lessons, but I guess I wasn’t paying close enough attention to learn what they meant. Luckily, many people here speak English.  Thus far the impression Greece has left on me is that there are churches and shrines everywhere, the food is great and the girls are beautiful.
I didn’t mention it in my last e-mail because I didn’t want to worry some people, but I was having a lot of problems with my left knee.  I fell down running to catch the subway (I missed it) and re-injured my knee.  I first hurt it hiking up mountains in WuLai.  This time, it didn’t stop hurting when I stopped using it.  It hurt everyday for two weeks, sometimes barely noticeable, and sometime quite painful.  I was worried that walking 700 kilometers on it might possibly be a problem, especially since I have to be walking all over Mt. Athos later.  Yesterday I prayed to the Holy Mother, who is the patron of Mt. Athos, about this, and this morning there was no pain, at all. I didn’t even notice.  I had been walking abound all day, and instead of hurting it felt fine. I went right away into a church and lit a candle in thanks.
The food here is better than I thought and street food is cheep.  For some reason, though, Coca-cola is 1E outside, but only 40c in the supermarket.  There are many places with roasted meat on a spit that they put in gyros or sandwiches.   Well, I don’t have much time left here so I’ll have to cut it short.  Let me know how you are all doing.


Keffalonia – July 22, 2006

Hey all,
Well, I’ve had some hang ups and some good times lately.  I had a good stay in Athens and saw a lot of old broken stuff.  That’s about the only way to say it.  Everyone knows what’s in Athens, I just saw the real stuff I’ve seen on TV before.  I really enjoyed the Byzantine museums, which is always by favorite part of Greek history, and I also went to the National Art Gallery, which was small compared to Taiwan’s, but good.  I was looking forward to going to Patra for a few days to rest at my priest’s sister’s house before making the long walk to Santiago, only she hadn’t expected me to stay for so long and I had to quickly make other plans.  I quickly decided to go to the Ionian island of Keffalonia, a place I had never even heard of until yesterday. I quickly arranged for tickets, changed my train ticket so I wouldn’t miss it (which was much more painless than I thought it would be, I only got shouted at), and I was on my way. Should be fun.  That’s about all there is.  Hope you are all well.

Planes, Trains, and Ferries to Spain – July 26, 2006

Dear All,
Well, I just got back to the mainland from my surprise side trip to Keffalonia.  I didn’t get nearly as burned as I thought I would, but I have mosquito bites covering a third of my body.  I hadn’t prepared for this trip at all so I didn’t have any of the usual things you need for camping like a tent or mosquito repellant. I was just sleeping out under the stars in a sleeping bag.  Since only my face was out that’s what they went for.  I have so many bumps on my face I look like I’m in high school again.  Still, it was fun and relaxing to just lay around on the beach all day.  I discovered European women aren’t very shy about sunbathing topless, even those that should be.
So now I’m looking forward to being in Spain where at least I can understand a little of what people are saying.  And there will be no more anxiety about hopping trains, plans, and ferries from one city to the next.  For the next month it’s just me and my feet.
Hope you are all well.

On the Road to Santiago, Again – July 29, 2006

I’ve finally got to Spain, and had a very Hemingway-esc first day.  I had thought I wasn’t going to get here at all.  I got up at 4:30am to catch the bus to the airport and just got there.  Then I had to pay 3 euros for a warm coke, didn’t stop me but I wasn’t happy about it.  Then I took a long dull flight to Madrid, where the cokes were not as expensive, but still high, 2.40E. My flight was delayed many, many times, finally going three hours late.  Luckily, I got to the albergue (pilgrim’s hostel) just before it closed and had just enough time for a shower (I smelled real bad) and a sandwich.  Then I got ran out at 7:30 this morning.  I didn’t walk much today, just about 23km, which is an easy day for me.  When I arrived in Puenta la Reina I went to sleep for a few hours, then went to the supermarket, but I found it closed.  Today is either a local holiday, or as I think a Catholic festival day, St. Francis of Assisi maybe.  In the center plaza the locals were playing a game called ´ring the bull´ where they get a bull (with horns) real mad then make it chase them, then they put a ring on its horns.  Then just for fun they ran the bull up and down the street full of people.  They had planned for this and the women, kids and old folks ducked behind barred gates while the young men stood in the street and some taunted the bulls.  Guess what I did.  I couldn’t taunt the poor animals, though.  It was a strange way to celebrate the feast of the patron of animals.
So in three days I’ve gone from a semi-nude beach to being stuck in an airport to facing a bull.  I wonder what will happen tomorrow.
Running out of time here so I’ve got to go, love to you all.


Hot – July 31, 2006
Just going to write a short note today.  I decided to do a long haul yesterday, but just as I was starting on the last stage I got a fast attack of diarrhea.  Luckily no one was around, unfortunately I had tossed my TP thinking, I won’t need that and had only notebook paper.  I had a nasty rash by the time I got to the next town, as well as heat rash from my fat legs rubbing together.  On the plus side, the albergue served dinner cheap.  It was super hot yesterday, too.  Today I had a lot of trouble walking for the above reasons, so I only went about 20km.  I just arrived at the albergue, but I’d better check in because more people are coming and I don’t want to have to keep going.  Take care all.

Everything’s working today – August 4, 2006

Dear All,
There are some new people on the list so I’m going to do an update:
I’m in Spain.  Continuing:
After some tough days everything is working more or less well today. I’m still having trouble moving my right leg, but it doesn’t hurt as much to walk on it.  The blister on my left heal has dried out, though I’m still worried about it getting infected.  I remember too well the nightmare I went through last time when I had a big infection on the back of my heal. I soaked it in saltwater, I’ve heard that helps.  I’m staying at a nice albergue that was peaceful until a very large group of young people just walked in.  Large groups, especially of young people, are my nemesis on the Camino.  They are loud and stay up late and on the road they dawdle about and it’s hard to get past them.  Today I passed one group.  Later it started raining and I was tired so I stopped in a church for about 25min.  I started out slow because I am always stiff after stopping, but then I thought I saw them ahead of me. I started walking fast, much faster than usual.  I normal go at about 5.5km/hr, but since I was hurt I’m lucky to be going around 5km/hr.  But today I was going at 6-6.5km/hr for almost an hour.  However, when I finally caught them it was a not that group, it was a small family and a few other pairs and singles.  But I made good time.  I only did 23km today because of the rain.  Maybe tomorrow I will have to do more. I need to average 26km a day to get there on time.  This group here now is so loud, they look like they haven’t walked a mile yet.  They must have someone driving their luggage b/c they were coming in with big rolling bags of luggage.
It’s nice to walk in a place that you haven’t been in a long time and see all the places you have before, and to sit where you sat years before.  It helps remember what things where like 2 years ago and to remember what kind of person you were then and what you thought about then compared to now.  The town where I’m staying now I just passed through last time.  I remembered it when I saw the plaza. Last time I was tired but had more miles to go, so I stopped in town for a while. I wondered off the trail, I remember thinking God had led me to a shady plaza.  I was walking around and found it again.  Really I found the odd store that I bought lip balm last time when my lips were severely chapped, and that reminded me of the plaza.  This time I bought a bag for my camera there, I haven’t taken as many pictures this time, partly because my camera is hard to reach, but mostly because things are not as unique as last time.   xx  Well, I’m just wasting time while I download an episode of Stargate to watch on my PDA.  The PDA and GPS gear are all working well for me, though some of the GPS info I got was off.  I’m updating everything and in the future I’ll post it all online.  I left my European plug adapter in the last place, so I had to find an electronics store and rig up a new one.  So far it is working, though my GPS receiver is getting twice the amps it needs and I’m afraid it will burn out eventually.  We’ll see.
Hope you are all doing well.  Write me sometime and let me know how you all are.  Love you all.

Broken down again – August 10, 2006

Dear All,
My feet hurt so much I want to sit down and cry about it.  Last time I did this I had heavy steel enforced boots that tore my feet up, this time I decided to go with sleek Timberlands, but they don’t have the impact resistance when walking over rocky ground.  Plus I got blisters and as soon, just as soon as I got my right leg working again, my left ankle starts hurting.  After about a kilometer everything just goes numb and it doesn’t bother me, but when I stop it starts again.  I’ve got a very painful blister between two toes that’s a bit infected.  I did 40km today, that’s why I’m so whiny.  That’s twice what I did on some days.  The towns are spaced badly on this stretch so it was do it today or in two days.  For once, I did the hard part first.  I need to do 27km a day, so now I’ve got 13km in the bank for when I hit the mountains next week.  Keep praying, I’m going to soak my feet and sleep, it’s been a long day, but tomorrow is only 30km.  Take care,

Wet – August 19, 2006

Dear All,

It is wet.  Wet, wet, wet, wet, wet.  It has rained for about 3 days now.  Wednesday wasn’t so bad, but as soon as I reached the hardest
part of the trip, I got the worst weather.  This is what it looks like here:
(dead link)
I’m now in the part of Spain on the far left above Portugal that turns purple at the end.  Purple means wet.  Tomorrow will also be wet.  I brought 2 light rain ponchos from Taiwan thinking it wouldn’t rain much, or maybe just one day like last time.  I almost threw one away after the first rain, but rolled it up again.  Experience has taught me not to throw away rain gear.  I’ve thrown away 2 pairs of pants and some shirts, but not rain gear.  I use the broken one to wrap around my bag, and the good one to put around me.  Despite the weather I’m still going on well.  I’m making good time, in fact.  For the first time ever I did stop in a bar for a hot cappuccino, I usually stop on the road where ever I can sit and drink a cold coke.  I got moving extra early this morning, about 5:45am, because I had stopped 6km before one of the big stopping places.  I went 2 years ago, it is also a big starting place and it was packed.  I don’t want to sleep on a cold floor again, or the ground, or a basketball court, so I’m changing my plans.  I generally get to the albergues just before the big crowds come in.  Today, because I started behind most, I was afraid they would be full, but I had no problem getting in.  I didn’t even see many people today. I guess a lot took several breaks for the weather.  I’ve got a schedule worked out for the next few days that will put me in Santiago a day earlier than planned, but I required another 40km day.  I may can cut some off that, there are not many albergues (hostels) listed in this area, but sometimes there is a new one not listed, or a pension or casa rural or other stuff that means you can sleep there.  They are more expensive, though.  I’m doing pretty good about eating.  Unlike last time I am cooking more, and by cooking I mean boiling water and adding the contents of a package to it, that saves a lot of money.  Sometimes  I do eat in a bar because the food here is really good.  Not today, though, I purposely picked an albergue near a supermarket because I didn’t want to go far.
And tomorrow, back out into the rain.  I’m debating weather or not to buy a new poncho that I can get on and off more easily.  I don’t like to stop and take it on and off, but I get really hot wearing it.  It’s like wearing a garbage bag, then walking hard for hours.  I could see more water inside it than on it from my sweat.  I worry about dehydrating like that, and it gets cold.  I don’t mind the rain that much, I like rain, it rains all the time in Taiwan, but a hot tropical rain.  This is bitterly cold.  I reached the highest peak today, 1340m above sea level.  As soon as I hit it an icy blast of wind hit me.  All morning I kept thinking, It’s August!  The high today was 70F.
Well, got to go, running out of time.  Need to hit send before I’m cut off.
Love to you all,


I did it, I Made It, I’M HERE – AGAIN!!!   – August 24, 2006

I’ve finally made it, once again.  I am in Santiago, 700 km from where I started.  I couldn’t believe the end seemed to go by so fast, probably from lack of sleep.  I arrived here yesterday at about 11am, after just 22km of walking.  I got my pilgrims credentials, this time with the name Seraphim in Latin.  So now I have one that calls me Villelum and another that calls me Seraphinum.  I don’t know how they came up with that name, Seraphim is mostly the name of eastern Christians, I don’t know if it was ever used in the west.  Every time I tell someone my name they look at me funny.  In Greece, people would say, ´Hey, that’s a Greek name.´ Anyway, I went to the Cathedral next, had my picture taken with my stuff again, took some pictures with a better camera than before.  When to the little lunch counter with good, cheap hamburgers, and did a little shopping with the money I’d been so frugal with.  I don’t know if I’d mentioned it but I’ve been on a tight budget because I couldn’t get my ATM card to work here.  Luckily I spent almost nothing in Galicia because the albergues where practically free (and worth it) and there were rarely stores in the villages.  I was carrying enough tuna and bread to live on, and there were often bars where I could get a bocadilla, which is like a subway sandwich but made of wood.  No one could believe when I asked for one with bacon, egg, and cheese.  I actually found that in a fast food place listed as ¨British Sandwich¨. So I bought a t-shirt and a Spanish flag.  I also got a Greek flag when I was in Greece.  I’ll put them up with my Chinese and American flag.  I really need to get a Taiwan flag sometime.
Sorry if I’m babbling.  I haven’t slept much lately.  I’m not going to either.  The albergue is very noisy, as usual, and when I leave it is early in the morning, at 6am.  I don’t know if I can get to the airport in time so I’m just going to sleep there.  Then I have the usual day long flight to Taiwan.  I think on my next vacation I’ll go somewhere closer to home.  Like the hammock in my front yard.   So, now that my long journey is over what have I learned?  I don’t know, not much, little more Spanish, but I wasn’t here to learn anything.  I think like anything else you just have to keep going, one step at a time, even when it hurts, even when you don’t want to.  I think it’s best not to rush through things.  I think I’ve gotten more in a hurry than before.  Or maybe less lazy, I don’t know which.  Probably doesn’t matter much if you rest on the way to a place, or when you get there.  I guess it depends on if you like the middle or the end best.  But I have learned one very important lesson.  Coca-cola is the same in every language.  And it’s everywhere you go.  Last time I did this I was careful not to drink a lot of soda, this time I didn’t care. I don’t worry about stuff like I used to.  I just try not to over do it.  I’ve discovered sugary drinks are keeping me fat.  After 2 pilgrimages I’ve lost some weight, but I still have a big gut.  Not as big as before, though.  My pants don’t fit well anymore.  For the last week I was walking down the camino constantly pulling my pants up.  That’s partly because I keep all my electronics there.  My GPS unit, which was pretty useful, stopped, then started working again.  It wasn’t very useful for finding stuff as I didn’t have the proper maps loaded for most cities, but it could tell me stuff like how far I was from a place, how fast I was going, altitude, average speed, and actual distance traveled.  I recorded a lot of GPS locations which I plan to put on the internet for anyone else to use.
Well, I’ve been on the internet over 2 hours now downloading the last episodes of Stargate and Prison Break to watch on the plane.  My CD of the West Wing got scratched.  I need to go now, I’ll send another e-mail in a couple of days when I get home.  I hope my dog still recognized me.  Love to you all.

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