Initially, I felt a letdown in Spain. It was much more crowded. More international. More commercial. Less personal. But in reflecting back on it, the primary reason was probably that I missed the dozen or so people who had become my “Chemin family” over the last two weeks in France. These are the people who I would see in the villages, cafes and/or gives at the end of each day. With the exception of a couple, St. Jean was their final destination.
However, I came to realize that the Camino Francis in Spain was just a different experience, not better or worse, just different. As I did that, I opened up to my fellow pilgrims and came out of my slight funk. As one young German pilgrim explained that for 30 days he was going to meet the world. His excitement was infectious.
In France, the vast majority of the hikers (+95%) were French. The Spanish are also the majority on the Camino Francis (this is the Spanish portion) but it is around 50 percent. Based on my experience most of the international pilgrims were Germans, Americans, Australians (including New Zealanders) and Koreans.
I met the sisters in the picture a week earlier and would run into they off and on. They were just two of the fascinating people I met. They were from Germany but a German was very quick to point out that they were originally from Poland. They spoke German, Polish and Russian but no English. One of the few Germans who did not speak English. I only speak English. Despite that, we had a very animated, laughter filled conversation in a cafe at the end of a long day of hiking. I saw them several times and stayed in the same albergues a couple of times. They were loud and always smiling and laughing, often at themselves. They seemed to find everything hilarious. Initially, they were going fast and covering long distances; perhaps too fast and too far. They got hurt pretty bad and had to slow down considerably. But despite swollen knees, calves and ankles, their spirits were always high and they continued to persevere. The last time I spoke to them they were determined to finish. Straight from Santiago, they were going to some island resort in Spain where they laughingly talked about getting non-stop massages. They were so determined and upbeat that I am sure that they made it.