“A pátria/ pedra de canteiro/ medra no camiño”.
The verses by the poet Paco Souto awaken similar sensations to those evoked when following the actual routes that begin and end in Santiago de Compostela. In the poet’s words, the homeland – a patria – acquires a greater dimension and significance along the paths of personal and collective memories.
There are many historical trails that lead to Santiago de Compostela; pilgrimages that may be longer or shorter, following ancient or more contemporary routes. They include the famous and much-travelled French, North, Primitive or Portuguese ways, and two that start and end within the province of A Coruña: the English Way and the Fisterra and Muxía Way. Both boast an outstanding wealth of monumental, artistic and environmental heritage, making their way through municipalities that, in some form or another, have been shaped by the footsteps of thousands of travellers over the centuries.
"Fado" is the title of the anthology by Paco Souto from which the above verse is taken. A word that aptly and succinctly transmits the sensations experienced when travelling the trails that make their way through spectacular landscapes, dotted with outstanding monuments and inhabited by people with a long-standing tradition in hospitality and who extend the warmest of welcomes to everyone that decides to follow these ways steeped in history, art and mystery.
And for the two that begin and end in the province of A Coruña, Santiago de Compostela is at once the origin and destination, the alpha and omega of a journey unlike any other and that is destined to leave a lasting impression on everyone that embarks on this surprising adventure.
Santiago is the final destination of an English Way that starts in the cities of A Coruña and Ferrol, whose ports have witnessed the arrival of travellers since the Middle Ages. On completion of their sea voyage, they set off inland, following two routes that meet up in Bruma. As its name indicates – bruma is the Spanish word for mist – this intriguing hamlet is shrouded in a haze of age-old tradition and history and is the point from which the way continues for a further forty kilometres before reaching the monumental city and the end of the pilgrimage route.
This way is steeped in a wealth of cultural and historical heritage that will surprise and delight, set against a backdrop of magnificent landscapes that will frequently remind us that it is the journey and not the arrival that matters: a simile for life, which unfolds in various phases; all different, but all equal in their significance.
Santiago de Compostela is therefore the destination for a series of routes, but it is also the starting point for the perhaps the most unusual of all the ways: the one that starts where others end, in a city of art where travellers have traditionally found renewed strength to continue their journey to the end of the world; an endless horizon affording the most spectacular of sunsets and the most breathtaking scenery. A space where men and women will feel humbled before the magnificent of the sheer cliffs and the immensity of the ocean stretching out before them. Precisely for this reason, I am often struck by the notion that the Fisterre-Muxía Way is one of humbleness and meekness, born out of the grandiosity of a landscape that is also one of the most precious treasures shared by all of us who are fortunate enough to live there.
Costa da Morte, Fisterra, Mount Pindo and even Vákner, - the mythical monster associated with this route – all speak of the magic to be found along a way that follows the route of the sun to the end of the world and the most magnificent sunsets. Throughout history, travellers from all over the world have succumbed to the beauty of this unique instant, impossible to put into words, and best experienced at first hand.
Ways filled with life, emotions and the chance to discover a unique land, boasting a wealth of treasures that form part of a welcoming land that proudly displays to the world its unique identity, expressed through art, nature, tradition and culture. It is our duty to protect the legacy we have received and to pass it on to future generations. An undertaking that invites us to paraphrase the great Paco Souto, sharing his sentiment that our homeland takes hold and grows along the way.