Tourism: Compostela, pilgrimage also by sea

Crossing on sailboats and schooners

29 May, 13:34

    (ANSAmed) - ROME, MAY 29 - Santiago de Compostela is a major destination for travelers from around the world. But reaching it on foot along the celebrated pilgrimage route, an effort shared by past and present pilgrims, is not the only way possible.

    Some in the past travelled to Galicia by sea, only walking through the last part leading to Santiago and this year a similar initiative is kicking off: pilgrims and travelers will be able to sail off for free, working as a crew under the ''nautical Jacobean crossing''.

    The initiative vies to remember the 'traslatio' by sea of apostle James and commemorate the pilgrimage to Compostela of Saint Francis of Assisi on the eighth centennial.

    The crossing whose itinerary was presented in Rome by, among others, Spain's ambassador to Italy, Francisco Javier Elorza, is organized for the first year by the agency of tourism of Galicia in cooperation with the association of nautical clubs of the Spanish region (Asnuga) and will take place between June and July along two routes which will both lead to Rias Baixas in Galicia.

    The Atlantic route will leave from England on July 6 and touch Ireland and France while the Mediterranean route will leave from Genoa on June 15 and will follow a longer itinerary that will reach Toulon in France, Palma de Mallorca Torrevieja, Cartagena, Roquetas, Marbella e Cadice, in Spain; Portimao, Sines, Cascais, Figueira da Foz, Porto, in Portugal, and finally Portonovo and Cabo de Cruz in Galicia.

    Two fleets of at least 40 boats will sail over 210 and 1,500 miles respectively. From Ria de Arpousa participants will leave for Santiago de Compostela following the route of the sea in Arousa and Rio Ulla.

    The program is open to pilgrims and tourists. ''We thought the initiative could attract more youths and instead noticed that so far participants have an average age of 50-60 years'', explained Javier Ruiz Cortazar Diaz, president of Asnauga.

    This is a sign that more mature tourists are willing to make an effort and experiment a different types of pilgrimage also consisting of hard work on board ships. Many participants have already signed on with many requests coming not only from Spain but from other European countries as well, including Italy.

    The idea, Cortazar Diaz said, ''is to try and institutionalize the initiative to launch it annually''.

    On the web are all indications on how to apply: participants can use two types of boats - private sailboats which can take the whole route or just follow for part of the way, and schooners which will carry travelers for free during the crossing in exchange for work onboard. Participants with their own boat can also follow the route for free.

    Food, technical support, maintenance and some of the expenses for boats travelling from a faraway location will be partly covered. Other activities have also been organized to coincide with the initiative: Compostela will host the exhibits ''Auga Doce'' and the ''Path of Francis''.

    Over the next few months, the modern art show ''On the Road'' will be inaugurated at Pazo de Xelmirez and in the church and cemetery of Bonaval in Santiago. (ANSAmed).

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