Famous European Trails
The Camino de Santiago
The Camino de Santiago is a well established and famous network of pilgrimage routes from many parts of Europe converging at the shrine of the apostle Saint James in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in north western Spain.
Life and Limb: A True Story of Tragedy and Survival by Jamie Andrew
This book won the prestigious Banff Mountain Book Festival Prize for Mountain Literature in 2004. It is a remarkable description of the physical and mental process of surviving and overcoming life changing injuries, along with the death of a friend and climbing partner. The events occur while their group are staying in Chamonix in winter and two of them decide to go climbing in the Alps. The author describes their efforts to survive near the summit of a mountain during a prolonged winter storm which hampers several attempts to rescue them. He describes in meticulous detail, the enormous journey from his rescue through the painstaking recovery process from his injuries. We experience how every small improvement becomes a major obstacle in the process of reclaiming his ability to live independently, one task at a time. A very moving account.
The Best Way: El Camino de Santiago by Bill Skywalker
Bill Skywalker has previously written good books about hiking the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, in which we follow his development from novice to accomplished hiker. In this account of El Camino he appears to have lost some of his passion for the process of hiking. The book gives a detailed account of the densely packed communal albergues where pilgrims sleep, in which the author battles with beds which are too short, bedbugs and loud snoring. In truth this book doesn’t paint a very positive picture of his overall experience of this trail, apart from his socialising along the way. It is padded with interesting historical information but this meant that it was difficult to keep track of the narrative of the hike with less description of the landscapes of El Camino than I would have liked.
“Force Majeure” directed by Ruben Ostlund (2014).
This a complex and character driven Swedish film which dissects issues of gender and relationships amongst characters trapped by the weather in an upmarket ski resort in the French Alps. It features Johannes Bah Kuhnke as Tomas and Lisa Loven Kongsli as Ebba as the couple whose symptomatic marital problems emerge during the story. Thorny issues tackled by the script include fidelity versus open relationships, male machismo versus male vulnerability, the ritualisation of guilt and the role of modern technology as arbiter in domestic disputes.
Personally, I lost patience when the film tried to form a neat conclusion about the unstable compromise which results from our inability to satisfactorily resolve these issues, but then it is a film which is designed to provoke debate.
Overall the film is an invigorating ensemble piece in which we observe the outdoor world being a little introspective about modern relationships and gender expectations in outdoor sports. Although the alpine settings are magnificent, the film is ultimately thought provoking and philosophical rather than action adventure or ski porn – which may or may not appeal to you.
“The Way” directed by Emilio Estevez (2010)
This film is a reflective piece set on the Camino de Santiago which focuses on a father, played by Martin Sheen, who, on discovering that his son has been killed in a Pyrenean storm while hiking this trail, decides to complete the pilgrimage in his honour. The film explores the ways in which the central character Tom is gradually changed by his experiences along this trail, as he meets a mixture of local people, religious pilgrims, hikers, divorcees and eccentrics from around the world, united by their urge to seek temporary refuge from their lives.
Moments of comedy and reflection occur amongst the characters which gradually enable Tom to face his loss and lay his son to rest. The fact that the director Emilio Estevez and the main actor Martin Sheen are father and son possibly gave emotional weight to the final result. The pace is thoughtful, the surroundings authentic and the characters are drawn from a cross spectrum of people reminiscent of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.
All the above were purchased for the normal price.