Day 114. Dresden, Germany.

 

Thomas and I at Bastei.

Dresden, Germany. A city famed for being bombed on February 13, 1945.  I stayed with my friend, Thomas, on old Camino friend. We went hiking to Bastei and reminisced about the Camino. The weekend I came to Dresden there happened to be the biggest party of the year. I met some local Germans, had a picnic, and drank some beer. Dresden has the advantages of a small town and of a big city.

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Frauenkirche Church in Dresden.

I originally heard of Dresden in Howard Zinn’s You can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train documentary.  During the final weeks of the war, Dresden was bombed to great extent. The amount of casualties is still up to debate because of the amount of refugees from Czechoslovakia. Most of the old buildings were destroyed and the old town was leveled. Since the end of World War 2 and the fall of the iron curtain, the restoration has reinvigorated the old town and the city itself.

Thomas, Louis, (unknown friend), and I.

I walk with Thomas and Maria during my Camino hike last October. I visited Yun-Jin (Maria) last month in Seoul. I made a point to visit Thomas in Dresden.  It was great to go to a new city and already have friends. It’s one of those things I really appreciate traveling through Europe alone.  I slept on Thomas’s pull away Ikea couch. We saw another Camino friend, Louis, who studies in Dresden. It was during the biggest party of the year in Dresden.  It was a great experience. On Sunday, we went on a hike to Bastei. It was good to get out of the city and see nature. Thomas had to work during the week but we hung out when he came home.  We met up with Louis again my last night.

Frauenkirche building out of legos in the Karstadt.

We had a picnic BBQ next to the Elbe.  In central Europe it is very common to see people in the park having a picnic and drinking outside. Thomas has this small convenient grill that we used to cook some chicken, pork and steak. It was a perfect day for a picnic when the weather is perfect. I met Rebecca, Thomas’s room mate, and Thalia, Rebecca’s sister. I heard Rebecca’s au pair experience in Arizona. It’s interesting to hear other people’s travel experience of my own country.  Picnics are one of my favorite things to do. I have to do more when I get back to the States.

Rebecca,(Thomas’s roommate, Thalia?(Rebecca’s sister), and myself at BBQ

I spent five days in Dresden, but I felt that wasn’t enough time.  I saw some friends and met new people. I tried to train Jiu- Jitsu but google maps led me on wild goose chase. I was able to get some exercise by hiking and biking to the ghost gym. The weather was really excellent to enjoy with friends.  I don’t know when I’ll return to Dresden but I had good memories here.

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Thomas and Louis on the Elbe.

 

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Camino de Santiago IV

My last post about the Camino. I’m currently in Lima, Peru. I had to finish this subject before I continue my travels.

As I write this I’m in Lima, Peru. Traveling around from place to place is different from walking the Camino.  I don’t have to pick up and leave every morning which is a good feeling, but there’s a sense of urgency when you have a goal while you’re traveling. A sense of mission is common with all the other pilgrims. To continue walking whether your goal is Santiago or not.  In a normal hostel, it is a motley crew of backpackers, travelers, and tourists with different motives. Lima is no exception. It makes me miss the Camino and Spain. It will be something I will wrestle with but I digress.

I walked with Thomas and Maria for more than half of the way.  Thomas is from North Germany, near Bremen.  He is studying wood engineering.  He is a good person to walk with.  I appreciated his honesty and company when we conversed.  He has very good travel stories and dreams to travel more.  I will see him again in Dresden.

 

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They were a  few days where it rained constantly. We just went with the flow. Eventually we got past the rain and the weather was beautiful.  Seeing the coast is an amazing feeling when you have been walking inland for many kilometers.  Through rain, mud and drinking Sidra. It was some of the best parts of the Camino.
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last 100 KM

These two German ladies had stopped us and gave us all beers to celebrate the last 100 kilometers of Camino Norte.  It was a good feeling to celebrate with beers at 830am.  The last few days were just too fast to remember. Before I knew it we were one day until Santiago. It’s an amazing feeling to get to the end.

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Mark(Me), Parti, Thomas, Soren, and Maria in front of the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.

By the last 4 days or so, I walked with a core group of people. Parti, who was from Switzerland, Thomas, from Germany, Soren, from Denmark, and Maria, from South Korea. We had dinner in Santiago then Maria took a bus to Finisterre.  Parti took a bus a few days later with his girl friend to Muxia. Thomas took a bus to Bilbao for a flight back to Bremen. Soren, Thomas and I had a few going away beers his last night.

Soren and I walked to Finisterre in two days from Santiago.  It was a beautiful walk with spectacular views.  It was exhausting though. Why did I walk it in two days? Off a bet and because I wanted to push myself.  It was a hell of a last day. Soren walked with me the entire way even though he won the bet.  He said he would stop at the town before Finestera. I’ll always remember that. The fact he kept going even though he didn’t have to. That’s a friend. We parted ways the next day. The next morning I walked to the end of the world and had some long thoughts.

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It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting – The Alchemist

Originally when I finished my obligation with the Navy I was going to move to Spain.  After finishing the Camino, I changed my mind.  I want to travel to more countries before I want to settle on one place again.  I really haven’t seen the world on the terms I wish to see it. So I decided afterwards I will take a year and travel the world. I will see all the countries of most of the people I’ve met on the Camino.  So far its going well. In fact most of the contacts around the world are either through the Camino or Jiu Jitsu.

El Fin. A part of me wants to walk it again.  For the friendship and camaraderie in walking.  Maybe a piece of the Basque country, that was my favorite.

Camino de Santiago III

 

Fast forward to a year later.

It is September 4th, 2016 and I’m in Bilbao.

I returned to Europe on a military place because I was active duty at the time, cheap flight. I traveled from Palm Springs, Ca – Baltimore Washington International- Rammstein Air Force Base- Frankfurt, Germany- Madrid, Spain-Bilbao, Spain.  It amazing to experience  travel in such a quick time frame.  I had to make a quick connection when I had a connecting flight in Madrid.  My bag was lost.  I stayed in Bilbao for a few days waiting for my bag.

I saw it as a omen to see and experience Bilbao for the three more days. The airline eventually found my pack and brought it to me on the first day.  I had two more nights at the hostel. It was the same hostel, Bilbao Central Hostel, that I walked two Austrian girls at the end of a night the year before.  I spent all night charming one of them and the Danish dude does a quarterback sneak and he makes out with her at the end of the night. (Sigh)

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Bilbao to Santander. Regma Ice Cream.

 

 

 

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La Isla 

The freshness is gone when you continue the Camino.  It did for me when I continued that day in Santander.  I knew what to expect already. Follow the arrows.  If I’m lost. I know enough Spanish to ask for directions.¿ Por aquí o por allí? ¿ Dónde está el camino? ¿Puede ayudarme, por favor? Estoy perdido. Soy Peregrino.  The locals were so helpful even if you didn’t speak Castellano/Spanish. Walk into town and find an Albergue shower, eat, mend you injuries, meet people, wash your clothes, sleep, wake up, walk, repeat. The magic of being a novice to walking the camino is gone vs those who walk it and finish it in one go.

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Looking back after sunrise. I met Sebastian, Kristiana, and Søren soon after this photo. 

At first I was just walking.  I didn’t talk to anybody the first two days because I was racing some Hungarian dude.  It was exhausting because I never stopped to enjoy the scenery.  As soon as I let it go and just let my journey run its course I started to have fun.  I met two Germans, Sebastian and Kristiana with a Dane, Søren. That group made me laugh and reminded me what the camino was about.  I forgot about walking when I started conversing and laughing with them.  We parted ways several hours later.

Pendules.  I came upon an Javier’s Albergue, which was recommended by my guide book. That Albergue was one of the best.  All of the pilgrims broke bread and shared a vegetarian meal that Javier made.  We sat along a long wooden table and shared songs of our native countries in the respective languages. German, Polish, South Korean, Spanish except American. I really can’t sing. It’s really embarrassing how bad I am. Javier was asked” Why do you do this? (hosting pilgrims in his home and treats them like family) Amongst the laughing, singing and drinking vino tinto with people from all over the world. Javier answered” porque los moments como este.” I smiled because its a feeling that can’t be described without experiencing it.

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Maria and I looking super cool in our ponchos. 

The next day  I met Maria.  Here’s where I think everything happens for a reason. Our paths intertwined many times on the Camino.   I enjoyed her company more than anybody on the camino.   I enjoyed our conversations and her company.  I spent the most time with than anyone else.  We met up in Madrid after we completed it. It felt reminiscent of Before Sunrise.  I said I would visit her in South Korea when I get out of the Navy.

Next is Camino De Santiago IV.