It's not often that hiking is featured prominently on the silver screen. Or that a major film takes its name from a trail. But both happen this weekend, when The Way opens in theaters nationwide.
Martin Sheen in The Way
The Way traces the journey of an American doctor (Martin Sheen) who goes to France to retrieve the ashes of his son (played by Sheen’s real-life son, Emilio Estevez), who died in a storm while hiking the Camino de Santiago, a European long distance trail also known as The Way of Saint James. After collecting his son's remains, Sheen's character decides to walk "the way,” scattering his son's ashes as he hikes 500 miles from France to Spain.
The Camino de Santiago is a collection of trails that evolved from ancient Roman trade routes. They are the traditional routes of Christian pilgrims, who journeyed from their homes to the site of St. James’s supposed burial, a cathedral in the Spanish city Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrims take different routes, but one of the common choices begins near the Pyrenees in the French town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, heading generally west into Spain.
The Camino isn't like the Appalachian Trail or other American long-distance hiking trails. Rather than emphasizing a wilderness experiences, the Camino de Santiago is a cultural and spiritual journey. Since much of the route is through small towns and cities, and most pilgrims sleep inside, it's seldom necessary to carry a stove, tent, or other backcountry gear. Rather than energy bars, pilgrims can enjoy local sausage, wines, fresh baked bread, and country hams. Pilgrims can apply for a Credencial,or pilgrim's passport, which is traditionally stamped by small churches along the route. The Credencial provides free or discounted rates at small hostels called refugios in Spain, or gite in France.
Sheen and Estevez on location along the Camino de Santiago.
Rather than narrow single-track, the Camino de Santiago winds over a system of ancient Roman roads that crisscross most of Europe, though some sections over the Pyrenees are reputedly quite rugged. Upon completing a walk of at least 200 km, pilgrims are entitled to receive a formal church document called a compostela, commemorating their journey.
While most viewers of The Way will focus on Martin Sheen's acting, or the lovely scenery, hikers will be in wonder of a long-distance trail with running water, a bed every night, local sausage, and plentiful wine!
Learn more about the Camino de Santiago:
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