Hape Kerkeling is a German Comedian who suddenly decided he’d like to walk the El Camino de Santiago, an over 800 mile pilgrimage that crosses the northern part of Spain. He is not athletic, or particularly religious, but is a Catholic and was curious about what effect such a journey might have on him physically and spiritually. Although the decision was made almost on a whim, the final results were profound and far reaching for him.
Kerkeling doesn’t take himself too seriously and laughs at how unprepared he really was for such a huge endeavor. He doesn’t end up walking the entire way, as some do. Several times he hopped on a train or bus if he felt he needed a break from walking. He also stayed in hotels whenever he could as he felt the hostels were too crowded for him to get any real rest. I thought Kerkeling was very open to new experiences as he traveled, though. He tried new foods and walked with others as their paths cross, although sometimes he chose to have a day of solitude. While walking, he kept a journal of the people he met and the places he stopped. He ended up traveling the final segments with two ladies who become lifelong friends of his. In his journal, he reflects daily on his experience, writing down what he feels was the lesson for the day. At the end, he decides the pilgrimage was worth every minute, even the bad ones.
Note: If you would like to see some of the scenery of the El Camino, the recent movie “The Way,” starring Martin Sheen tells the story of someone else making the same pilgrimage. This book is also sure to appeal to fans of Bill Bryson’s hilarious travel memoir A Walk in the Woods.
Editor’s note: we forgot to mention that this book was translated from German by Shelley Frisch.