If you were a Spaniard, the symbol above would be as meaningful and familiar to you as this.
Many years ago (BK, before kids), Roger and I crossed northern Spain by car, staying in various paradores, historic sites converted to hotels with surprisingly affordable prices.
Along the way and every few hundred feet, we would see people walking west in the same direction we were driving. Sometimes singly, sometimes in small groups, but never seeking a ride. We realized we were at the peak season for the pilgrimage. All these people were headed toward a city in Galicia: Santiago de Campostela, or St James of the Field of the Star. From Wikipedia:
Legend holds that St. James’s [the Greater] remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain where they were buried on the site of what is now the city of Santiago de Compostela.
[The route] was considered one of three pilgrimages on which a plenary indulgence could be earned; the others are the Via Francigena to Rome and the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
So what’s up with the shell? One legend says that the ship carrying St James’ body was sunk in a storm and his body lost. After awhile, though, his body washed ashore undamaged and covered in scallops.
The scallop shell has become a metaphor for a pilgrim, with God’s hand guiding pilgrims to Santiago. Also, the multiple lines converging at one point can signify the various routes that bring seekers to Santiago.
Even today, tens of thousands or peregrinos set out each year to traverse this route that is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For a few euros, they can purchase a credencial (Pilgrim’s Passport) that entitles them to reduced rate or free stays at refugios (hostels).
The way, the hostels, the watering spots, the sites along the route to mark assistance for or welcoming of peregrinos — these are all indicated by this.
Travelers whom I know from blogland are welcome in my home.
We underwent IVF while living in Syria one spring many years ago. If I were to become pregnant, I was to spend Spring Break staying at our flat in northern Syria near the Turkish border.
I was not altogether pleased about this news from our fertility clinic. Our time in the Middle East was nearing its end, and I wanted to eke out all the gallivanting I could while living on that side of the globe.
So I set it up in my mind that if the transfer didn’t work, at least I could have a vacation.
Maybe I subconsciously sabotaged my chances. We ended up spending that week in Vienna, Prague and Budapest. Just the two of us. And I enjoyed myself to no end. In a fit of escapism, I took a full-stop break from IF hell.
I was reminded of my consolation prize during last week’s Show and Tell, when I saw a familiar-looking bridge at Baby Smiling. She, too, had a fertility-related memory at the Chain Bridge that connects Buda and Pest in Hungary. So I bring to you a photo I took that April, as a complement to hers.
(I am excited to report that she is sending me a lovely work of art, thanks to our shared bridge.)
Maybe Baby Smiling will bring her children to this bridge one day. Maybe I will, too.