Tesoros del Camino

My husband, the pilgrim, returned from a long walk of 863 kilometers across northern Spain. He walked westward from the Spanish-French border to the Atlantic Ocean. He followed the Camino De Santiago (the Way of St. James), a pilgrimage that has been walked by thousands before him since medieval times.

This was his trip, not mine, so I cannot write about its spiritual significance or the physical endurance required to make the trip. That is his story to tell, or not, in his own time. What I can relay are snippets of experiences and sights that he shared with me along the way.

The first day was the hardest. It was an uphill climb through ankle-deep mud in the pouring rain and winds that blew horizontally along the path. He told me that there were crosses and makeshift memorials covered in stones marking the places where pilgrims had started and ended their walks.

On his way from Roncesvalles to Burguete, he walked through the Sorginaritzaga Forest. Before entering, he came across a sign written in four languages. The caption read “Brujería” or “Witchcraft.”

The Sorginaritzaga forest, whose meaning is “oakwood of witches,” was where some of the most well-known witches’ covens of the XVI century were held, …

As he walked through the forest, he came across the White Cross placed there to protect the pilgrims from witches.

Sorginaritzaga Forest

Despite this ominous beginning, he found time to send me photos of the countryside and of sheep grazing in the fields. He spotted this flock of sheep near the Basque town of Zubiri.

Near Zubiri

He told me these were Manech sheep. They are black-faced free roaming sheep known for their milk and from which “ossau-iraty” cheese is made.

Manech Sheep

He even snapped photos of some of the yarn stores he happened to spot in the towns he came across. Mercería Nhilos is in Nájera; Lanas Lany in León.

Along the way, pilgrims stay in albergues. The albergues provide a bed and usually a meal, sometimes a community dinner or a light breakfast. Curfews are strict so as not to disturb the weary pilgrims. The bunk beds shown below are in a pilgrim’s shelter attached to a local church in Belorado. The albergue was run by German nuns. The bed was free although a contribution of 5€ to the nun’s fund was recommended.

Another albergue was at St. Mary’s Nunnery in the city of Carrión de los Condes. According to my husband, one nun will tend to your feet with an extensive first aid kit and all the patience in the world. That evening, they held a pilgrim’s mass with a blessing of the feet followed by a community dinner and some singing and entertainment for the weary travelers. The following day would consist of a brutal 20-mile walk in desert-like conditions.

Within 58 kilometers of Santiago de Compostela, my pilgrim made it up the side of a mountain in the province of Galicia where this stone marker is located.

El Camino Collage Summer 2014

This albergue was situated near Itero de la Vega in a medieval structure run by an Italian religious fraternity. The simple refuge had no electricity, only candles to light the way.

Albergue San Nicolás

In Burgos, he had a clear view of the magnificent cathedral.

Burgos Cathedral

Halfway between León and Santiago de Compostela, he stayed in the town of Vega de Valcarce, population 800. It was there he spotted this statue of an old woman knitting.

Statue @ Vega De Valcarce

From Ezcaray, arriving precisely on my birthday, he shipped this exquisite blanket woven with 73% mohair and 27% wool from Mantas Ezcaray.

Mantas Ezcaray

When he returned – a little sunburned, a bit achy – he came bearing gifts. For the boys, beautiful picture books about the Camino de Santiago and a myriad of stories, both funny and painful. For me, this book, Tejeduría Tradicional Galicia, or roughly translated, Traditional Weaving of Galicia. To complement this gift came a bookmarker knit by a local artisan made from a linen yarn spun from locally cultivated flax.

Tejedería Tradicional Galicia

We hope our boys make this journey some day. Perhaps my pilgrim and I will travel it together.

Roskilde in Pictures

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My very own Scandinavian yarn crawl

Before our trip to Copenhagen, I dreamt of yarn stores on every corner. I compiled a list of stores to visit determined to find yarn that was “Made in Denmark.” Here is a recap of my very own Scandinavian yarn crawl.

Ulstedet, Vendersgade 3: The website for this yarn store beckoned with knit and crochet shawl kits, yarn and notions. When we showed up at the address, it simply wasn’t there. Strike 1.

Strikkeboden, Krystalgade 16: We found this yarn store on a pretty corner very close to the Round Tower, a 17th century astronomical observatory. It’s quite tiny but full of yarn in cubbies on the wall, in baskets and in window displays. Unfortunately, I was greeted by a very surly woman who seemed disturbed that a customer would actually enter the store. She practically barked, “can I help you.” I scanned the store, turned around and left. Strike 2.

Sommerfuglen, Vandkunsten 3: Sommerfuglen is located close to city hall and is bursting with yarn from floor to ceiling. It was a busy morning with many customers coming and going. The sales ladies were busy but very helpful. One sales lady explained that most of the fibers are imported since Denmark does not itself have many fiber-producing animals but some yarns are either spun or dyed or both in Denmark. I picked up this nice wool/silk blend. I thought it fitting to take a photo of it in Denmark. Home run!

Design Club DK, Duo Silke/Merino, 65% Wool, 35% Silk

Bette Design, Klosterstræde 20: I read about this yarn store on several blogs and set out to find it. It was very close to the Church of the Holy Spirit off Strøget, a wide pedestrian shopping street. We found the location, it even had a pretty sign hanging over the entrance, but the store was empty. By the ladder and bare walls, it may have been unoccupied recently. Strike 3.

Our next yarn forage took us to Malmö, Sweden. We rode a train over the 10 mile Øresund bridge connecting Copenhagen to Sweden’s third largest city.

Garn David Hall, Jörgen Ankersgatan 12: We found this store tucked away on a side street near the center of Malmö. Alas, it was closed. All I could do was stare at the fluffy yarn through the window. Strike 1.

Princess Garn, Lundbergsgatan 4: We walked a long way in search of Princess Yarn but it was not to be. We found the address but there was no yarn and no store. Strike 2.

Irmas Hus, Kalendegatan 21: Third time’s the charm. Irmas Hus is not a yarn store. It seems that it used to be and also carried fine fabrics. They had a wall full of little boxes filled with buttons. They now specialize in clothes but in the middle of a sale table, sitting in a couple of bins, I spotted yarn. These giant hanks are hand-dyed by a woman who lives outside of Malmö. And to make it even sweeter, the sale was a two for one! I picked up these two hanks of hand-dyed merino wool. Another home run!

Handy-Dyed outside Malmo, Sweden

Hand-Dyed outside Malmo, Sweden

Here’s a street band in Malmö celebrating my yarn find.

Malmo Street Band

Do you know of any Scandinavian yarn stores we should have tried?

Getting Hygge With It

This year, we decided to do something different for Christmas. We wanted to experience cold weather and possibly snow in winter. While the so-called “Winter Texans” flocked south toward the border, we flew north and crossed an ocean to Denmark. We spent most of our time in Copenhagen, which consistently ranks among the top cities in the world for quality of life.

We stayed in a lovely home in the area of Ørestad. It was a short walk to the metro at Bella Center and from there about a 10-15 minute ride to the city center. There were bicycles everywhere, and babies bundled up in thick jumpsuits and wrapped in cozy strollers, renaissance castles, pickled herring, and plenty of varm chokolade. The weather ranged from 43° F during the day to 25° F at night. It was overcast and gloomy and rained half the time, with intermittent moments of sunshine. It was dark by 4 pm. We didn’t get snow. Ironically, it snowed in South Texas while we were in Denmark.

On New Year’s Eve, fireworks exploded throughout the city. They easily continued for over an hour and even lingered for days after. On the first, the streets were littered with cases of exploded fireworks. We have wonderful memories of our Christmas in Denmark.

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On a visit to the Design Museum Danmark, we had the pleasure of viewing a special exhibit commemorating the work of Danish architect Finn Juhl. The exhibit Furniture for the Senses, Finn Juhl 100 featured several chairs designed by Juhl and other Danish architects. Here are a few of my favorites.



And last but not least, here is a sampling of the delicious food we tried during our stay.

Sparkling Glass from Germany

While walking along the endless mazes of the Christmas Markets, we stopped at one booth and watched as a craftsman made beautiful hand blown glass ornaments. These sparkling ornaments now adorn our tree. If you want to see how they are made, this post has more information.

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