środa, 6 września 2017

#18 Go to Scotland (It's cheating!)

Picture: Tatiana Gerus CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Okay, it's cheating, because I wanted to go to Scotland first, then I actually planned the whole trip and then in the end I wrote about it here. But hey, I really wanted to do it, I just thought it's just not big enough to list it here. 

I was always into everything that's Iro Scottish. I have no idea where it came from, I think Terry Deary and his Cut-Throat Celts plus a brief and somewhat weird early-teenage crush on Braveheart may be to blame. I am fearless when it comes to public speaking and  general public appearances and I owe it to Iro Scottish folklore.

When I was a clumsy teenager, I asked my mom to pay for my Irish dance classes. It was crazy, I was training twice a week, stretching, jumping, I don't remember any other thing into which I put so much physical effort. Okay, now that I think about it, last year I raced against my sister to get the last chocolate Easter egg from the basket, and the only thing I got was a bruise (she got the egg), but let's make the Irish dance the second most physically exhausting thing I've ever done. I even participated in a Fèis, Irish dance competition. I practiced like a psycho, only to go to the stage and forget the choreography after first 5 steps. I had to stop and wait on the stage until the end of the song (as two other girls were dancing alongside) and try not to cry in front of a thousand people. 

After such a traumatic event, I realized that nothing worse will ever happen to me on stage, so I can as well go there and do whatever. 

I've been always wanting to go there and say thanks, but there was never a good occassion for that. It's a shame, especially if you take into account how cheap the flights are. But now, I'm going and it's going to be horrible. 

My boyfriend and his friend had a great idea of a ten days hike that starts on a Cape Wrath Trail, and I bet that this name is not a coincidence. It includes staying in a tent with no access to running water, hot wated, mobile network, electricity or anything remotly resembling civilisation. TEN DAYS. I checked the Walking Higlands website and they describe their trails with distance, ascend, time and bog factor. I kid you not, bog factor is a real thing. On the top of it, this is how Google Weather stabs my back:

poniedziałek, 2 stycznia 2017

This is a post about boobs

...you filthy perv. But even more, it's a post about women attached to every pair. 

I happen to be in Azerbaijan. I ended up here, because I'm not very assertive when people ask me if I want to spend New Years Eve in Baku. (I might have the tickets bought before my friend finished the question). Azerbaijan is a bit like Turkey, they share many traditions, one of which is hamam, Turkish bath.

I was lucky. It's not that easy to find a hamam for women in Baku, but today is Monday, and Mondays and Fridays are the days when one of the oldest hamams in İçərişəhər - the old town - is open for women, whereas the rest of the weeks is for men only. The hamam consisted of two parts. When I opened the door, right from the street, I saw a large entrance hall. I opened the door and I closed it immediately, because the first thing I saw was lots of semi-naked ladies, all ages and shapes, sitting at the tables, drinking tea, changing, drying hair, smoking cigarettes. I expected at least some hallway, reception desk, whatever, but it turned out that the hamam begins just behind its doorsteps. I paid, I got my and a glass of tea and a pink sheet, I stripped naked and I followed a young, doe-eyed manager to the main bath hall.

The place was ancient, over 300 years old, made of a limestone, darkened with humidity and age. Behind another door there was a higly vaulted hall, full of steam and more naked ladies. In the middle there was a small fountain, surrounded by three stone massage beds. It was beautiful, but not glamourous at all, not really a Carrie Bradshaw kind of place (more like a Bəsti from Bacanaqlar kind of place) It also had two saunas - dry and wet one and showers. The idea is simple - first you take a shower, then you have a body scrub and a massage and then you can do whatever you want.

My masseuse was a hearty woman, more or less my mom's age. She was sweaty, big, naked (well, wrapped with nothing but a thin wet sheet), with hands like loafs of bread. Forget neat, immaculately white uniforms of discrete spa staff. Forget spas. Forget your argan oils, your hot stones and plinky-plonky music seeping trough. This is a real spa. The masseuse unceremoniausly laid me on one of the beds, and scrubbed every inch of my body, and by every inch I also mean parts that made we think "ouch, really, THERE?".

I was laying on that bed, I was being touched in CERTAIN places. At times, when my masseuse had to bend over me, I had her boobs (wrapped only with a wet sheet) right in my face and, as I already mentioned, the place was full of naked people. Where I come from, one can see naked people only when one is taking a quick shower at the swimming pool, being slightly embarassed, trying not to check other people out. Here everybody was checking people out because no one was really hiding their body. Not a big deal. None of 40+ women there was 100% hot. I saw fat teenagers, thin ladies in their forties, big women, petite girls, I saw brazilian waxing and full 70' bush. I saw moles and c-sections scars. I saw post-pregnancy bellies and muffin tops and hairy legs. I saw big boobs, small boobs, saggy boobs, perky boobs. Boobs like pears and boobs like apples and boobs like a dachshund's ears. And none of the ladies I met there gave a flying fuck about what other people will think about their muffin tops and cellulite. They weren't wrapping themselves tightly in their sheets, they weren't hiding in the corner. They were enjoying each other's company, and taking loving care of what they had, no matter if it was fat or skinny or wrinkled or smooth. 

If I were in charge of schools in my country, or any other country that doesn't have a tradition of a hamam, onsen, sauna or any other kind of a public bath, I would introduce it as an obligatory school subject for girls. An hour of public bath every week. Looking at real, non-sexualized women's bodies, which come in every shape and size, and which eventually get old and wrinked, will do for anxious teenagers more good than any of these affirmative body image projects. You know, the ones aiming to build self-confidence amongst young women in the world where 90% of (semi)naked bodies we see, are photoshopped. It makes no sense to tell girls that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, when most of what they see on billboards is size zero.

Of course there would be no picture from inside, but that's what you see when you leave the place - a majestic sunset over Baku's famous Flame Towers. A cherry on the (muffin) top of the day.

wtorek, 26 kwietnia 2016

#4: Done!

Dang! Done! Cherry blossom in Bonn.

Dear God, what did I have to go trough, in order to see these trees. First, I had to get to Berlin on an overnight coach route. The combination of factors, such as unnumbered seats, including only four VIP ones on the front of the bus, with extra leg space, and the prospect of 9 hours on the bus, made me fast, agile like a lynx and ruthless towards old ladies.

On the German bus, for a change, everything was in Ordnung, seats had numbers and I got the VIP one, next to the driver. It turned out, however, that together with the extra leg space, one gets also 7 hours of free forced conversations in German, the language of love, with the captain of that vessel, who in the same time, was very outspoken about the skills of other drivers. 

When I knocked the door of Kirsten's, my CouchSurfing host, apartment, I was able to tell every German driver what I think about their driving in their mothertongue. Kirsten soothed my linguistic-automotive trauma with a pile of asparagus with sauce hollandaise, which I don't think was a coincidence. Kirsten pays her bills with rummaging into people's brains, I'm pretty sure she must have read some neuroscientific article about the positive influence of asparagus on treatment of traumas. 

I fully recovered after I saw Bonn's Old Tow, so pink, so cute, so kawaii, full of the candy floss of cherry blossom, that I was a bit dissapointed that no one started singing and dancing to the choreography that everybody knows. Maybe it's because we were there with half of Singapore and Singapore doesn't seem like a very dancey place. 

Still. It was totally worth it. So pink, that the six-years-old in me was getting crazily happy. 

sobota, 23 kwietnia 2016

Polak robi dobro


Właśnie wróciłam z 5CrowdUpu, imprezy zorganizowanej z okazji piątych urodzin polakpotrafi.pl i nie mogę, no. Pęknę, jak się nie podzielę. Do zeszłego tygodnia miałam mgliste pojęcie o tym, na czym polega crowdfunding, a teraz jaram się. Jaram się jak pochodnia tym, jakie ludzie mają super ekstra pomysły i jak one na serio się dzieją, tu, w tym kraju, gdzie niedasię, paździerz i ujemny kapitał społeczny. 

Jadłam nieziemski katering, serwowany przez niepełnosprawnych profesjonalistów z Dobrej Spółdzielni Socjalnej i nie piszę, że było pyszne, bo trzeba chwalić niepełnosprawnych, tylko dlatego, że wrapy z sosem bazyliowym wryły się w pamięć moich kubków smakowych. Gadałam z chłopakami, którzy w swoim garażu robią rzemieślnicze stuprocentowo polskie motorowery Kosynier (co za nazwa!) a w wolnych chwilach zdobywają za swoje cacka zagraniczne nagrody. Biłam brawo jak dziewczyny z projektu Budujemy Szkołę w Nepalu odbierały nagrodę w kategorii "dobra zmiana" (akhem). Przybijałam piątkę z Aleksandrem Dobą, który w wieku 69 lat nie jest w stanie odebrać nagrody bez skakania po scenie.

Siedzę na kanapie i ciągle przeżywam. Byłam na 5CrowdUpie, bo miałam zaszczyt reprezentować tam projekt Tatende, prowadzony przez Tomka Michniewicza, z którym współpracuję przy różnych rzeczach od ponad siedmiu lat. Sześć lat temu, podczas zbierania materiału do tekstu o kłusownikach, Tomek trafił do rezerwatu Imire w Zimabwe. Rezerwat Imire, prowadzony przez rodzinę Traversów to tak naprawdę duża farma, utrzymująca się z uprawy kukurydzy, wiecznie pod kreską, bo wszystkie przychody przeznaczane są na ochronę zwierząt, szczególnie czarnego afrykańskiego nosorożca. Brzmi sielsko, co? Afryka, farma, nosorożce. Błąd. To jest codzienna, żmudna i śmiertelnie niebezpieczna walka niedoposażonej garstki ludzi przeciwko regularnym oddziałom kłusowników. Róg nosorożca, po który przychodzą, osiąga na czarnym chińskim rynku cenę 70 000 zł za kilogram, więcej niż koks. Kłusownicy mają AK47, Imire - strażników w dziurawych kaloszach. Projekt Tatende stawia sobie za cel, by ta walka była przynajmniej trochę bardziej wyrównana, a CrowdUp docenił to, nominując go do nagrody w kategorii "dobra zmiana".

Nie mogę, no. Siedzę na kanapie i staram się emocjonalnie ogarnąć tę ilość dobra, którą generują ludzie z pasją i finansowym wsparciem całej reszty z nas, która nie jest w stanie wykrzesać z siebie aż takiej energii do działania. I myślę sobie, że to wszystko jest bardzo, bardzo dobre. I że jak mi kiedyś będzie źle i zdarzy mi się zwątpić dokąd zmierza ludzkość, to poczytam sobie polakpotrafi.pl.

sobota, 27 lutego 2016

For Google, world is full of surprises

So, I've read today that Google spent a lot of time and money on researching what is the formula for building a highly productive team. You know, hundreds of thousands of polls and questionnaires, tens of researchers, psychologists, data analyst. A big deal. The outcome was surprising.
Are you ready for this?
Are you sure?
[I'm taking a big breath right now]

You need to be nice to each other.

Whoa, you haven't seen that coming, have you? I'm writing it, because recently I've spent a lot of time on learning about Agile Manifesto and particularly on scrum, which is one of the agile methodologies. For your information, these are a group of methods of creating software, which are supposed to be more effective than traditional ways. Scrum describes precisely the rules that you should adapt to make your people work better: what are the roles, how the whole process looks like and so on. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of very hard knowledge, but a big part of it is how to deal with people. Like: You should communicate more. Or: You should be very precise in expressing your expectations. Or: Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

I was reading that (and the article above) and I was stunned. You, people, really need the whole methodology and tons of research to come to this conclusion? You need to find a name for it, publish hundreds of books, blogs, webinars, conferences about it, create a certification processes for this and toot your own horn about making such a great discovery? Isn't that something absolutely basic for anyone who has ever worked with fellow human beings on some project? Hey, Google, I have some other stuff for you, and I offer it for free:

Always assume good intentions in others
Plan everything with a time margin
Don't be super serious
Try to find the reasons to like your coworkers
Always confirm the information you got
Give feedback
Ask if you don't know something, there is no such thing as a stupid question
Respect people around
Don't leave things for the last moment

No problem, you will thank me later. You can call it any way you like (but Ten Awesome Years Manifesto would be nice). It took me exactly 3 minutes and 47 seconds to write, seems I'm an extremely effective one-woman research team. Perhaps it's because I'm nice to myself.

This is me, upgrading my productivity at work, just after I got a fancy hat and
martini glass from my coworkers. I suggest that Google has a word with them,
They may be intuitive geniuses.

piątek, 12 lutego 2016

Tug of envy

You know these people, who flash others with the photos from their adventurous life? Nobody knows where they get their money from, they just travel, get tan, do fun stuff and they seem to be happy as a clam. When you are dying behind your desk at work, they switch their profile picture into something like this:

And you want to give them a high five. With a chair. Against their face.

Two weeks ago I celebrated my 28th birthday. I got lovely wishes, and a mug with the Moomins and so much love that I felt like I'm bombed with kittens and rainbow. What I noticed, is that many people would tell me how cool I am to make my dreams come true. That they admire how I just make things happen. That when I want something, I just reach for it and get it, and I travel and I get tan and I do fun stuff. I would blush, and mumble "Thanks", and feel great, you know, like I'm some sort of a superhero. 

But I want you to know, that everything comes with a price tag. 

I got back home in December, and I felt that I miss Warsaw summer. That Warsaw is a fantastic place to live and that it feels like a good moment to stay in one place for longer. I started seriously looking for a job a month ago. I've sent over 150 applications to TV productions companies and got invited to ONE interview. Last week I found the job offer that suits me perfectly. They are looking for someone who would be responsible for organizing the process of software development AND they are willing to teach you all the technicalities. Yay. You just need to be a good communicator and organizer and have strong language skills. I got excited and I applied, because I'm an organizing ninja. I organized so many things so far, from a Thai legal conference, to production of a TV documentary, that phew, software development, it's not like it's rocket science. I can juggle many processes simultaneously, I am great communicator and, since I set "learning how to code" as my goal #15 back in 2013, I really wanted to see if I would like working in IT.

When they invited me for an interview, I almost fainted. I really thought we are a perfect match. I've read everything I could about this role, I harassed friends of my friends with questions, I even got a brand new interview outfit for this occassion. I got there and it turned out that "we will teach you", was just a figure of speech, my technical background is actually non-existent and they are not very positive about the idea of me acquiring the missing skills quickly. 

What can I say. I'm dissapointed and I feel miserable. Since I got back, I live with my mom to cut costs, but I'm dreaming about moving out, even though I love her to pieces. Being jobless slowly eats my soul and savings. Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy with my life, but this moment of misery is the price you pay for adventurous lifestyle. I'm sure that eventually I will land a job that suits me, but I know that the way to this point may be bumpy. Next time you see that smiley, tan solo traveller, and you feel that little tug of envy, think about what she doesn't want to tell you. 

środa, 13 stycznia 2016

Everything you wanted to know about doing Camino, but you are too lazy to do a proper research.

To follow a good practice of DIY-themed posts, here is my two-penneth about how to make Camino happen. The biggest mistake is that people tend to overthink too much. Look, pilgrims were doing Camino for ages, sometimes without goretex jackets, membrane boots and Internet (!). Below you can find all my research and experience, boiled down to one (long) blog post. You will thank me later.

The rules

The general aim is to walk to Santiago de Compostela along one of the routes. Upon arrival, the Cathedral authorities issue a Compostela, a document in latin, stating that you have reached Compostela (or, if you are willing to pay 3 EUR and want to brag, they will issue another Compostela, more detailed one, mentioning the distance you walked.). How do they know you walked all the distance? When you arrive to the albergue or hostal, every time you check in, you get a stamp with a date from hospitalero (inn-owner). The stamps are collected in a special carnet, called Credencial de Peregrino, which can be bought in every major albergue for more or less 1 EUR. In the end of your pilgrimage, you show the credencial in the pilgrim office in Santiago. The credencial is also a proof for hospitaleros, that you are a pilgrim, not a tourist travelling by car. You can get your Compostela if you walked at least 100 kilometers to Santiago (it means starting in Sarria). If you are on a horseback or on the bicycle, it's 200 kilometers. You don't have to be christian to walk, I know that some muslims do the Camino. To be honest, most of the people I've met, were neither religious, nor spiritual. Nobody will examine your reasons, unless of course you want to talk about them. 

Before you go.

First of all, you need to choose the time and route. There are many routes, some are beginning as far as Norway or Russia. If you haven't done your first Camino yet, I recommend the most popular one - Camino Frances, the French route, running from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago de Compostela. It's about 800 kilometers long, it took me 37 days (incl. 1 rest day) to walk and I'm not the fastest (nor the slowest) peregrina. Why Frances? Well, the density of albergues and pilgrim facilities is pretty high. It's also well-marked, I had no problems finding the yellow arrows. As for the time - I took it in October/November and I was happy with my choice. In the summer the Way is more crowded and sometimes all beds in albergue may be taken. July and August are also the hottest months, if you have heart or circulation problems or are simply a 60+ pilgrim, I wouldn't recommend that. On the way you can see sometimes a small shrines or memorials of people who passed away on their Camino. More often than not, they all happen to be around 60 or more and there are mostly summer dates. In November some of the albergues close, and some hospitaleros live in a denial regarding the existence of winter in Spain (and therefore the need of the heating). September is, from what I've heard, one of the best months to walk. 

How to find the way.

Every Spanish province has different facilities, but the general rule is that you follow the yellow arrows, it's not difficult. You won't need a compass. In most of the provinces, every now and then you pass an info board with a map, an elevation chart and distances between the villages. If you start walking from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, you will get a big, 6 pages chart, mentioning all the albergues on the way, the price, number of beds, facilities and mileage. I would say that having this chart is essential, it made life much easier for me.

First 48 hours

The nearest airport to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is Biarritz (BIQ), with seasonal flights from Spain, France, UK, Switzerland and Scandinavia, and regular (all year round) flights from Paris, Nice, Lyon, London and Madrid. You need to take a train to get to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port. It is important to plan carefully - the last train leaves early and the train station is in Bayonne, another city, reachable with public transportation. In SJPP you need to register in the pilgrims' office, the volunteers there will give you the aforementioned chart, map of the town, credential, and the instruction for getting to Roncesvalles. They are also responsible for sending pilgrims to albergues, so that they don't have to look for the accomodation in the night. On the next day, you have two options: you can go to Orisson, and this is super light one, 8 kilometers away from SJPP. The other one is sleeping in Roncesvalles. In order to get to Roncesvalles, you need to get up early, cross the Pyrenees, and walk about 30 kilometers. Don't worry, it only sounds scary, in fact it's one of the most beautiful parts of the route and sleeping in a medieval abbey is an adventure itself.

The end of the first day, historical Roncesvalles Abbey. So, my dear Adso...

The rest of the Camino

The first day will teach you everything you need to know. Just follow the yellow arrows. First you will be walking trough the Basque Country, all the way to Pamplona. It's truly beautiful and green, full of small rivers and forest trails (just after leaving Roncesvalles you will be walking trough the witches' forest). Then you enter La Rioja, slightly hilly, covered with fields and vineyards (less shadow!). Castillia y Leon is the flattest part, this is the moment when you walk along some highways. The views are not that beautiful, but at least you don't climb. It goes slightly steeper after Astorga and it gets beautiful again. Galicia is absolutely stunning, green with oak forests, hills and the Celtic vibe all around the place. 


Albergues are ran by hospitaleros (inn-owners). The general rule is that they offer a bed in a big room, where there can be ever 100 other people sleeping (but it's usually more like 8 or so). Some albergues offer single rooms, but they are of course more expensive. Vast majority of albergues has also decent Internet, heating and hot water - not all of them though, so in the "links" section below you can find a thread in one of the forums about water/heating in albergues. The priority in getting a bed is given to the disabled and old people, then every other pilgrim on foot, then people on the horseback and bicycle. The last in the queue are people in cars and on motorbikes. Albergues provide disposable sheet and pillow cover, sometimes also a blanket. It means that you need to have your own sleeping bag. Most of them have kitchen and washing machines. Since you are going to share rooms with other people, don't be a dick and respect their night sleep. don't use rattly plastic bags in the morning, and super strong flashlights in the night, prepare your things the evening before, so that you can spare your co-sleepers the symphony of packing and unpacking.

Albergue in Granon, the Holy Grail of all pilgrims

The packlist

This is a neverending story, and everybody has different ideas. The rule of thumb is that the backpack should weight around 10% of your body weight. In total, with water and food you may carry, it should be not more than 15% of your body weight. You DON'T need the fancy hiking gear. After learning on mistakes, I may recommend taking:
  • A 40 liters backpack. It's the second single important piece of gear, so choose careffuly. 40 liters gives you enough space for taking everything you need, but not too much either. 
  • Good walking boots. This is THE most important piece of gear. I was walking with a guy who thought that military boots are a good idea. Well, they are not, and that guy had the biggest, the most painful blisters I have ever seen. In my case the cheap-ish Quechua boots were enough. Make sure they are water proof and that they hold your ankle.
  • Raincoat. It WILL rain at one point.
  • Pants x 2. I took 2 x long sport leggins, but in the summer you may consider taking shorts.
  • Longsleeve x 2 (again, in the summer you won't need more than one)
  • Shortsleeve x 1
  • Tanktop x 1
  • Socks x 5 (because washing them every day is no fun)
  • Briefs x 5
  • Bras x 2
  • Hoodie x 1
  • Medicines: band-aids, painkillers, something with pseudoefedrinum and ibuprofenum, that will put you back on your feet when you get cold.
  • Elastic bandage - helps with minor knee and ankle injuries.
  • Sewing kit (= black thread, needle, and safety pins)
  • Scarf (and hat if you walk in the autumn, in the summer a cotton scarf will protect you from both, cold and sun, and protection from the sun is essential in the summer)
  • Pyjama (a flannel longsleeve for winter, a shortsleeve cotton for summer)
  • Sleeping bag (a very light one for summer, maybe even just a silky sheet, a semi-thick one for autumn. Some albergues have no heating and no blankets)
  • Small towel
  • Flipflops
  • Light shoes to use in albergues.
  • Flashlight
  • Sunglasses
  • Reflective vest - in Spain it's not allowed to walk on the roadside without a light and a vest, and there is a reason for it. You may have to walk after dark.
  • Electric splitter. In Spain, the most common sockets are CEE7/3. It's important, to check your plugs, because the completely round ones won't fit.
  • Camera - I was hesitating wether I should take my DSLR, I did and it was worth it. But sometimes a phone camera will do.
  • Smartphone. Let's face it, it's 2016, you will need it, and therefore you will also need an...
  • ...Energy bank.
  • Cosmetics: Toothbrush, toothpaste, sunscreen, antiperspirant and 2 in 1 shampoo and shower gel. 
  • Enamel mug. Not a must, but was pretty useful for me at times, especially in equipment deprived kitchens of Xunta Galicias albergues.
You don't need a shell or a credencial for stamps, these things you can get upon arrival.

Most of the stuff I took with me, it was more than enough.

The money

After a stormy discussion with my co-peregrinos, we decided that 24 EUR per day should be enough for a budget pilgrim. The cheapest accomodation is 5 EUR (however, it's not always available). 10 EUR is a full pilgrim dinner menu. Sometimes you will want to cook, so it will be much cheaper. In autumn months you will also want to wash and dry your clothes (they won't dry by themselves with this air humidity and you can't use the dryer if you don't use the washing machine, the dryer won't dry the hand-washed clothes). They are 3 EUR each, on average, but you will surely find someone to split the cost with, every 4 days or so. Some albergues are "donativo". It means that you pay as much as you can afford, it doesn't mean they are for free (And this is very important. You don't want to be a freeloader). One important remark: Adjust the length of Camino to your budget. It's no fun to be walking every day 25+ kilometers and counting every cent. 

Whom will you meet

Surely not just catholics. There are many people on Camino, most of them, according to my personal observations, not doing it for any spiritual reason. There is a fair share of caminantes doing it "because it seemed to be a good idea". I'm just saying that if you think that everybody on Camino is a love-spreading hippie, you may be dissapointed (however, I must say, that people care about others more than usual). I saw families with kids, couples, friends and there are many single people walking. I even saw an article about two pilgrims with a toddler. Most people who do it, are either students, or between the jobs, or freelancers, or pensioners. According to the stats from 2015, the biggest group of pilgrims is from Spain, (47%), in the top ten there are also Italians (9%), Germans (8%), Americans (5%), Portuguese (5%) Frenchies (4%), Brits (2%), Irish (2%), Canadians (2%), and Coreans (2%). English is ubiquitios, but knowing some basic phrases in Spanish, won't hurt. Don't worry about walking alone, there is always someone you can join in your albergue. When you meet people on the Camino, you greet them with "buen Camino!", or especially in France "ultreïa!" (For which you reply "et suseïa!").

You can meet hipsters, travelling with donkeys...

...or very cool Frenchies...

...or two lovely Scottish ladies...

...or a German, who won't piss off all the way to Santiago, yes, I'm talking about you, Max...
...or a Belgian monk walking 800 kilometers in sandals.

What not to miss?

There are some really cool places on Camino Frances. You won't miss them, at least most of them, but it's good to know what awaits you:

  • Irache, there is a wine fountain there. You can drink free wine from the tap in the wall. How cool is that!? (Don't be a dick and don't take it in bottles! It's not a take-away service!)
  • Cruz de Hierro, 3 kilometers after Foncebadon is a place where people leave stones that they took from their home, which symbolizes offering whatever issue they have started their Camino with.
  • Monte del Pedron, with its monument of pilgrims on the brow of the hill. According to the beliefs, if you, as a pilgrim, die after this point, all your sins will be forgiven, so it'a basically a highway to heaven.
  • Forest of witches, just after you leave Roncesvalles
  • La Casa de Los Dioses, where David Vidal from Barcelona, created an oasis for pilgrims in an old farm with no electricity or running water. You can find this place shortly after leaving Leon de Santibanez Valdeiglesias. You can have a rest, a drink, some delicious fairtrade food, and you pay as much (or as little) as you like.
  • The best albergues I've stayed in, are definetely Roncesvalles (for the "Name of the Rose" fans!), Casa Paderborn in Pamplona, Pequena Potala in Ruitan, Pajar in Ages, Municipal in Azofra and the cherry on the top - Grañon, a Holy Grail of Camino's albergues, not for standard, but for the atmosphere (and it's just beautiful).
Cruz de Hierro

Monte del Perdon


I used one pretty cool app. Maps.me allows you to use offline maps, shows footpaths, drinkable water sources, inns on the way, ATMs and everything you will need. I also recommend downloading pedometer, it' cool to know what's your speed and how your fitness improves. I found out everything I needed in https://www.caminodesantiago.me/. For the winter pilgrims I recommend THIS particular thread about heating in albergues.

Questions? Ask in the comments! Buen Camino!