Barefoot Camino de Santiago – Pastor Stefan Fillauer



Written by Caitlin
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One of our wonderful clients, Pastor Stefan Fillauer, shared his experience of walking the Camino barefoot with us. He has walked the Camino with us five times, this time from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela.

Barefoot Camino de Santiago - Pastor Stefan Fillauer at santiago de compostela sign

Camino descalzo – Barefoot to Santiago

By Pastor Stefan Fillauer, Germany

There is magic in every beginning – I can say the same about my fifth Camino. I started in Frankfurt on Ascension Day with the ever-new anticipation, and then after a three-hour bus ride from Santiago, I reached the starting point in Sarria (Lugo).

How will it be this time, after a forced two-year break, and this time (again) alone? Overcoming all concerns and exceeding expectations was the Camino, the path of paths.

Daily departure between 6.30 a.m. and 7 a.m., not only because of the temperatures but also to enjoy the silence of the early morning. That means getting up at 5 a.m., washing, a breviary, packing and off we go.

The first stage has always been a time of introspection with myself and the Lord. Of course, I was then constantly spoken to – a pastor who, moreover, walked around without shoes, “Descalzo”, that was a one-off.

Countless conversations around the world – and just as many contacts that turn strangers into friends, Camino brothers. Why are you walking like this? Well – down-to-earth-ness, sensitivity to appearance, earthiness, in the footsteps of Jesus.

This provided the immense potential for conversation but also created an infinite amount of trust. Somehow this time the word of the incumbent pope, that the shepherds should know the “stable smell of the sheep”, got through. After about 2 ½ – 3 hours the first refreshment with orange juice, then on.

You are guided next to the crowd of pilgrims by stones that show the way and distance. At noon the 100 km stone to Santiago. In the afternoon, when the sun was now glowing, I reached Portomarin and encounters there again, mass in the room (unfortunately most churches are closed).

The next morning we started the second day in the fog, stationed at an old hospital, and by lunchtime, it was really hot. Exhausted, I arrived in Palas da Rei at 4 p.m. On Sunday morning at 6.30 a.m. I started the longest 30 km pilgrimage day, admittedly always with a little anxiety, because the path is rocky.

Well-known buildings and places, but especially well-known voices, were milestones. In the late morning, after the newly built bridge, Furelos, a chapel with the most beautiful cross on the Camino – unfortunately, closed again. Also in the town of Melide, all churches are closed, except for an ancient Church of St. Mary.

I spontaneously celebrate Holy Mass there, and afterwards, the church is packed! And with that – halfway through the Camino!

The path leads through eucalyptus forests to a little church with an ancient statue of James; then some wind picks up. In the late afternoon, a short break in the next town, talks with pilgrims who are staying the night here, and another 4 km, until 6 p.m. Dinner is deserved.

The next day it is almost as many kilometres. At lunchtime, I reach the destination; many groups want to invite me to eat, but after a coffee, I continue.

And this was new: The usually crowded route after a wonderful forest is deserted this time, I’m almost alone, a contrast to this piece to previous paths.

On the outskirts of town the obligatory photo at the border stone, then past the airport to the accommodation. After mass in my room and dinner there the last night on the road. Then Tuesday, Visitation of Mary in the universal church, there are not many people on the road in the morning. Wistfulness and pain of parting already set in.

First, there were the doubts, can you, should you, do you want to go on pilgrimage… with all the doubts, will you make it… and then shortly before the goal one does not want to arrive at all! The way of life on the Camino de Santiago.

Earlier than usual, 9 o’clock, the first view of the Cathedral from Monte de Gozo. And then – descent and arrival, with countless who have walked here before and will come after. Cheers at some reunions, you know each other. And punctually at 11 o’clock, I enter the square in front of the cathedral. And with me comes a downpour, Nevertheless, long silent prayer, TeDeum, Deo Gratias, and again not only the sky cries.

After moving into my room and getting dry, I get my Compostela, the pilgrim’s certificate, and go to the cathedral, through the Porta Sancta (because it is Holy Year) Warmest welcome in the sacristy for the pilgrimage in the evening. You are not unknown. And then: The thurible, the botafumeiro, will swing, and I’ll dig in! Heaven!

And the afternoon, the evening, the next day? Fiesta, confession, daily mass and prayer, every day for a long time at the apostle’s tomb, that’s where I put all the intercession notes that I carried with me all the way. And then above all: Encounters again and again, with people from all over the world. And then the Camino has reached its goal.

This is how I imagine heaven: The lasting reunion with everyone who was with me on the path of life. We all have to leave Santiago and go our separate ways. But – with the goal and the perspective that we will all meet again in heaven at the end of all our paths. That is my firm belief.

But – wasn’t that a sentence in the reading on Sunday: I see the sky open…! And for the “meantime,” my message remains this Camino: You guide all my steps!

Walk Your Own Camino

Whether you walk with or without shoes, the Camino has something for everyone. People of all faiths and religions are welcome on the Camino. You will meet plenty of Christians, Catholic and otherwise along the pilgrimage, but you will meet many more people too.

The walk the Saint James‘s tomb on the Way is a wonderful journey. As Pastor Stefen Fillauer says, “with all the doubts, will you make it”! Take the first step past your doubts today and start planning your pilgrimage to Santiago on the Way of Saint James.

Walk the Camino with Follow the Camino. Our Camino Planners are ready to support you every step of the Way – from planning and choosing your route, to supporting you 24/7 while you walk.

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Buen Camino!

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Originally published on 15th June 2022

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