Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Local woman shares story of pilgrimage

Anne Zucchiatti kicked off the Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre’s “Human Experience” series on Monday night with her presentation entitled “The Way I Walked,” which outlined her travels on the Camino de Santiago Compostela.
“It was excellent—really interesting,” enthused Andrea Avis, the library’s program director who initiated the new series.

She said not only was the content of the presentation captivating, but it also showcased what the Shaw Room has to offer, as well as the capabilities of the library’s new computer program trainer, Jeremy Hughes, who assisted Zucchiatti in preparing the presentation.
Using Google Earth, the audience clearly could visualize the path Zucchiatti walked as she travelled the Way of St. James—the ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
Included were photos taken by Zucchiatti during her 39-day trek.
The Fort Frances resident began her travels Sept. 10, walking an average of about 20 km each day to complete the 800-km pilgrimage.
She told those on hand Monday night that she and a friend had talked about doing a walk 16 or 17 years ago. Then when they heard about the Camino de Santiago, they both knew that was the journey they wanted to take.
In fact, at the time they had planned on doing the “North Route.” But then her friend hurt her back and the trip was scrubbed.
“I was thankful, though, because we learned it is better to start with the ‘French Way,’” noted Zucchiatti, adding it was the French route the pair decided to take when they finally decided to go on the pilgrimage this fall.
The “French Way” is the most popular of the routes running from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees to Roncesvalles on the Spanish side, and then another 780 km on to Santiago de Compostela via the major cities of Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos, and Léon.
“I got information on the Internet about how to prepare,” said Zucchiatti, though admitting that soon got overwhelming.
“Then I just went with my gut about what I really needed.”
While travelling on the Camino de Santiago, Zucchiatti said the pilgrims carry everything they need on their backs.
She purchased hiking boots, a backpack, and many other items, such as a silk sheet, sleeping bag, and compression bag, in preparation for the trip.
She admitted she learned many lessons about what she could have left at home—and what she was happy she had brought along.
Zucchiatti noted they registered for the pilgrimage at an office in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port because they needed to get a passport.
“Every time you stay somewhere, you get a stamp because it’s proof you did it,” she explained, noting you get your final stamp when you arrive at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
She added while there were many other pilgrims from all over the world also on the journey, everyone walked at their own pace and a lot of the time she walked on her own.
In fact, Zucchiatti’s friend walked faster and often arrived at each day’s destination a few hours ahead of her.
“I found it rather peaceful,” she remarked, adding she was never scared, even as she walked through the larger cities.
In order to not get lost (although she did just once), the pilgrims followed a yellow arrow or the picture of a scalloped shell, which is the symbol of the pilgrim.
“They used it to eat, drink, and carried it with them,” she explained, adding they each received their own shell to carry.
Zucchiatti said most nights they stayed at an albergue, which is like a hostel for travellers.
“My comfort level is pretty high,” she admitted, noting she typically likes nice sheets and a comfortable bed. “So the albergues were a nice experience for me.
“Knocked me down a bit and reminded me that I don’t need a lot of that stuff.”
Zucchiatti walked through many villages, across mountains, and in high elevations.
“Everyone got blisters on their feet,” she recalled, indicating most days they awoke at 5 a.m., dressed their feet, stopped for coffee, and were walking by 7 a.m.
She visited some churches, saw plenty of beautiful sights, and met many interesting people along the way.
“It was a really great experience,” she enthused.
Zucchiatti received her Compostela certificate from the pilgrim’s office at the end of her journey, which pilgrims receive if they have travelled more than 100 km by foot.
Those attending Monday night’s presentation also were treated to a special Santiago cake made by Zucchiatti.
“She did a great job with her presentation,” Avis lauded, thanking Zucchiatti for kicking off the new series.
Avis is planning to have the second presentation of the series in January.
“I have about five more in the works,” she indicated, noting they will cover a wide range of topics.
“There will be other human experiences, but also including human expertise.”
Avis said there was a great turnout Monday, with three dozen people in attendance, and hopes the other presentations will prove to be just as popular.
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while and thought it was a good opportunity,” she reasoned.
The presentations will run about an hour long, with an informal time for questions and answers.
Check the library’s website or watch for more information on the “Human Experience” series.

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