Feb 5, 2018: Day I

To start my pilgrimage I had to first get to Madrid by plane via Warsaw. Upon landing it turned out that winter in the capital of Spain is stronger than in Poland. The weather forecest for the cities along my route is equally winterlike.

In the evening I took the train to Pampelona, a mid-size city in north-eastern part of Spain. I spent a few hours I had to kill in Madrid with a friend of mine. Going back from the restaurant to the main train station of Madrid, Atocha, I felt acute cold piercing through my body and a chill on my face. Our walk was just 500 m long. How can I walk several hundred miles in a weather like this and a much harder terrain!? The reality of the challenge is slowly sinking in. It will not be a walk in the park. I hope that something good will come out of this and getting closer to March the weather improves a bit. After all…

 

My power works best in weakness …

(2 Cor 12,9)

 

This is one of the paradoxes of Christianity. What does power have to do with weakness? The world glorifies things using superlatives such as the most, hyper, super etc. In this context I view the cold I caught yesterday as a blessing. This mystery about strength in weakness I will meditate many a time along the way.

Back to the train station in Madrid, the name Atocha reminds me of a terrible bombing attack on travelling passengers a few years ago at that place. Going through that neighborhood I relfected upon the suffering people, their painful shouting. I thought about those who survived and the trauma they have dealt with since then. I am gratful we have been spared such attack in Poland despite our involvement in some military interventions in the Middle East.

There is also a positive accent of today. My American friend, who is a huge fan of the Philadelphia Eagles American footbal team, can celebrate his team’s first victory in Super Bowl. Drew’s joy must be equivalent to Poles celebrating one day our victory in FIFA World Cup. It is such a great pleasure to participate, even remotely in somebody elses’s joy. I am surprised at an unplanned analogy! Eagles here, eagles there.

Taking into consideration my current health condition and the need to spend half a day to get to my originally planned place of start in Roncesvalles, I wil most likely start my journey from Pampelona where I am going to stay tonight. Speaking about my accommodation tonight (the only one I have planned) I just got a call from the owner that he is cancelling my reservation and he does not want to wait for me until I check in late at night. After my pushback he changed his mind and provided some info how I can open the coded doors myself. When he learned I am starting El Camino tomorrow he said:

But it is winter and there is snow everywhere …

Well, tomorrow is going to be an interesting day to see for myself whether the trail is passable or not.

On the plane from Wroclaw to Warsaw I bumped into the CEO and a major shareholder of a large Polish company I had met some time ago. He seemed surprised seeing me in my hiking attire contrasting with the dominant formal business dress code on the morning plane. Our engaging conversation made the whole flight whizz by very quickly. Before boarding my next plane to Madrid I visited a business lounge to have a snack. What struck me there was the feeling of sadness, fatigue and tension on people’s faces despite a sunny morning. Not so long ago I was in that group and probably looking similar.

I slowly switch to communication in Spanish. It is amazing that despite very few occassions to speak this language I have no problems getting by. I attribute this mostly to one thing; I love that language, and it is mutual.

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