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On the Camino

Updated: May 21, 2020

Apple #6

Im really impressed with the meals here at Gut Ralligen: if you want to come on a retreat/holiday in a stunning lakeside location, hosted by a warm-hearted and welcoming community, with really excellent, healthy, varied, and very Swiss food, this is definitely your place. (Not that most of us start a holiday planning list with exactly those criteria)

My favourites this week: pumpkin soup, absolutely deliciously enhanced with ginger and celeriac, pepper and a dash of cream; the not-exactly-Italian but everso deliciously and juicily laden homemade pizza; the plentiful and frequent Swiss cheeses; and the lettuce with oh-my-word salad sauce (I always think it’s good enough to drink) at every main meal. I’m feeling gooood. And as I’m spending every morning working in the garden, house or kitchen, Im pretty sure I can justify my healthy appetite and appreciation of the chef’s delights.

As there are fruit trees on the land belonging to the monastery there are plently of apples to eat, and I dutifully choose one from the fruit bowl every day. But when Luca and I took a hilly woodland footpath in stunning autumn sun to walk home the couple of miles from the St Beatus Caves (which we had not gone to see from the inside), we stopped for a coffee and a “little something” in a lakeside café. I was amused that Luca’s choice of dessert was that classic man’s pud, wherever they find themselves, it seems, namely apple pie and custard – well tbh it was Apfelstrudel mit Vanillesauce (same thing). I hereby award Luca today’s apple-a-day award, just for the quirk.

By the way, Ralligen lies on the Swiss section of the Way of St James, the pilgrimage path often referred to as “the Camino” which draws thousands of pilgrims every year from all over the world to Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain. There is a large network of kind of pre-routes throughout Europe, including from southern UK, which means you can more or less start from your own back door (give or take the odd hundred miles), although the most popular starting point for pilgrims who want to actually end in Santiago is in the French alps. A moving film called The Way, which got under the skin of some unlikely travelling companions on the Camino, was the basis for a Lent Course I participated in a couple of years ago. Worth a look (you can borrow the DVD from me).

I was amazed to hear that Gut Ralligen receives over 400 pilgrims a year! I wonder how many of them walk all the way to the Spanish destination.

On the subject of the Camino: this summer we walked the awesome Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail in Japan (although more as a trek than a pilgrimage, if I’m honest) []. The Kumano Kodo and the Camino de Santiago are the only two Unesco World Heritage listed pilgrimages in the world, and as such they have been “twinned”, so hikers who complete both are eligible to register as dual pilgrims. Most people don’t know that fact (but now you do).

PS if my rave above about this place might possibly have affected your choice of holiday destination, do make a note to bring your own tea if you are like a good english cuppa. Otherwise just send me a teabag?

Beauty beauty beauty ... the panorama view of Lake Thun, from the house. Who would not want to pilgrim through this awesome place?


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