There are many pilgrim’s paths out there and probably most of you heard about the great Camino Frances, in Spain, which was the subject for “The Way” movie. Camino Frances has aprox. 800 km of walking from France, over the French Pyrenees, through the north of Spain and finishing in the city of Santiago de Compostela. There have been many books written about this and lately, me, my wife and my sister, are developing a bit of on obsession about it, apparently.
Honestly, I am bit turned down by the popularity of that path and by the fact that around 2 mil. people from all over the world are taking it every year. Of course, meeting and dealing with the other pilgrims is a part of the pilgrimage, but I am more into the idea of doing something like this in solitude.
So, we started looking into finding some closer, more local pilgrim’s paths since, well, even if we will ever end up on Camino Frances, we first need to understand pilgrimage and we need to be fit for it.
Sweden has it’s own pilgrim’s paths, which can run from one coast to the other, from Gothenburg to Stockholm, but the most known and significant part of it is Pilgrimsleden Skaraborg (it is in Swedish, use Google translate). This one runs from Falköping to Forshem and it basically includes the cradle of Sweden, the first churches ever built during the viking’s era. It’s length is somewhere between 100 and 150 km and provides the pilgrim with all needed- food, rest and solitude. Even if the path runs through quite a populated part of Sweden, Swedes know how to respect one’s solitude and need for reflection.
A part of the path, the one from Husaby Church to Forshem actually runs 300 m from our home. We live in the heart of one of the oldest populated parts of Sweden, in the place where the kings have been born. Our city here is built over an ancient viking burial ground.
Taking the path
We have decided to take only 20 km of the path, in a circuit, using the main and a few secondary routes. I should mention that we have used various paths in this area quite often, but we never thought about actually taking THE pilgrim’s path before. This was also a bit of a test to see how it looks and how much we can walk in one day. Last year we have managed to do aprox. 33 km in one day, but we would have been probably unable to walk a second day, because of the back/foot pains and blisters.
We have started in a very nice and bright Friday, when we were free from work, to walk. Our goal was to go on a large circle and hit Blomberg restaurant in the afternoon to have a well-deserved soup, before taking on the last 7 km for that day.
As you will see in the photos, there are specific markings that show the pilgrims path and you only need to follow those. Or at least this is what we have thought, until we ended up in an intersections of paths that had three different colours. As a result, we have followed first the Red marking, later the blue markings and for short distances, the yellow markings. I admit that we had to use the Google maps a few times to get a sense of location, but overall, markings were enough.
Concerning the number of people we met on the way, there haven’t been so many. We’ve encounter a few local cyclists, some local groups going for picnic and a couple or two of actual pilgrims. Most of the locations have bilingual explanations, English/Swedish and, obviously, most of the people speak English everywhere.
The trail is awesome because of the Swedish summer is looking great this year. Sunny, but not particularly hot or cold, amazing landscapes, fresh air, smiling faces. You can see bellow a few photos we have took for this really short adventure.In the end, we could have easily walked another 5 km and be fresh for the second day (we did our usual 10 km run the next day, so we were fine). This means that we are almost prepared to take the real route which will keep us walking for a week or so. We are planning for it this summer and I am sure we will have better stories to tell after.
The most important highlight of the day was the Husaby Church which was built in the 11th century and it is where the first Christian king of Sweden was supposedly baptised. In any case, the church is remarkable in all ways.