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143 of 144 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I liked it, I liked it ...
As is apparent from other reviews in this thread, "The Pilgrim's Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook" by Gitlitz and Davidson elicits strong feelings, both pro and con. I personally found this book to be an invaluable reference while walking the pilgrimage route. However, I recognize how other individuals might differ in their assessment.
First and...
Published on July 24, 2002 by Richard Willey

versus
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much info
Very in-depth to be of interest to most people. Quite big and bulky too so probably not something you would carry on such a trip. This is not a guide in the 'lonely planet sense' but rather a very well researched guide to the history,folklore and architecture etc but there is not much in the way of practicalities like maps and camping info etc. Then again it doesn't claim...
Published on May 25, 2009 by Juggler


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143 of 144 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I liked it, I liked it ..., July 24, 2002
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This review is from: The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook (Paperback)
As is apparent from other reviews in this thread, "The Pilgrim's Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook" by Gitlitz and Davidson elicits strong feelings, both pro and con. I personally found this book to be an invaluable reference while walking the pilgrimage route. However, I recognize how other individuals might differ in their assessment.
First and foremost, it is essential to recognize what this book is NOT designed to do.
The handbook is not a trail guide.
It does not list refuges or explain where to camp.
It does not tell you where to eat or what to pack.
If this is what you are looking for, find another book.
With that said and done, the handbook did provide me with an extremely valuable reference in establishing a cultural context for the sites that I was visiting. I am not an expert in Romanesque architecture, nor do I know the lives of Roman Catholic saints well enough to recognize the major figures in a Retablo. I never had the opportunity to extensively study the history of the pilgrimage. Left to my own devices, I would most certainly never have read much in the way of medieval Spanish poetry. In all honesty, even after walking the pilgrimage route, I am still far from expert in all of these areas. However, the handbook did provide me with enough information that I was able to appreciate much more of the sites that I was visiting.
As other individuals have noted, time for sightseeing is often short. I found the handbook to be extremely useful in prioritizing my time and determining which sites would be most interesting to visit. As an example, none of the other sources that I consulted noted the existence of the Blacksmith forge at Compludo which may very well have been my favorite part of the trip. Without the handbook, I would have never have visted half the church nor understood a quarter of what I was seeing.
As I noted at the start of this posting, when it comes to the handbook, your mileage may vary. Each person has their own reason for traveling the Camino. If you aren't interested in cultural history or architectural reference, you might find it more useful to bring another reference. However, if you are interested in understanding the "why" behind what you're seeing, I think that you will find this reference as valuable as I did.
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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago, August 8, 2000
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This review is from: The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook (Paperback)
David Gitlitz and Linda Davidson have written a remarkable cultural handbook on the Road to Santiago. Basing the book on their own information gained from over a quarter of century of walks to Santiago, they have composed a text that is a must read for all manner of pilgrims to Santiago as well as any student of Spanish cultural history. It is also the one book written over the past 500 years that would have been both credible and interesting to pilgrims from the Renaissance. Examining layer after layer of medieval, Renaissance and modern culture from even the most obscure sites along the road, Gitlitz and Davidson make it possible to finally see the Road to Santiago for the rich cultural, social and religious experience that it is.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Have, April 25, 2001
By 
Craig (Chino Hills, CA, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook (Paperback)
In preparation for my first official pilgrimage to Compostela, I've sought out references from every possible fountain. Davidson and Gitlitz offer the consumate guide to the novice pilgrim, with plenty for the seasoned shell-bearer. This book is thorough in its detail, appealing in its prose and appetizing in its descriptions. Having lived in many of the places along the road, I've been critical of many of the books I've read as too heavy on the "Big C" culture: That which isn't really culture at all...just the obvious stereotype. This book is heavy on the "Little C" culture, as a book which delves into little-known asides which inspire the traveler to seek and find, and create a unique memory for themselves.
It offers a variety of insights on history, lore, architecture, terrain, and other "bonuses". It's a quick read, but allows you enough of the whole to enitce you to explore and gain the rest on your own industry.
Of all the guidebooks I've purchased, this is the ONLY one that will be travelling in my pack on the Road to Santiago.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Camino Junkie, March 11, 2006
This review is from: The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook (Paperback)
I walked the Camino in the Fall of 2004 and took this book along with a much thinner more practical guide book. I loved, loved, loved having this book! My thin, practical guidebook told me of the trail, and places to stay and eat. This guidebook brought the experience alive for me. Everynight before I went to sleep, I would read the passage about the day I had just walked, and then would read the passage about the next day's walk. I saw and experienced things I would have totally missed if I did not have this book. I would walk along and think of the millions of pilgrams that had walked this path for over 1000 years. In this books there are excerpts from journals of medieval pilgrams, which really made me feel the history of this pilgramage. I too worried about the weight of the book, but found that in the long run it was really worth the added pound in my backpack. I do recommend taking a more practical guidebook as well. I found the guidebook put out by the Confraternity of St. James to be great! If you are not one bit interested in the History and Folklore of the Camino, then skip this book. But if you are, this book is invaluable. I found that I was sharing it with other pilgrams all the time, who wanted more info on what we were experiencing.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Book on the Cultural Background of the Camino, July 15, 2005
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This review is from: The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook (Paperback)
I did the Camino in 2003 using this book as a guide. In fact it was the only one I brought with me.

It's strengths are not in the trail directions it gives. There are much better guides for that. I suggest you consult one of the Camino web sites to find out the most current and recommended version of those. the operative word is current. The Camino does change from year to year, new alberges open, others disappear, the trail moves, street names change (Franco related ones are definitely on the outs), etc.

That said, this is a wonderful book for the historical background and descriptions of the countryside it provides. I read this book and I became fixated on doing the Camino. If you are going to do the Camino or are just interested in the Camino, read this book. If you know someone who is going to do the Camino, get them this book. It is the best book I've ever read in terms of Camino cultural information.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE definitive guide, October 17, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook (Paperback)
This is THE guide to the Road to Santiago, written by the foremost American experts, who bring the culture and context of the pilgrimage alive. Here and there they include personal recollections of their own pilgrimages through the years, from the seventies, as some of the first walkers to revive the pilgrimage, to today. On their first journey, for instance, they were almost arrested in one tiny village for wearing shorts and being "half-naked," as the mayor insisted. Today, tourists sunbathe topless in the same village.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handb, August 7, 2000
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This review is from: The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook (Paperback)
David Gitlitz and Linda Davidson have compiled a remarkable handbook for all manner of pilgrims to Santiago. Whether you are a pilgrim traveling by car, horse, bike or foot, or a student of Spanish culture, this is the one work you must have to be able to appreciate the cultural context of the Road to Santiago. It is probably the only book written on the Road to Santiago during the past 500 years that would have been credible and interesting to the pilgrim of the Renaissance. In other words, the book's penetrating commentary on the many layers of medieval culture make "The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago" a book for the ages.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The foremost authority on Santiago de Compostela tells all, October 9, 2001
This review is from: The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook (Paperback)
I have just had the pleasure of attending a seminar by Linda Kay Davidson entitled "On the Road to Compostela," in which she narrated a two-hour slideshow of her five pilgrimages in Spain with her husband and several students. Much of the content of "The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago" was touched upon during the lecture: the religious background, various myths and legends, stories from the rural villages along the road, and the spiritual experience involved.
One of my favourite moments was when Davidson asked, "What is a pilgrimage?" The audience was composed of various nationalities, religions and ethnic groups, but we all had ideas to offer. The third or fourth brave soul said that a pilgrimage was a religious experience. She continued her explanation and we arrived at the definition of a pilgrimage as a journey that takes one away from comforts and friends, a journey of self-discovery, and one that must be made on foot.
She mentioned other secular pilgrimages: Graceland, the Alamo, and on a more sombre note, the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City and the former site of the World Trade Centre in New York City. A pilgrimage can extend to finding a deeper meaning in life, not necessarily of a religious nature, a pilgrimage as a voyage of discovery.
I was fortunate to attend Linda Kay Davidson's seminar; I learned a great deal about pilgrimages in general and Santiago de Compostela, about the history of the region, the terrain, the rural towns and friendly townsfolk, cloistered nuns who had not seen the next village over and would never do so except by postcard, the architecture, from gothic to baroque, the sometimes humorous stories of saints' lives, the sombre roadside shrines for pilgrims who ultimately did not finish their journey.
This is an excellent guide to Santiago de Compostela whether you are merely interested in reading more about the region or if you are planning a pilgrimage yourself. And if you have the chance to see Linda Kay Davidson in person, do so. She makes the journey a memorable one, taking time at the end of the seminar to show a brief slideshow with a medieval soundtrack and had us mentally create (or recreate) a pilgrimage of our own to Compostela. It was a fascinating experience and one I won't soon forget.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Cultural guide, January 13, 2007
By 
James B Greer (Memphis, TN USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook (Paperback)
My wife and walked part a portion of the Camino Frances (Leon to Santiago de Compostela) in May of 2004. In walking the Camino, I think one must consider several sources. One of these should be topographical and describe the lay of the land, one logistical and describe where you may find comfort, and one cultural. This book is the best that I know of in fulfilling that last category.

While some may find this a useful guide to carry, I agree with some of reviewers who suggest not taking this book on the road. [Hopefully the authors will never read this review... ] I did carry this book, but I ripped out the irrelevant portions of the journey before I began, and every night I ripped out the pages covering the day's journey so as to lighten the load. [ I should point out that I bought another copy when I got home, so as to make amends for the destruction of the book. ]

Even had I never walked I still think what I learned about Spain, the history and cultural of the regions covered by the Camino, and aspects of the architecture and other features covered in this book to be fascinating.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great guide, September 8, 2005
By 
Fox (Sydney, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook (Paperback)
For anyone planning to walk The Way of St James pilgrimage across Norther Spain, this book provides fascinating local history. I read it after I walked, and wish I had done it the other way around.
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The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook
The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook by David M. Gitlitz (Paperback - July 2000)
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