2017-05-11 15:30 —
The Royal Road
Errege-bidea (Basque), El Camino Real (Spanish): The Royal Road
By Gerard de Jong
“What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? - it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” - Jack Kerouac, ‘On the Road’ (*)
Every two minutes the ferry in the Pasaia, the bay – on which I look out from my apartment here in Donibane, Basque Country – brings people to the other side. For a mere 70 cents the small boat bridges an important part on the way from A to B, or the other way around. The village is on the route to Santiago de Compostela. A caravan of pilgrims passes me by. They like to take a breather on the square below me, drink a cup of coffee and give their legs a rest.
If they look up – and they do this all the time: I’m housed in a characteristically Basque and very photogenic flat – they frequently see me standing on the balcony. A static, blond and decidedly non-Basque looking figure behind a green balustrade, that’s what it must look like for them, when they take a photo of the housing front with me in it, after which they pick up their bags and walking canes again. Further onto their path, following ‘el camino’. It’s not that far anymore, for them. They can almost scent Santiago on the damp, salty sea breeze that blows throw the bay. ‘Almost’.
You wouldn’t say it when you see me standing on this balcony, but I too am on a journey, and with a high pace at that. I travel even when I’m quietly admiring the view here. Catapulted from het Bildt to Basque Country to… Yeah, why actually? For sure I am searching something, but I won’t know what exactly until I’ve found it.
This not-knowing would have definitely made me insecure any previous event. Now it doesn’t. Because after only a week here I am already convinced that I will find it, in this for a Bilkert improbable – and improbably pretty – place. Because het Bildt and Basque Country differ in impossibly many ways, but could just as well become blood brothers. If I would want that, and if the people here would want that. And the people here are overflowing with good will.
Travelling is an undertaking. By definition you leave something behind. Family, work, the man or the idea of the man you are at home. I saw those specks dispersing, looking in my rearview mirror, when driving up to this place. But something awaits to replace that, there’s something buzzing. Otherwise I wouldn’t have come into gear. My driving force, that for the last couple of years slowly crawled out of hibernation, has become wide awake here – in lively, passionate and high-paced Euskal Herria. I watch this with a mixture of curiosity and befuddlement.
We’re all on a journey. As long as you do it with conviction – and dare to embrace the unexpected – you’re on the right path. Walking your own Errege-bidea, as they say here, the Royal Road.
‘Enough dillydallying, Gerard, let’s go!’
(*) On Monday evening the Donostia Book Club – a monthly, English-speaking social event hosted by Slawka ……. – welcomed me to say a few things about my Bildts origin, the language, and the newspaper I run. The book of the month was Jack Kerouac’s ‘On The Road’, a novel I both greatly admire and have some deep issues (misogyny, for one…). Both sides were eloquently addressed by both the host and the book club members. It was a special night and I was most glad to be part of it.