Roads to Santiago(1997)
Detours and Riddles in the Lands and History of Spain
A non fiction book by Cees Nooteboom
A worthy travel book does not encourage a reader to follow in the author's footsteps in search of the "good spots" so much as it creates a sense of adventure and the desire to understand a place. In Roads to Santiago: Detours and Riddles in the Lands and History of Spain, Dutch author Cees Nooteboom seeks out the soul and spirit of Spain in a way that suggests a journey of self-discovery as much as an actual expedition. Although the stated goal is to reach Santiago de Compostela--a church in northwest Spain that was once the object of pilgrimages during the Middle Ages--Nooteboom doesn't follow a single or direct route to the village. The more serendipitous the journey, the better. Nooteboom followed many "detours," taking nearly every back road he found and making sure to avoid anything resembling a major thoroughfare or urban center. The result of his circuitous travels is this collection of moving essays on Spain's history, geography, architecture, and people.Roads to Santiago is an evocative travelogue through the sights, sounds, and smells of a little known Spain-its architecture, art, history, landscapes, villages, and people. And as much as it is the story of his travels, it is an elegant and detailed chronicle of Cees Nooteboom's thirty-five-year love affair with his adopted second country. He presents a world not visible to the casual tourist, by invoking the great spirits of Spain's past-El Cid, Cervantes, Alfonso the Chaste and Alfonso the Wise, the ill-fated Hapsburgs, and Velázquez. Be it a discussion of his trip to the magnificent Prado Museum or his visit to the shrine of the Black Madonna of Guadalupe, Nooteboom writes with the depth and intelligence of an historian, the bravado of an adventurer, and the passion of a poet. Reminiscent of Robert Hughes's Barcelona, Roads to Santiago is the consummate portrait of Spain for all readers.
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