The Road to Camino and Тhe New Book by Maxim Behar and Veneta Pisarska

Interview on Darik Radio with hosts Mikhail Dyuzev and Ivo Raychev.


Host (Mihail Dyuzev): Good morning, Bulgaria, wherever you are. February 23rd. It's Friday. Alongside my colleague Raychev, we're delighted to welcome friends, I can confidently say, into the studio. Let's start with the lady first, though. Veneta Pisarska, welcome!

Veneta:  Hello!

Host (Mihail Dyuzev): And Maxim Behar!

Maxim:  Good morning, Darik!

Host (Mihail Dyuzev): Maxim, you've known colleague Raychev for quite some time...

Maxim: More importantly, we're friends.

Host (Ivo Raychev): That's right!

Maxim:  Colleagues, friends.

Host (Mihail Dyuzev): You have undertaken quite a challenging journey. Indeed, it isn't easy because, as far as I'm aware, without having done it myself, it's about the Camino. And as you, as you write at the beginning, you prepared with books, with films on the subject, with research. But, as I understand, because I carefully read the book, nothing was as you expected on the way, right? We imagine Buen Camino, the Camino path, to be fast, easy, and enjoyable.

Veneta:  Well, it's a long story. The Camino isn't a spontaneous journey. In our case, it was planned for a long time. It was thought out and prepared without having exact dates, and at one point, when COVID ended, they opened up, and suddenly, this window of time appeared in our schedules when we could do it, to organize it quickly. As for being easy... it depends on how you do it and how you look at it, and for enjoyment, it can be enjoyable. As it can be for sport and...

Host (Ivo Raychev): Yes, however, when I read at the beginning, the preparation was like going on an Everest expedition. Such preparation. So many elements, things, and details before you set off...

Host (Mihail Dyuzev): Obviously, there's a need.

Maxim: This is just the first time. And somewhere in the middle of the journey, while carrying these big suitcases, backpacks, and all sorts of things, we decided half this luggage wasn't necessary. You only need a few T-shirts, pairs of underwear, and comfortable shoes. It wasn't difficult at all, you know... 90 out of 100, you've already completed the journey the moment you decide. That's the most important thing. When you say, "Okay, let's go!" You already have your plane tickets and know where you're going. From there on, there's no turning back. We walked, for example, between 10 and 20-25 km daily. You can get tired, take a taxi if your feet hurt, and go to the next place. We didn't have to do that. We didn't do it once.

Host (Ivo): What's the effect if you take a taxi...

Maxim: Some circumstances sometimes require it, but one way or another, we made it through. It was a tremendous pleasure. As Veneta said, we get up on the third or fourth day, and our legs move independently. We don't even ask how many kilometers...

Host (Ivo): Yes, however, there are two options. The option where your suitcases are taken in the morning and brought to the next hotel...

Maxim: Exactly.

Host (Ivo):  Were there people who did it without having their suitcases carried from one place to another?

Maxim: The majority of people were exactly like that. One backpack on their back, hanging socks and t-shirts...

Veneta: ... and sandals.

Maxim:  They're hanging from the backpack to dry because they washed them in the morning, and their backpack is on their back. And many of the people didn't know where they would stay overnight. We want to do it next time because there are places to stay everywhere—mostly hostels or monasteries. There are monasteries where you can visit for 5 euros and sleep peacefully. Take a shower and have a warm soup. That's the real Camino.

Host (Ivo): So that's the big challenge.

Maxim:  We did it in a bit of an urban style. Plus, as described in the book, our luggage got lost on the first day, and I, you know, I always travel with a single bag. With urban shoes and urban clothes. And at one point, we just started like that. The luggage wasn't there. We asked ourselves, "What should we do, just sit and wait for it in Santiago de Compostela?" So, we started on the Camino with our bags and urban clothes.

Host (Ivo Raychev): Why did you start with the bag, knowing that you'd be walking... how many kilometers on foot?

Maxim: Well, because on the plane...

Host (Mihail): Maybe to Veneta. For our listeners who might not know what we're talking about. What is the Camino?

Veneta: Good question. The Camino is, I would say, both a spiritual and physical challenge and journey. It's a physical challenge because there are several paths called the Camino. These are historical routes dating back to Roman times. They were initially trade routes, became spiritual, and simultaneously remained commercial and spiritual. It's a challenge because you must assess your physical capabilities well to know how much you can endure to make it through the journey. It's not about walking 50 km and then being unable to get up for three days. Spiritually, before you decide on such a thing, you must experience the journey. You must give it a meaning. The preparation is more mental than physical, of course... the physical part is inevitable.

Host (Ivo):  Are there people who give up halfway?

Veneta:  Yes, there are. We meet people who give up. Most often, we encounter people who give up for physical reasons. They haven't assessed their physical capabilities somewhere along the way. They haven't evaluated their shoes or how much they can endure at this pace...

Host (Mihail):  I have acquaintances who have been on the Camino. Or have been on the way. From you, however, I learned that there are several routes.

Veneta:  Yes, there are many routes.

Host (Mihail): I must admit, until the day before reading the book, in my mind, there was only one path. And everyone walks on one path. It turned out there are several.

Maxim: The last stretch is significant because everyone reaches Santiago de... to the cathedral.

Host (Mihail): Yes, but many paths.

Veneta: Actually, the path we took is called the French Way. It's the most touristy one. The most famous. It's 900 km long. There's also a path that crosses the entire of Spain, an ancient Roman road, a trade route. No one knows how long it's been there. There are two paths through Portugal. There's one from England that descends, crosses the ocean, and continues down.

Host (Mihail):  Let me tell you, I liked the one through Portugal. It's along the ocean.

Veneta:  That's the next one. That's the next Camino.

Maxim: That's exactly what we plan to do next time because it's very picturesque. One evening, we stayed in a castle and had dinner with two English ladies, and I asked one of them. She was one of those who didn’t have suitcases, only backpacks. An Englishwoman, a retired teacher, probably around 65 somewhere. And I asked her: "How far have you walked so far?" And she counts, counts, and says, "Well, it's about 1650 km to here," I was speechless and thought, wait a moment, the longest path is 900 km... "No, no, I'm from Manchester, and since I'm retired, I have no commitments, and it's perfect for me to walk. So, there are people who walk... we met some Austrians who had passed over 2000 km. However, they do it in portions. They walk, for example, 200-300 kilometers this year. Then, they start again next year... some people do it for various reasons. Religious, spiritual...

Host (Ivo): Some people want to prove themselves...

Veneta: Yes, there's also the physical challenge

Maxim: We met people in wheelchairs—people with children. We traveled with an American family of about 20 people from different states throughout the journey. They had children and traveled in different ways at different speeds, and every evening, they would gather in one town altogether. And it was like a family gathering for them. A yearly family gathering. So, I realized then, because you know I'm a fan of social media, I'm constantly communicating there. I realized that this is the most unique social network in the world. Camino. Because you meet people whom you can't encounter anywhere else. From all over the world. No one cares where you're from, but what you do, who you are, if you're famous or not. We're all equal; we're all on the road. And we have common topics like, "Where will you sleep tonight?" What will you have for dinner? Such things are hardly discussed in Sofia or anywhere else. But the fact is, we returned as different people. And not just physically, we looked at the world differently, and that's what we wrote in the book; that's what we call a challenge.

Host (Ivo): Why didn't you do the Kom-Emine trail first and then go?

Host (Mihail): There would be a nice comparison with Emine.

Maxim:  There's nowhere to sleep in Emine.

Host (Ivo): Why, I have friends who, with a group of people, start from the peak of Stara Planina, and their wives wait for them at the next stop in a hut or hotel, then they start again. The wives drive their cars and go to Emine like that.

Maxim:  Camino somehow had a romantic aura.

Host (Ivo): It has an aura, yes...

Maxim: Everything is super well-organized. Everything, which impressed us a lot, is done with European funds, and everywhere it says, "Here, 356 thousand, and I don't know how many cents/euros were spent to make this path. To improve it."

Host (Ivo): What's the surface like?

Veneta: Well, it's different. It depends on where you pass through. We pass through forests, villages, and farms. It depends on where we pass through.

Host (Mihail): Don't imagine it like a road.

Host (Ivo): I don't imagine it like asphalt.

Host (Mihail): Don't imagine stepping on a road and reaching there...

Veneta: Sometimes, we walk on asphalt... it depends on where we pass through.

Maxim: Which is the coolest, among other things? Especially the last stretch when entering Santiago de Compostela, that's the whole day, and you go through the entire city. And that was the hardest part. Especially when you're already tired and reaching the end, and when we kept in constant contact with our princess Miriam, the wife of our late Prince Kardam, she had walked this path. She wrote to us at one point: "Be prepared; the last day is the toughest because you go through the city, and it's the most boring." Still, the fact is, we met interesting people, we came back very refreshed, and unfortunately, on the very last day, at the very end, I turned to Veni and said, "Let's make a book!" And she said, "But how are we going to make a book?" She's a business person; she deals with entirely different things. I said, "But we saw so many interesting things that we must share them." And here, with the Matkom publishing house and this wonderful girl Eleonora Gacheva, we gathered, and I think we made an excellent product that, as far as I understand, is hardly found in bookstores anymore. And our mutual friend, yours as well, Zhoro Milkov, the first reader, sent me an email and said, "Max, this is a textbook on the Camino." And so we called it.

Host (Mihail): How should I say, your book is convenient. And it is. Let me return to my feelings and knowledge of the Camino. Much of it was formed by a film, "The Way," with Martin Sheen and directed by Emilio Estevez. And there it's about a profound spiritual experience. Or the modern word - catharsis. The path of enlightenment, if you will. Like some battle with one's inner demons, problems through the physical ordeal - the path. Did you have such a moment? Was there a mystical moment, so to speak, during those kilometers?

Veneta: The whole aura of this path is connected with this mystique, with this perhaps initial religious tint, and yes, some people embark on this path due to some profound internal experiences, and something has prompted them to do this. These are people who usually travel alone. And they do it for this purpose. With us, we instead did it to purify ourselves after all this COVID euphoria and hysteria.

Host (Ivo): Well, but being alone when you have no one to share with...

Veneta: That was precisely it. Part of our journey was shared. Suppose you set out to do it with the idea of purification, of experiencing some challenging moment. Yes, it's better to be alone, experience this thing, and traverse this path. The greeting along the way is "Buen Camino," very often, the people with whom you share parts of the way thank you for sharing their path in some section.

Maxim: Before we set out, I didn't watch the movie, and Veneta told me a few times, "Let's watch the movie," and I said, "I don't want to; I want to watch it after we return, so as not to be influenced, not to have any prior preparation. However, I read many groups on Facebook that deal with the Camino. And one of the questions, I think it was from a Portuguese, who said: "Is it risky to go alone on the Camino? I want to go alone," and about 20-30 people replied, saying: "How alone, on the Camino, you are never alone," which is true. You set off alone, meet great people, and share with them. Then someone says, "You are very slow, right? We will continue; then, you will be faster, and others will be slower. Then you gather in the evening or somewhere in a cafe. And you are never alone on the Camino, even if you set off alone.

Host (Ivo): Can civil marriages be concluded like this?

Veneta: I don't know about civil marriages, but I know about wedding trips. We met people who were on a wedding trip on the Camino. I even wondered why, post-factum and not before, to test the relationship on the road.

Maxim: You can pass the Camino with a bicycle. We met a lot of people with bikes. You can also do the Camino on horseback. Also, we met many people on horses; they took different paths. Very few of them intersect, but the immense pleasure... and I'll tell you, it was a challenge for me. You've known me for many years. I love proving that I can do something interesting. And when we returned, I was thrilled, besides feeling physically wholly different. Besides, mentally, we had cleared our heads. I think it's written in the book that Veneta forgot her computer password, and she ignored it so she couldn't remember it. Nowadays, forgetting your computer password is one of maybe ten misfortunes that can happen to you. But that means we've cleansed ourselves. But most of all, now, after a year and something, when I assess myself, it was an exciting challenge.

Host (Ivo): Well, can an average family afford it? In financial terms, some listeners will immediately ask. Ah, how much does this thing cost for so many days?

Host (Mihail): Well, it probably can cost very little...

Maxim: It's not expensive at all.

Veneta: It can be a lot if you want to keep your comfort and sleep because there are many excellent hotels in every populated place. So, if you decide to sleep in very friendly hotels and lose some of the charm of the whole trip, you can. But overall, this is a very budget travel. It's not a trip that costs something. The equipment might cost something, the plane tickets are another expense, and the rest... Throughout the journey, people leave food by the houses, which has been practiced for centuries. People leave bread, apples, carrots, whatever they have, and you take from this food and can leave whatever you want, but there is no obligation to leave money. Of course, everyone does this thing.

Maxim:  A large part of the bars along the way that we encounter, you enter a garden, and there is everything to have breakfast, to take, and there are no prices. There is a box; if you want, you can leave another euro, but you may not.

Host (Ivo): This is for Bulgarians...

Maxim: Yes, it's perfect for Bulgarians.

Veneta: All people leave in general.

Maxim: Really, on the doors of the houses there is food left, fruits, all sorts of things, which those who travel can take. There, it's not at all mandatory to leave something. It's not a problem at all with the means. Many low-cost airlines are flying to Spain. The question is in the mindset, and I... thank you very much for both of you reading this book because we've known each other for years. You know that I've been listening to Darik in the morning for maybe 20 years now, and if both of you have read this book, it means that the entire Bulgarian nation has read it.

Host (Mihail): That was nice for the finale. Well, thank you. Let's meet again on similar occasions and share stories about similar journeys.

Maxim: We thank you very much—lots of love to you and the morning show.

Host (Mihail): And a final task. Here, we used to have a tradition on air. We ended each guest with a radio task. A radio task for you, Maxim, is to make Kom Emine as popular as Camino since you are involved.

Maxim:  We were thinking about that with Veneta when we were walking, and we felt that Kom Emine could become a great place if someone finds a way to open some restaurants, tighten up the shelters, and do, as you say, good marketing. Because this is a great treasure in Bulgaria that we need to use.

Host (Ivo): Then, foreigners will pass through this route.

Host (Mihail): Thank you. Bye Camino, and see you soon.



You can find the full interview here.


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