I don´t know what signposting you followed to get to this post, but this is precisely what I wanted to talk about…signposting. But not the ones that got you here, but those which we come across in all of our Jacobean routes.
Although El Camino de Santiago belongs to the catalogued routes as GR (long distance routes, GR, as in Grande Randonnée in French, Gran Recorrido in Spanish, Grande Rota in Portuguese, etc). Its signposting is not ruled by the norms of this catalogue, proof that its significance and magnitude make of El Camino a special route from all points of view. The signposting of El Camino is totally adapted and specific to it. This is doubtlessly charming, but it is not without its pitfalls. Every region is in charge of signposting their own part of El Camino that crosses its demarcation, which in occasions creates inconsistencies in they way they do it and in the way they count the kilometres.
From Galicia and from the Consejo Jacobeo (Jacobean Council), they are trying to attempt a unification and homogenisation of the signals along El Camino, for that purpose, since November 2015 a manual has been published by the regional government (Diario Oficial de Galicia) to regulate the image and signposting along El Camino. At the moment this attempt is only valid in the Region of Galicia, but hopefully it will be adopted by all other regions where the routes of El Camino traverse.
I have added some illustrations, so you can get familiar with some of the signposts that you will find along the way.
You will find these drawn on façades, roads, stones, walls, posts and on many more places. Their location does not follow a specific criteria, but because of the simplicity of this sign, a simple yellow arrow, is the one found everywhere, especially when you approach an unclear junction. Sometimes some cheeky person has been known to draw a yellow arrow to try to divert people to their business. Because it is a recognisable symbol on the way, you will also be able to find lots of merchandising with it.
The tiles with the symbol of the pilgrim shell is usually found on the façades on the houses of the towns where El Camino crosses. Sometimes the owners are the ones that put up these tiles on their façades or doors. The scallop shell sign is used with different purposes in different provinces. In some provinces the narrow part is the one pointing the way, while in other provinces the other side is the one that points the way. These kind of tiles are also found in the milestones that count kilometres, although in some places you would notice how someone cheeky has taken them as a souvenir, a shame really because you can find them in any souvenir shop for a few euros.
These milestones indicate the distance left to Santiago de Compostela and the place where we are. They don´t seem to follow a criteria to for their placement, and sometimes you will doubt whether the distance indicated is the correct one. There are many of them and I always find that the sight of one of them cheers me up. Some of them are badly weathered and some have fared badly because of bad behaviour (written pilgrim´s signatures, messages, quotations…., with Vojo you can leave messages that we call footprints with our app, they are something else). The ones that have been affected the most are the ones that indicate kilometre 100, kilometre 99 and, surprise surprise kilomtre 69!
This kind of sign is common along the route, they are official signs, placed by the ministry. They are big metal signs you can find usually at the entrance or exit of certain towns, and also when there are road junctions within the route.
SHARING ROAD SECTION
These signs of “sharing road” are placed at the beginning of the sections of motoring road that is shared with El Camino. Soon we will realise that this is thought out to protect the pilgrim; sometimes it is unavoidable to walk on tarmac road, and both pilgrims and drivers need to be aware of the need to take special care in these sections. In any case, if you want to know a few to tips to walk safely I recommend you read these safety tips.
CULTURAL ITINERARY SIGNAGE
The purpose of these signages are more a form of publicity poster than guidance for the pilgrim. They are quite big and they are place in places where you cannot miss them. You can have your photo taken next to them, as a memento of your trip.
In ancient Greece these kind of mounds were made in honour of the god Mercury, hence their name Mercuriales (mercurials). The purpose of these rites were to ask for the protection from the god during a journey. The Romans also used them to mark borders and signpost routes. These old practices have fused and have become a rite of passage and signposting along the roads of the routes. Some places have accumulated lots of these mounds. When you see one, you will know that another pilgrim has been there before.
These signposts are the ones you will find more often, but there are other curious ways of marking out the continuation of a route, sometimes in the form of an arrow made of sticks or pebbles on the ground. Some pilgrims leave Christian crosses made of sticks on fences.
Well, I hope you found this entry useful, and although I hope that you are learned users of the Vojo Way app, it is still good fun to try and walk some of the way just following the signage of El Camino. Cheerio!
Translation: Elvira Sánchez.