The Way

Hundreds Of Miles Walked In Europe

This photo of Peppe Bjorn is from his 2014 walk to Santiago, Spain de compostela camino del norte or the northern way to Santiago. Submitted photo

While I was visiting South America recently, I made the acquaintance of Peppe Bjorn, who is from Italy. I soon learned that my new friend spent much of his time thinking of the next project he might paint, photograph, build or redecorate. It appeared that his creative mind seldom rested and he enjoyed using his imagination. I, also, learned he was very generous and took pleasure in gifting others with his work.

He enjoys collecting and making art. Recently, after acquiring a creek scene, stitched by a Chinese woman over an eight-month period, he decided it would make a perfect cover for a flat-screen TV and began designing it.

He uses many mediums and techniques to create art. For example, he uses epoxy glue and paint together to create some interesting pieces and he likes to use items not commonly used in artwork, such as buttons.

He has framed several of the photos he has taken all over the world or had them transferred to canvas. Beautiful scenes of locations in Sweden, Spain, Budapest and Peru adorn his walls. Some are as large as 4-feet by 7-feet, such as a black and white photo of the Hungarian parliament building in Budapest, which hangs in his bedroom. He especially likes to takes photos of people who have interesting expressions.

Woodworking is another of his interests, where he uses his skills to make various items, such as cutting boards, vases, bottle holders and rings, which he also makes from epoxy. Metal sculpting and playing racquet ball are other activities he in which he participates.

Bjorn's photo of droplets of water on berries. Submitted photo

“I play racquetball for three hours, four to five days per week.”

He was once a champion in a doubles competition, playing with a man he had never met before.

“People couldn’t believe we were just playing together for the competition and said they thought we had been partners for life. We’ve never seen each other since then.”

Bjorn enjoys practicing his creativity in the kitchen. He was raised by his grandparents and four aunts who never married. At seven years old, His grandmother began to teach him how to cook, but he was peeling potatoes with her servants when he was just four and a half years old. He taught his daughter how to cook when she was much older by answering her cooking questions by emails.

“I started washing my own clothes when I was seven,” he stated. “I played soccer after school and got my uniforms dirty. I had to wash them by hand in cold water. I was taught to iron, too.”

Taken near the Ecuador/Peru border. Submitted photo

“At the age of eight, they taught me to stitch my socks. I put a lightbulb in the sock and stitched.”

He asked his aunts to teach him how to make beautiful blankets like they made.

“I was knitting and crocheting when I was nine years old.”

His grandfather found a job for the boy when he was just eight years old, after he had asked for a bicycle.

“I handed tools to mechanics from two o’clock to six o’clock after school and all day long on Saturdays,” he insisted. “I still have the bike.”

One of Bjorn's paintings which was painted with acrylics. Submitted photo.

When he was14, his grandmother told him, “You are a man. Now you are free to go into the world.”

Bjorn told about seeing and being influenced by “The Way,” a movie starring Martin Sheen and directed, produced and written by Sheen’s son, Emilio Estevez.

The movie is about a father who goes to Spain to retrieve his son’s body, after the younger man died while walking el Camino de Santiago or the Way of St. James. The father decides to attempt the 500-mile pilgrimage which he son had set out on before him.

The Way of St. James are several ancient routes that stretch across Europe, each ending at the tomb of St. James (Santiago) in northwest Spain. It is believed that the remains of St. James, who died in Jerusalem, were transported to and buried at Santiago de Compostela. A cathedral was erected at the sight. Believers throughout Europe journey to the cathedral to pay their respects. They set out from various locations to eventually come together on the ancient routes.

“It was two years after my divorce and I was down. I was the only person in the theater. I watched it twice,” he said. “On Wednesday I bought boots, backpack and clothes. On Thursday I asked my secretary to find a ticket to Spain for the next day. On Saturday I had lunch in Saint-Jean Pied de Port, France.”

Peppe Bjorn’s 4-feet by 7-feet photo of the Hungarian parliament building taken in Budapest, hangs in his bedroom. Submitted photo

Just four days after viewing the movie in April, 2012, with no preparation, Bjorn set out on the 560-mile French Way from Saint-Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago, Spain. Although this walk took others 30-35 days to complete, the novice walker completed it in 21 days, walking from 50 meters above sea level to 1,400 meters above sea level, staying in hostels along the way.

“When I had cramps in my legs and was wondering what I was doing here, I turned and saw a man with white hair who fell down because of bad knees. He inspired me.”

Again in 2014, Bjorn set out for the pilgrimage, but this time he took the northern way from Irun, Spain to Santiago, which was 795 kilometers, much of it along the coast of Spain. In 2016 he walked 890 kilometers from Lisbon, Portugal inland to Santiago and in 2018 1,200 kilometers from Cadiz, Spain.

The walk participants hang a large scallop shell from their backpack, which has been a symbol of the pilgrimage for hundreds of years. The shell may be used because of its many grooves resembling the different paths with the same ending.

“People have been walking this walk for over 1,000 years,” said Bjorn.

The energetic man is planning to walk in Japan in 2020. Today he has shared a recipe for a dish he created.

Orange Chicken with

Oregano Over Pasta

5 T olive oil

1/3 onion, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1/2 red pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

5 green olives, sliced

2 c mollejas (chicken gizzards), chopped

6-7 oz orange juice

5 tsp oregano

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Saute onion, celery, pepper, and garlic in olive oil until lightly browned. Add olives and chicken and continue sauteing until chicken is thoroughly cooked. Stir in orange juice and oregano and continue cooking 3 minutes. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Serve over pasta that has been cooked al dente.