Sunday, 15 March 2009

Pilgrim People

A life in the day of Ivar Rekve

Ivar Rekve runs the largest forum for English speaking pilgrims on his website The forum has had over 23,000 visitors per month and has over 3800 members who so far have made almost 32,000 postings.

"I get up every morning between 7 and 7.30. After a shower I feed our cat Pepa and our labrador Cuco. Both of them sleep outside in our large walled garden where they can run around.
Our house is in the village of Brion in the countryside about 20 mins drive from Santiago de Compostela. I moved here five years ago with my wife Maria who is a Professor in the University.
I’m originally from Norway, from the village of Ulvik near the Hardanger fjord (pictured above). The family moved to Oslo when I was 13. After studying Psychology at the University of Oslo then Business Studies in Konsberg I moved to Washington State University where I met Maria who is from Lugo in Galicia.

After graduating with an MBA I went off to work in Silicon Valley. When Maria finished her PhD we both got jobs at Colorado State University and we lived there happily for two years. We then had to decide whether we wanted to remain in the USA long term or go back to Europe. Europe was the choice and we were lucky to move close to Santiago.

We both love this house in Brion although for five years we have been renovating it. It is a stone house from 1888 with vines and a 2500 m2 garden. I spend a lot of time outside mowing the law. I also have to press the grapes to make wine. But I don’t mind. The Galician countryside is very green like the best of Norway with the climate of Spain – although a bit rainy at times! I think that Galicians and Norwegians are alike – we are both a bit reserved.

After breakfast I log on to the internet to check e mails and look at what is happening on the Forum. I used to read every single post but nowadays it simply isn’t possible. But I do try to read as many as I can. I rely on the help of a small group of volunteer moderators who work hard to ensure that spammers are banned and that there is nothing offensive being posted. We communicate with each other a lot.

The idea for the Forum came when I was learning Spanish. I didn’t know a word when I came here! My original idea was to build an English language website about the town of Santiago but quickly it moved towards focussing on the pilgrimage. It has its own identity and the forum logo is also on a badge which many members put on their ruckasacks so they can recognise each other. The Forum has grown at a steady rate and I think there is a good mix between veteran pilgrims and new pilgrims who are just starting out and have lots of questions. It is a very friendly forum and people try to be helpful especially to newcomers. Spammers who post multiple offensive or advertising posts can bring a Forum like ours to its knees very quickly. Without the vigilance of the moderators constantly updating the forum software we could easily have 50 – 60 spammers signing up per day. But pilgrims find the Forum useful and I take a lot of satisfaction from that.

I work part time at the University so every day I make the drive there or to my new office at the Camino Travel Centre.

I usually have lunch at the University. It is amazingly good value with a Menu del Dia for 5 Euros – even better than a Pilgrims’ Menu.

My work at the University is IT focussed but over the years I have come to know more and more about the Pilgrimage routes to Santiago. I’ve also learned about the work of the Pilgrim Associations like the Confraternity of St James in London. They do a huge amount of work and they have been very supportive of the Forum. A few months ago Maria and I went to London to visit the Confraternity Office and to a church service and party to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

Through all of this I became aware that there are no dedicated facilities and services in Santiago for the increasing numbers of English speaking pilgrims. Pilgrims have been telling me that often they need help to make hotel or transport bookings, negotiate complicated transfers or just a place to go for help if they need to leave a bag in left luggage or find a way of getting out to Finisterre and back in one day. There are also individuals and groups for example in the United States or other distant countries who want to book hotels or hostals in advance of their Camino or need help getting to where they want to start.
Therefore I’ve decided to launch a service to meet these needs. I’ve called it the Camino Travel Centre and it is located right on the Camino Francés where it enters Santiago. I will soon offer a full range of services, transport and accommodation booking, I can organise a luggage forwarding service for those who needs it and left luggage in Santiago. All the practical travel assistance pilgrims might need.

I’ve been really busy setting this up but I try to leave for home at around 6pm every evening.

My favourite dinner is Peppered Steak with sauce and fries and if I can eat it with Maria and have Pink Floyd playing in the background it would be perfect. In music I also like everything from De Lillos to Luar Na Lubre.

The one confession I have to make is that I’ve never made a pilgrimage to Santiago. I am going to put that right soon. I promise.

I try to get to bed reasonably early. I am a great reader and I’ve recently finished the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson. On my bedside table at the moment is a copy of Myren (Swamp) by Arnaldur Indridason.

If I was to make three wishes they would be:

1 That my new venture will help pilgrims and will be reasonably successful

2 That next winter will not be so long and rainy

3 That Ryanair starts a new daily route from Santiago to Oslo "

Ivar Rekve will soon open the new Camino Travel Centre

Camino Travel Center Rua de San Pedro 3315703 Santiago de Compostela


  1. Ivar is surely well on his way to sainthood. His website and its forum are fantastic resources that really helped my wife and me with our Camino in 2008. We should all wish Ivar well with his new Camino Travel Center.

    - Derek in Canada

  2. Thanks for that, Johnnie. I visit Ivar's site regularly.

    Buen Camino

  3. Thanks for the inside information on Ivar. Of the many Camino sites out there, I find Ivar's to be the best. The interaction among veteran pilgrims and the novice pilgrims is very helpful. He has found a niche and is doing a great service...

    Perhaps I shall have the opportunity to meet him when I arrive in Santiago this May.

    In Sunny Santa Fe