Entering the Camino from the Spanish side of the Pyrenees at the mountain pass near Roncevalles, one would normally encounter herds of sheep glazing among the many grassy slopes.
The term “Counting Sheep” would naturally come into mind as there is little to do than to walk pass the herds to the nearest town or village and settle in for the night. Back in the late Eighth Century, the same sleepy mountainous area was the scene of one of most famous ambush and escape that nearly took the life of Charlemagne, the first Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Upon retreating from an unsuccessful expedition into Iberia from France, Charlemagne’s rear guards under his very famous military commander Roland was ambushed and killed by Basque forces at the mountain pass near Roncevalles. Charlemagne’s main army and vanguards had just gone through the same pass where the ambush took place. It was one lesson that had troubled Charlemagne for years. Even a thousand years later in the 19th Century, Napoleon decided to choose another wider pass further away to avoid suffering the same fate when exiting Iberia.