All posts tagged: Espinavell

Pyrenees and Costa Brava- Horses, Castles and monuments

Espinavell

We take a step out of the house. The first impression is simply breathtaking. Sun rises up at the sky of the Costa Brava. Pictorial Pyrenees in the background. The smell of firewood creeps into our nose. Early in the morning we start from Torroella de Fluvià towards Espinavell to experience the annual horse-drift down from the mountains. The path takes us through stunning mountain scenery and small villages high up in the Pyrenees. Passing Besalú and Olot we stop in Camprodon. Crusty bread and delicious cheese of the region get packed. A traditional Catalan ´Coca´ with a sugar hood sweetens the rest of our way. Slowly moving forward to Espinavell we cross red-colored vine. Brightly colored trees are lining the serpentines. Only a few spots are still green. Autumn is knocking on.

Tria de Mulats- the traditional horse-drift

Horses running down the hills

Horses going downhill to Espinavell

We are moving forward to Mollo- a little municipality right in the pyrenees. For those who are afraid to ride the cliffy street up to Espinavell on their own buses are made available. We follow the numerous people up to the parking lot with our own car. Mud covers the floor and makes it pretty difficult to reach the parking lot. After several attempts we finally succeed. Crowds immediately passing us to the fairground. Many locals got dressed up for this special event. Every year on the day of St. Edward – 13 October – retailers and animal lovers meet to experience the traditional horse-drift in Espinavell. The little village seems do be in a state of emergency. Families, school classes and even tourists don´t want to miss the local spectacle. After months on the meadows, high up in the Pyrenees, horses and foals now get handed over to their owners or buyers. With concentrated power herds storming down the slope. The gathered crowd gives a brawly applause to „man and beast“.

Artesania- the colorful market

Olives in Espinavell

Delicious olives on a market stand

We stroll along the many market stalls. From traditional products of animal husbandry to sweet and savory delicacies of own production- everyone is able to find something. You definitely should take a walk up to the centre of the small romantic mountain village Espinavell. You will enjoy a fantastic panoramic view up there. A warming catalan coffee is irreplaceable. Later on the most beautiful horses will be awarded by an expert jury.

Horses grazing

View down to the horses and fairground

Free wild life on the mountain meadows with delicious wild herbs is over by now. When the last snow thawed and the spring sun attracts the first flowers in the next year the horses will be back in the highlands. The festival lasts until the evening. Many take advantage of the culinary coffer to enjoy a delicious lunch at the unique restaurant of Espinavell. For us it´s time to move towards the French border.

French Impressions

The french border is only half an hour to go and we use the afternoon to visit the neighboring country. Enjoying picturesque landscapes and charming little villages with a typical French atmosphere. From Ceret over to Le Boulou the way leads us back near the coast to Collioure. Even in mid-october the small colorful artist-village is still well attended. Since Henri Matisse and his fellow artist André Derain discovered the sleepy fishing village in 1904 it is considered as a „mecca of art“. Red roof tiles. Ornate balcony railings. Blue shutters. Pastel-colored facades. Winding streets. Steep staircases. Ancient fortresses. Different kind of boats in the harbor. All that details form a picturesque backdrop and beautiful holiday memories. So, no wonder that even the kings of Majorca were huge supporters of the village and used the castle – now a museum – as their summer residence.

Castle in Collioure

Former castle of the Majorcan kings

We stroll through the small village center, browse through small boutiques and delicatessens. Enjoying a cappuccino and the view to the harbor before we go back on the road towards Spanish border. Vines now dominate the surrounding landscape.

We are in the middle of Roussillon and drive through the wine-growing region of Banyuls. A wine of Banyuls may remind you of a good port wine, characterized by intense flavors of honey, dried fruits and vanilla.

Unlimited

Further along the coast we are now back in the direction of Spain. No barrier, no fence, no border post market the crossover from France to Spain these days. Once upon a time many refugees killed themselves across the Pyrenees because they had no way out.

Memorial of Walter Benjamin

Memorial of Walter Benjamin in Portbou

We stop near Portbou to take a look at the Walter Benjamin Memorial which is called “passages”. This was designed in 1994 by the Israeli artist Dani Karavan in memory of the philosopher Walter Benjamin. “The Temporary, short duration” describes his escape from the Gestapo in an impressive way and which ended tragically. The quote of Benjamin at the end of the tunnel high above the sea is even more relevant: „It is heavier to honor the memory of the nameless than the famous. The memory of the nameless is therefor dedicated by the historical construction.“

Thoughtfully we continue towards Figueres.  The contrasts of mountains and rugged coastline captivates us. Flora and fauna show themselves in their most beautiful way. Winter seems still far away. But the first migratory birds already landed on the Mediterranean. The last tourists soon leave the beaches. Hibernation is coming.

The many impressions of today will be with us for a long time…

Panorama view on the road to Setcasa.

“Suddenly, I feel really, really small…”

Suddenly, I feel really, really small. Endless wideness spreads out in front of me like a map, the shadows of the clouds above me move on the grassland like blackbirds. A huge painting, spreckled with trees and cattle, the air is so crisp, I almost don‘t dare breathing it. Freedom is a slippery word, which escapes our fingertips as soon as we try to catch it. A dancing feather in the sky of our wishes as it were – we‘re all looking for it, but no one knows where it‘s hiding. At this place, I suddenly get a feeling of catching a fleeting glimpse into it‘s face. I was never a mountain lover, I always gave priotity to the cliffy coastline and the view of the limitless ocean, but now, my heart suddenly beats faster.

Panorama view over the Pyrenees.

We‘re hitting the road into the rocky heart of the Costa Brava early in the morning – the weather coulnd‘t be any better, I‘m sitting in an old car, a full cool bag on the backseat, the wind is stroking my face and the air smells of fresh mowed grass and endless summerdays. The route takes us across Castell Follit de la Roca via Oix, Beget and Espinavell to Setcasa, a tiny point on the map, looking like a coffee stain in the centre of green surface. I‘ve only read about the spectacular pyrenees in several travelbooks before, but it was not until now that I understood it.

Beget is one of the villages we passed.

The rustic charme of the little villages we‘re passing is quite diffrent to the classiness of the coastal towns. I can‘t tell whether the stony walls or the old framehouses are more beautiful, the buildings are decorated with blooming flowers, tired hikers are taking a break in front of the restaurants. From their wrought – iron balconys, the inhabitants are looking down on the narrow streets. I can‘t take my eyes of the wide wilderness – even the most unromantic person in the world softens up on this atmosphere.
Although our cool back is already full as a tick, it‘s impossible to resist the nordic treats – freshmade bread, cottage cheese, smoked ham. I really love seafood and fish, but I have to admit, that this is at least just as well.
After our stop in Espinavell, we finally reach the road to Setcasa. Whereat road is probably not the right word for it, it‘s more a narrow gravel path, curling trough the heart of the mountains like the body of a sleeping snake. It‘s a two hours journey – we‘re extending to three, because we‘re stopping every two minutes to take a look out of the window and to breathe the fresh air.

A cow next to the road to Setcasa.

And at this point, it‘s happening. I‘ve had this feeling once before, when I was on a sixday roadtrip along the Great Ocean Road and the cliffy coastline showed it‘s face with all it‘s roughness. This time, it‘s even more crazy. In the centre of all this endless wideness, becomes the border between human and natur suddenly blurred and the immenseness of it‘s power is awaking to me. I actual get the feeling, that it is impossible to decribe those impressions – they don‘t even fit into my head. I just want to fall into a state of trance and stare out of my window for the next hours.

Setcasa is tiny but beautiful.

After three hours, Setcasa hustles us back into reality. The farm track runs over into a paved road and 80 km/h appears like a car race. I‘m still a bit dazed – but I also grin like a Cheshire cat. Setcasa is as charming as the other villages – it seems to be a attraction pole for hungry hikers, the restaurants are full of people, there are almost more hotels than normal houses and honey, almonds and cheese are sold on the village square. It‘s a perfect place to breathe deeply and return to civilisation after this journey. On our way back, I look back to the silhouette of the pyrenees once again. I‘m gonna come back.