The Pyrenees form the natural border between Spain and France and separate the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of Europe. On a warm spring day, we hit the road for exploring this no man’s land at the northern part of Catalonia and for learning what endless wideness and absolute harmony with nature really mean.
We start at Torroella de Fluvià and go towards Darnius and enter into another world. Dense cork-oak forests cover the mountainous landscape like a blanket and narrow streets, seamed by blossoming broom plants, lead us upwards towards the snowcapped peaks.
Narrow streets and small villages
Like a thin thread the street winds upwards to the heights of the Pyrenees and passes small rivers and valleys through bridges, which seem to melt together with the subsoil. We pass Maçanet de Cabrenys and Tapis and get to the French Coustouges. If the street signs were not in French, you would not notice the difference, because time seems to pass slower there. Neighbours are having a chat at the one corner, children are playing at the other and one step further a man makes his way home with a fresh baguette. The narrow and steep alleys of the mountain villages remain silent. The natural stone houses adapt to the hillsides of the mountains and create a pleasant atmosphere.
Textile manufacture in the middle of the Pyrenees
Just in time we get to Saint-Laurent-de-Cerdans. It is almost 12 o’clock and they still let us into the showroom of “Les Toiles Du Soleil“ before making their lunch break. Since the 19th century, the traditional Catalan company high up in the Pyrenees produces high quality cotton and flax textiles. We not only find ourselves in the village’s last textile manufactory, but also in a textile paradise. They use the colourfully striped materials to manufacture pillowcases, napkins, cooking aprons and much more. If you like sewing yourself, you can also take home piece goods or rests of textiles. An extensive spending spree later, we sit back in the car and continue our journey.
The magic of the mountain villages
The narrow street leads us past the villages of Le Tech and Prats-de-Mollo-la-Preste back to Espinavell in Spain. The houses there seem to stick to the mountains as they are built on top of each other. Down at the river, where they drive by the horses from mountain pastures down to the valley every autumn, there is a small country hotel. There we eat delicious fresh trouts. After this unique taste experience, we head towards Molló. In the centre you can find an incredibly big Romanesque church, compared to the size of the village. We are winding up our way through the mountains, cross various times the river Ter and finally get to Camprodon. Especially the arch bridge “Pont Nou“, connecting both banks like a wooden brick, is something to remember there. Also in Sant Joan de les Abadesses you can find such a bridge. However, this small town is famous for the history of its convent dating back to the 8th century. The last stop is Ripoll with its beautiful Romanesque Benedictine monastery, the first one in Spain. Inspired by the St. Peter’s Church in Rome, the monks created a true oasis of peace.
Back from the mountains
With a few pieces of fresh coca (bread) and a lot of impressions we finally make our way home. Slowly we dive back into the loud and stressful daily life at the feet of the silence found up in the mountains. We leave behind the isolation of the villages, the endless expanse of the mountain range and the feeling of being able to touch the clouds at the highest point of the mountain pass.