All posts tagged: Villages

Besalú – Medieval charm

The back country of the Costa Brava is filled with treasures. Where overcrowded cities and beaches take a back seat, the focus is on rural tranquility and medieval beauty. In quiet, car-free old towns with beautiful, lovingly restored buildings, you start a journey into another time.
Destination: The most beautiful medieval villages of Catalonia. One of them – Besalú.

Besalú - Pyrenees

The beauty of the Costa Brava, right in front of you!

Enchanted by Besalú

Starting point of our little journey through Besalú: The gigantic, perfectly restored bridge Pont Vell. The view of the beautiful bridge, its two majestic towers, the river Fluvià, the picturesque old town with numerous medieval stone houses and the foothills of the Pyrenees is simply overwhelming. Nobody can resist here: Taking pictures of this view is a must!

Besalu - old town - medieval

Impressive, isn’t it?

Back to the past

Unleashed from everyday life, we enter a place far away from stress and worries. Small, narrow streets lead to the village square, the Plaça Llibertat with lively little restaurants and cafés. The Monastery of Sant Pere leaves you very stunned. Our thoughts wander far into the past. Our next stop: the Church of Sant Vicente – also an impressive Romanesque building.

 

Definitely a highlight

In the former Jewish quarter, a very special highlight awaits us: a Jewish ritual bath. Only four of these species have survived across Europe – Wow! You cannot miss that. Such a magical place ..

A perfect walk..

A true masterpiece – Besalú

From the bank of the river Fluvià, we enjoy the unique view of the majestic bridge and the medieval work of art Besalú for the last time. While listening to the lapping of the river, we feel the passing time and the history surrounding this magical place.

 

 

 

pals medieval village

Pals – Medieval Catalan beauty

Travelling through medieval times.  The Spanish region Catalonia is known for many things. Breathtaking scenery, similar to Italy’s Tuscany, the impressive coast with its steep cliffs and the seemingly endless Mediterranean… and of course a number of charming villages captivating with their history.

medieval village pals

Hidden corners in the medieval village

Medieval idyll

With its 2500 inhabitants, the small and historical town Pals is classified as one of the ten most beautiful Catalan villages. After a visit on an early autumnal but sunny afternoon in September, I now understand perfectly why.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Situated on a small hill, Pals’ name derives from the Latin word “palus” meaning marsh. As the name already insinuates it was once surrounded by lakes and moors. These days the village is lined by trees in all shades of green and paddy fields where the typical Spanish paella rice is produced. Arriving at the villages entrance, we abandon our car and continue by foot – the only way you should be passing these hilly, narrow streets!

Time travel in the Catalan village

pals medieval village

Medieval time travel in Pals

After taking a few steps we reach Pals’ gates and feel as if we’re transferred to a different era. Those who are expecting even a touch of modernity are searching in vain. Thanks to an impeccable restauration the whole villages medieval basic structure is still well-preserved. You can almost hear the horse’s hooves on the bumpy cobblestone of Pals’ narrow streets and our thoughts wander… What life must have been like here in earlier times?

Torre de les Hores – the town’s landmark

medieval pals

Torre de les Hores in medieval Pals

We continue our path along the old stone walls covered with picturesque ivory and reach the town’s landmark. The “Torre de les Hores” – a Romanesque tower – sits majestically on top of the hill characterising the townscape. Moving further you find yourself on a little square with a viewing platform overlooking the beautiful surroundings and the dark blue sea. On clear days you’ll even be able to see the Medes Isles.

 

 

medieval pals

Green idyll in Pals

 

After enjoying the panoramic view for a while, we stroll down the old stone steps to the centre of the village. For those looking for a refreshment or a bite to eat, Pals offers a nice selection of cafés and restaurants considering the villages rather low number of inhabitants. One definitely doesn’t have to starve in Pals!

 

 

 

After this first travel through time to the Middle Ages one thing is for sure: we are excited to see what the other nine villages have to offer!

Idyll Made of Stone – Peratallada

The back country of the Costa Brava, not far away from Girona, is cut from a very different cloth. Here, you can find the most beautiful medieval villages of Catalonia. These seem to send you into another time, if it weren’t for the tourists running around with the latest camera technology.

       

Peratallada – is one of those magical places full of history! Hardly any other village surprises with such an authentic, medieval charm.

Peratallada - stone houses - Costa Brava

Beautiful stone houses to discover in Peratallada …

Peratallada – “carved stone”

Peratallada — derived from “pedra tallada”, meaning “carved stone” — lives up to its name. Surrounded by a moat and a gigantic fortification wall, the place carries a medieval charm and rural silence hidden behind stone walls.

       

Far from the crowded beaches

The streets, the towers, the houses, the archways, even the church and the castle – everything is made out of natural stone and has been renovated with lots of love in the past few years. Numerous coffee bars, restaurants and hotels create a friendly atmosphere far away from the crowded beaches. Some small boutiques with souvenirs, ceramic and clothes tempt you to go shopping.

shops - peratallada - costa brava

Welcoming shops in the centre

Majestic church Sant Esteve

Having left the village over the fortress bridge after a relaxing walk through the shaded alleys, you’ll see another medieval jewel: The gigantic Roman church Sant Esteve, dating back to the 13th century, majestically rises just outside the doors of the village and forms a popular photo scene.

Church - Peratallada - medieval village

Beautiful, gigantic church Sant Esteve

Time to pay a visit to Peratallada!

Peratallada is on the toplist of the 10 most beautiful villages of Catalonia and is definitely worth visiting …

Traditionelles Dorfhaus

The road to silence – excursion

On an early morning in April, we hit the road to silence. You can find it only a few kilometres away from the beaches of the Cost Brava, in the small medieval villages of the Empordà area. There, time passes slower.

Less speed is more

In an old Mercedes we make our way through wide meadows and olive groves and even pass a grazing flock of sheep. Above us, the blue infinity of the southern sky. Today’s motto: less speed is more: more impression, more experience, more enjoyment. Always online, always available – today we are not. The world turns faster every day, times of peace are rare. Therefore, it’s important to discover silence in a new way. Deceleration is today’s programme. Yesterday, breathless through space and time. Today, we walk slowly, intentionally, through the quiet alleys, deserted landscapes and spend the siesta between ancient walls of romantic, medieval places.

Alley with archway

The nice spring sun is playing tricks with light and shade.

Idyllic country life

One of these places on our journey is Vulpellac. Here, you can find a stone castle, built between the 13th and 16th century, looking over the crooked roofs of the houses. The church connected to the castle was once the castle’s chapel. We admire tendrils and huge lemon trees. A cat scurries through an archway.The small alleys around the castle absorb us and the sunlight for one moment, and then release us a few minutes later. The village is covered in silence. An old friendly man greets us. We don’t remain unnoticed. At this time of year there are no foreigners here. Immediately we get exposed as foreign tourists and people are observing us. Whether our camera is able to capture the magic of this place? Better if you look for yourself.

Ancient building

Castle of Vulpellac, dating back to the 13th century.

Let’s keep unwinding

Not far away, you can find the place Canapost with its beautiful Romanesque church, dedicated to Saint Steven. From here, we go to Peratallada. This village is considered a jewel and is visited by many people during summer. Also today, we are not alone in this village surrounded by walls, impressing with traditional medieval structure. At the car park, we still don’t have to pay a charge and we easily find a place between the few hired cars of the first tourists. Peratallada is dominated by its castle and the Romanesque church Sant Esteve. We stroll through the crooked alleys and delightful squares. In the old town centre you can find many small restaurants, located in charmingly renovated historic stone houses. Almost all of the boutiques and small shops are still closed right now. We find a free table on one of the terraces between the arcades of the Plaça de Les Voltes. It’s time for some tapas and a glass of cold white wine. Relaxed, we are looking at the square. A nervous dog moves back and forth, hoping for a dropped down bite. Unfortunately, he has bad luck, as his owner calls him back. The owner from one of the restaurants in front of us is looking desperately for some guests. So far, only a few people came here for having lunch. When the season starts, they will fight for free tables. But today, the locals still enjoy the slowness. Also, our waiter is very relaxed and serves his few guests on the sun-drenched terrace without any stress. We wanted deceleration, so don’t complain and keep unwinding. The moment is wonderful and the day still has a lot to offer.

Café Peratallada

Sitting in a restaurant, we enjoy the view over the lovely square.

Back to reality

After another walk through the town, we decide to visit Pals. Here, we are back in commercialism. A few coaches just have parked in front of the medieval place. If we hurry, we might can get rid of the tourist masses. But then, deceleration and peace is over. The one way or the other. Nevertheless, a look a the Medes Islands and a short round through the picturesque village is a must. Finally, we are lucky and find a small hidden café, away from the hustle and bustle, where we finish our trip with a café con leche. Slowly, the sky turns pink and the sun disappears behind the mountains on the horizon. It’s time to go back into reality. Hopefully, there will be time for more moments of deceleration.

View over Pals

One last view, then it’s time to go back to real life.

 

Road Trip to the French Border

Curious about what the Pyrenees might look like from the other side, we start out on a road trip with direction to France. The sun is shining through the open hood of our car and the nothern wind Tramuntana causes the leaves to dance. Our journey takes us through the countryside, passing by numerous little villages of the Empordà which provide a view at the mountains and the sea.

We cross the Aiguamolls at Castelló d’Empúries. In the midst of the marsh land which is a nature conservation a swarm of storks stops us. The huge birds strut around sociably among cows.

Aiguamolls-Storks-Cows
We go uphill to reach Vilajuïga where the mineral water’s source of the “Aigua de Vilajuïga“ is located. We know the water from the supermarket. The inhabitants of Vilajuïga are allowed to draw the water from the source’s public tap for free. The water is said to have magic powers, so we need to try it.

Next, we follow the signpostings to Sant Pere de Rodes, taking the pass up to the foothills of the nature park Cap de Creus. We stop high up at Mas Ventós and enjoy the breath-taking view over the Empordà’s vastness up to the sea. The Pyrenees’ white peaks mark the horizon.

We go onwards to Sant Pere de Rodes. The former Benedictine monastery thrones illustriously upon a rock. The road steeply leads down to the sea from here. The view down at the coastal town El Port de la Selva and Llança is enchanting. We go further through vineyards and cliffs until we reach Colera. The sleepy little village just before the French border attracts us to take a break and to drink a coffee nearby the sea.

Portbou is our last stop before we cross the border. We visit the memorial of Walter Benjamin. The Israeli sculptor Dani Karavan has created an impressive accessable memorial by creating “Passages“ – a tunnel made of rusty steel leads the visitors many stairs down the cliff and nearly meets the sea. A glass screen on which one of Benjamin’s quotes are engraved bolts the access to the horizon.

The last Pyrenees’ foothills dive into the Mediterranean Sea between France and Spain. We take the winding road up to the neighbouring country. O

nly the deserted border houses, now covered with graffiti, remind of the formerly guarded French border. Everybody is now able to pass in both directions.

Time and time again, wars create limits which were many people’s undoing. Today, we are happy to live in a united Europe and are able to detect – travelling freely – that the Pyrenees are as impressive as from the other side in Spain.

Die Kirche in Torroella de Fluvià.

Small places, big partys!

Last sunday wasn‘t a good day. It was not because of the grey sky ( I really can‘t blame the sun for not having done a great job so far) and it was not because every sunday the bell of the church awakes the whole, sleepy village at 8 o‘clock, so that even the people, who never enter the church, can‘t stay in bed any longer.Thanks to my head, that I had such a bad day – you couldn‘t even call it a hangover, it was more like a circus. The good thing about those hangoverish days is, that they normally suggest that you had a great night before.The past weekend showed me once again, that you neither need a big city, nor clubs, nor expensive cocktails, nor famous DJ‘s to organize a good party – my feet are still sore from dancing all night at the village square.

Die Kirche in Torroella de Fluvià.

August and september seem to be the celebration months along the coast. There‘s hardly ever a weekend without a village holding it‘s Fiesta Mayor and inviting inhabitants and visitors to participate and have fun. My first village party was overdue, that‘s why I decided to spend my saturday night in Torroella de Fluvià. The place seemed like a buzzing beehive all day – tables were carried, a stage was build up, boxes where placed. Even I felt a little bit of excitement, when we walked towards the stage after sunset, where they were just announcing the band.

My first Fiesta Mayor.

The atmosphere was amusing, absurdly and absolutly nice – it couldn‘t have been any better. Children were playing around their drinking parents, visibly happy, that they were allowed to stay up all night. The teenagers of the village were already in front of the stage, cigarettes and bottles in their hands, the older inhabitants made way for the younger people and sat with smiling faces on folding chairs.In summary: This was probably the most variegated crowd, I‘ve ever seen – in Berlin, they sometimes send you away, because you‘re not wearing the right shoes and my grandmother would be out of the place in one of the nightclubs there.There was plenty of beer, which was served in plastic cups by the mayor, who raised his glass whenever someone ordered another drink.

The Fiesta Mayor takes place every year.

Even if the vibe was already great, it was not until the band 7 D Rock began to play, that the whole village suddenly became alive. Neither rain nor tiredness could pollute the party mood – 15 minutes later, all feet were moving.I can‘t remember when I went home – I think I stayed longer than I actually planned at the beginning and the music was playing until dawn.Anyway, this night showed me once again, that it‘s a basic need of humans all over the world to celebrate and have fun together – no matter, how small the place is and where the party takes place. Luckily, the following weekends are going to satisfy this need.

Just to let you know – it’s well worth seeing the band 7 D Rock. They gonna play on several villages partys along the coast. 

31.08. Aitona // 07.09. Guissona // 10.09. Viladrau // 14.09. Vilafant // 29.09. Lleida