Last month I’ve been exploring Catalonia. Positively surprised. Spain is so charming, yet full of ‘the good life’ vibes. I know the city of Barcelona, Málaga and Granada, but when you look further than Barcelona you’ll discover something beautiful. When you fly low budget to Barcelona you usually fly on the airport of Girona and after you probably travel straight onwards to Barcelona. Few people know that Girona itself is a charming city, and that there is beautiful countryside and charming medieval villages in the area. It’s worth it to rent a car and explore the area. From Girona, I explore the area. Here I’ve been telling you stories about Baix Émporda, Banyoles and the coastal path in Calella de Palafrugell. Today part two: Garrotxa Volcanic National Park, Begur, Santa Pau and La Vall D’en Bas.
Garrotxa Volcanic National Park
I’m surprised. Volcanoes in Spain? It turns out to be the truth. In Catalonia, you’ll find the Garrotxa Volcanic National Park and this area includes the volcanic area of Olot. Here, forty (extinct) volcanoes are to count. It is a short ascent to one of the volcanoes, but I walk further. I stroll through fields full of poppies and forests full of amazing trees. Horses graze in the distance, and a single church tower raises above the trees. A bird of prey remains flying circles above my head, and I feel so void as a tiny mouse on this immense globe. Before I know I find myself standing at the edge of the crater. Wind and sand storms past my eyelashes, I continue my way into the heart of the volcano. I shuffle by the red, black and brown sand and I am amazed by these different shades of volcanic sand and this swept away piece of land, where nature is trying so hard to grow and prosper again. I am standing in the middle of the volcano ‘Croscat’, a place of mysterious beauty, and I make a wish.
After exploring the volcano I leave for Begur, a medieval fortified town. From the moment I set foot within this town, I feel at home. It is as if time has stood still. Begur hits me. The great history is noticeable and with its small streets, this is a quaint village. A beautiful castle ruin stands, as a crown, on the hill. There are bohemian shops on every street corner and here, you can still find beautiful leather bags for twenty euros. I explore the city and I directly notice the striking, painted mansions. This iconic villas are the legacy of the Indians in the 18th and 19th centuries. A soft, warm wind finds its way through the narrow alleys and occasionally, my hair dances as flaming fire in front of my eyes. Just for a moment, then all remains quiet. The walk to the castle leads me along white houses that give the street an Andalusian sight and on top of the hill I enjoy an insanely view over Catalonia. I see cats and colorful tables with food and water. Begur turns out to be cat-friendly and gives water and food to all cats in town. I like that. I drive from Begur to the countryside and I’m staying in Can Bassa, an old bed and breakfast in the vast landscape.
Santa Pau & La Vall D’en Bas
As well, I rejoiced Santa Pau with a short visit. Santa Pau is one big medieval monument. A village full of charm and magic. I am amazed, this village consists only of medieval castles, walls and towers. I don’t see anyone on the streets, until I discover an elderly Catalan couple. They enjoy the view from the castle wall, and I think they have done no different over the past 30 years. They look calm. They are whispering something, it must be Catalan. I would like to understand them, but I don’t. The comment of the Catalan man in Girona plays through my mind. “I am not a Spaniard, I am a Catalan!” he said full of passion while his proud gaze met mine. I think he is proud of me now. I float along the immense castle and through the narrow streets that all lead to the Plaça Major, and when I close my eyes feel a medieval princess. I hear the sound of glasses and festivities and horses running. Once, there where markets and events organized by the country gentlemen at this place, now it’s nearly deserted. The square is edged with arch galleries – magical. I end my journey of discovery through Catalonia in La Vall D’en Bas, with a beautiful sight on the mountain tops. The pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela walks along here, and walking that route is one hell of a point on my bucket list.
Garrotxa Volcanic National Park
La Vall D’En Bas