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Those interested in Catalonia’s fascinating past can now take a walk back in time on a history hike through the Pyrenees. Hiking and History, a new cultural tourism project in the region, has organised a number of routes, inspired by the paths and frontier crossings at important times in history.
The routes follow in the steps of Jewish exiles during the Second World War, fleeing to Spain to escape the Nazi Holocaust, while others track the paths of the Spanish republicans at the end of the Spanish Civil War, crossing into France.
At the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, many people from all over Spain had made their way to Catalonia in an attempt to escape Franco and his troops. Finally, around the 27th of January in freezing cold temperatures, the French authorities began to allow people to flee over the border. Similarly, but trying to escape in the opposite direction, many Jews fled across the mountains into Spain to escape Hitler from 1940 to 1945.
The main route covers a distance of 36 miles and takes 11 days to complete. It crosses the Eastern Pyrenees from Catalonia into France (or vice versa). Along the way, visitors will pass through Ripollès in the Girona province, as well as Alt Vallespir in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. Those who don’t want to do the whole route can undertake smaller hikes that last around three or four days.
Some of the main sights to see along the way include Torre de Mira, a watch tower standing at 1540 metres, which sent out smoke and fire signals for communication; Prats de Molló, a charming medieval village and strategic place along the border; and the Notre Dame du Coral monastery, dating back to the 13th century.
Trekkers can fly to either Barcelona, Girona, Perpignan or Toulouse to begin their hikes, which are designed to be self-guided and are of varying levels of difficulty. Visitors can also choose to travel the routes by bicycle or on horseback, adding a whole different dimension to the journey.