Border places often have a special attraction and history, and Portbou is no exception having the privilege of being: The last village in the Pyrinees, the first Train Station country’s border and the northernmost town in the Mediterranean Sea.
Sea of coves and pristine beaches. Maybe the most untouched and wild village of the called Costa Brava. One of the last places where we can still while away the hours in silence, while we fish, get lost in a little boat or captivated for the stunning pure blue waters. A great mountain range juts into the sea with high peaks resulting in a rugged coastal mountains landscape while the horizon you reach from everywhere, is all the time dominated by the blue sea and the Tramontana wild wind that dominates human activity here.
‘Re-discovered’ by north Europe tourists from earlies 1950s, since then every summer thousands of travelers come from anywhere in the continent in search of the sun and its small tiny beaches,tourism has become the main economic local activity, concentrated only our said ‘6-months-summer-like-weather’. It was wonderful to re-check only last year that tourist industry is so authentic and narrow enough to maintain the village idiosyncracy and that stil, from the very beginning you arrive there, keeps having the feeling of an ‘iniciatic’ trip. From the first foot you put off the train to the border top french mountains that is only a walk to the bottom harbour, with all kinds of boats, from the most luxurious to the most traditional, til the felt cemetery or tiny beaches.
In 1940 the last civil Spanish war battle took place in Portbou. Same year, that the german philosopher and art historian Walter Benjamin, found death here. Benjamin’s death on 27 September 1940 in the Hotel de Francia in Portbou remains a mystery. Recognised as one of the most important philosophers of the 20-century has an inspiring route and Memorial here called ‘Pasajes’, built in 1999 by israeli artist Dani Karavan. A staircase descends to the sea and is only stopped by a glass that borders the abyss. It is a song to silence, to stop for a moment amidst all the noise, and to think that behind us there were days and events. A month later, in October 1940, Hannah Arendt, Benjamin’s personal friend and as unorthodox as he was, visited the tomb and shortly afterwards wrote: “The cemetery faces the bay, directly on the Mediterranean, is carved in stone and glides on the cliff. It is one of the most fantastic and most beautiful places I have ever seen.”
We will visit : Walter Benjamin Memorial and route, neo-gothic Santa Maria Church, the international Railway Station built in 1929, the Cemetery, relevant houses, ‘Ninots’ water source,views, beaches, little squares full of life and delicacies.
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