The volcano’s medieval villages
Inland Girona has not always been quiet and peaceful. Almost thirty volcanoes formed In the quaternary period, to extinguish, leave fertile soil and dense vegetation. The last time these Paleozoic lands roared was eleven millennia ago, in the Croscat cone in Olot, the heart of the region.
The wooded landscape that emerged from volcanic soil combines with a medieval setting, on a strip dotted with charming villages. Not many years ago the road connecting Banyoles with the capital of Garrotxa was a small country road. Now this Catalan Pyrenean area is crossed by a highway which has made transport easier through the area and which, fortunately, has not put an end to the charm of the small towns.
We therefore have Castellfollit de la Roca, for instance, an elongated village of a thousand inhabitants which overlooks the steep road from a steep promontory. The village itself is a great viewpoint from which you can see the valley in its entirety, with sunrises over the horizontal cut and ancient stone floors.
Besalú is also a completely medieval enclave and is a must-see. Its nearly 3,000 people live with stone buildings and an imposing bridge that leads into the village, which lies beneath the mountain on which the castle was built that crowns the landscape. Its streets are reminiscent of the Middle Ages, with nooks and crannies, materials and a structure which, along with the local architecture, makes up one of the most important medieval complexes of the area.
Alongside the road is also Argelaguer, a small town of cobblestones and rock with fewer than 500 inhabitants, which until recently hosted one of the most unexpected treasures to the eyes of any visitor. There, near the road, stood an amazing maze built with branches and wooden walkways. The author, 74-year old resident of the area called Joan Pujiula, built it on land not belonging to him and maintained it boldly, allowing anyone who wanted to visit to go in free.
The phenomenal set of passageways and ladders climbed the trees and became a renowned tourist attraction which, due to continuous road widening, had to be taken down and rebuilt by the patient architect. It was finally decided that it had to be removed and this summer the last branches of the trees will be withdrawn.
As a memory of it, some photos and videos that can be found on the web. The lands of dormant volcanoes are accustomed to seeing the effects of time on the landscape.
Pictures of Inés Carrillo, Lluis Ribera and Pep Callís.
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