Places in The Pyrenees;
February 15th, 2010
Llivia is what is known as an exclave, a piece of territory wholly surrounded by the territory of another state, in this case France. This curious state of affairs was brought about by the stipulations of the 1659 Treaty of the Pyrenees which ceded the counties of the Northern Pyrenees and Roussillon to the French crown. Llívia was excluded as the treaty stipulated that only villages were to be ceded to France, and Llívia was considered a city due to its status as the ancient capital of Cerdanya. In 1939 at the end of the Spanish Civil War, there was discussion on the idea of Llívia remaining a free territory of the defeated Republican government, but nothing ever came of the plan, and France gave Franco’s troops permission to occupy the town. Today a single road connects it to Catalonia.
Llivia is home to what is reputedly the oldest chemist in Europe, now a museum, possibly dating from the early 15th century. The small town is set in the beautiful Vall de la Cerdanya.
Estany Gento (Gento Lake) holds the record for the coldest ever recorded temperature in Spain with a nippy -32ºC in 1956, though experts suspect that some of the peaks in the Aragonese Pyrenees have fallen as low as -40ºC. The lake, on the edge of Aigüestortes national park, is glacial in origin. A municiapl hotel is open from July to September.
The Mallos de Riglos are remarkable, almost sheer rock formations in Huesca, forming part of the foothills of the Pyrenees. The rocks are conglomerates and were formed during the Miocene.
Unsurprisingly, these 300-high cliffs are a Mecca for climbers from around the world, and the little village of Riglós nestled improbably below the rocks does a very nice business in accommodating them. However, some of the most demanding routes require spending a free night in a tiny tent strapped to the bare rock face. I suffer from a degree of vertigo and the idea of waking up half way up the sheer face of Los Mallos is one of my all-time favourite nightmares, though I do get a frisson (and a stiff neck) watching those who dare to climb these looming beasts, each of which has its own name; El Puro, El Pisón, Castilla, Volaos, Cuchillo, Frenchín, Visera and Fire.
The Castillo de Loarre is a superb example of a Romanesque castle and one of the most spectacular castles in Spain. It was built in the 11th and 12th centuries, occupying a strategic point on the frontier between the Christian north and the Moslem kingdom of Zaragoza to the south. The building was begun in around 1020 by Sancho el Mayor, after conquering the land from the Moors. It is sometimes claimed to be the oldest fortified castle in Spain”
The castle offers stunning views from the craggy ramparts of Sierra de Loarre across the plains of the Hoya de Huesca. A number of films have been shot here including, Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven.
I have fond memories of Loarre, watching vultures soaring just a few metres past the turrets where I stood on a freezing November afternoon.
Aneto is the highest mountain in the Pyrenees at 3,404 metres is part of the Maladetta ridge. The Aneto glacier is still the largest in Spain with 163 ha. though it is melting fast due to climate change and is predicted to succumb by the mid-late 21st century. The glacier covered some 692 ha in 1894 at the close of the so-called Little Ice Age. Aneto’s French name, Pic de Néthou, is in disuse as the mountain lies entirely within Spain, specifically in the province of Huesca in Aragon. First climbed in 1842 by a Russian named Chikhachev. Continue reading