Places of Memory
There are two Walter Benjamin Routes in Portbou, clearly marked with information panels.
- The Town Route takes in the places where the thinker spent his last hours (the international train station, where he presented himself to the police, and the Hostal França, where he died) and the town cemetery, with the grave in which his remains lay for five years before they were transferred to the common burial ground and the memorial that the sculptor Dani Karavan has created in his memory.
- The Cross-border Route from Banyuls in France to Portbou over Querroig and down into the valley of Portbou follows for 95% of the way the track from France into Spain that Benjamin took to escape persecution as a Jew. The French section was opened in 2007. The precise course of the Catalan route taken by Benjamin’s party, led by Lisa Fittko, was lost for years because the track had disappeared, until the discovery of an old map in Portbou Town Hall in 2008 made it possible to retrace it. The route, which was marked out and opened in its entirety in the summer of 2009, is about 7 km long and can be walked in 5 hours. Guides are available to accompany groups or individuals on the cross-border trek.
Description of the Route:
Also known as the Lister Route, after General Enrique Lister, who led the 1lth Division of the Republican army over the border into France, this old smugglers’ trail can be walked in either direction, but to be true to the path that Walter Benjamin took we must go from north to south. Starting in the southern outskirts of Banyuls we pass a residential estate and the Puig del Mas, then an area of vines, terraced with drystone walls, and a gentle climb brings us to Mas Guillaume and the Coll del Bast pass. Benjamin spent the night here, on this bare plateau. On the highest point of the ridge we can see the mediaeval tower of Querroig. After Coll del Bast the path become steeper and, leaving the vineyards, leads through a wood of holm-oaks in the shadiest and most secluded part of the mountain of Querroig. We pass a pylon; the dried-up Font de Bana spring is close by. Climbing up this steep and stony terrain we come to the Coll de Rumpissa (or Rumpisó): at 583 metres, the highest point on the route. From here we can see the bay of Portbou and we begin our descent to the seasonal water course in the bottom of the valley and then on to the town of Portbou. The route, with information panels at various points, is marked in yellow.