We missed the landscapes of Catalonia and now that confinement is over, here we take them to you. We have started with a coastal landscape at the exceptional coast of Costa Brava.
Beach even on cloudy days.
Our first destination was the Costa Brava. Girona province coastline is an endless combination of cliffs, small bays and long beaches that create an exceptional landscape.
It’s one of those places where you don’t end up in a day or a week. Or we could even say that you never end up, because you always end up discovering new landscapes, whether you see them on a radiant sunny day or a cloudy day.
This is what happens to us with Tossa de Mar. Tossa is one of the towns that best combines heritage and beach. Its monumental ensemble is spectacular. And whenever we look at it, we think about the pirate attacks that made it grow.
Today, we look at the sea and the horizon and we imagine distant destinations to go on holiday, but for many centuries, the inhabitants of the coast looked at it with fear and concern.
Because pirates, who have been so idealized by Hollywood, have been the terror of the Mediterranean for a long time.
They were already in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, but the conquest of Jaume I of the island of Mallorca and the rest of the Balearic islands kept the danger out for a while.
The maritime expansion of the Crown of Aragon and its dominion over the Mediterranean made people hadn’t to worry until the 16th century, when, the advance of the Ottoman Empire from Istanbul to the West meant the entry into play of one of the most famous and feared pirates in history, Redbeard.
More than a pirate, a privateer
We often use both names as synonyms, and they are not. Although both are engaged in assaulting ships on the high seas and coastal villages, there are some difference between them.
A privateer, and Redbeard was, had a Letter of Marque. And what is that? So, it’s a royal permit allowing the holder to perform this military-commercial activity, in this case the Ottoman Empire, that allowed to attack ships of enemy countries and to remain with them and their merchandize.
That is, unlike a pirate, who attacks any ship, a privateer will only attack those allowed by the Letter of Marque, and will never attack his own state, or his allies.
As we said, apart from the ships, the privateers also made attacks against the coast. They are called Razzies (Raids). These are rapid attacks, which took place mainly in spring and summer, when the seawater was calmer and more comfortable to sail. Suddenly, the privateers ships appeared on the horizon,leading in panic, robbing and captivating prisoners for whom they later demanded a ransom or were sold as slaves.
Collateral damage from Western conflicts
The situation in the time of the Redbeard, that is, in the 16th century, was complicated by a conflict between two European powers.
At that time Charles V, King of Spain and Emperor of Germany, and Francis I of France waged a long war with the intention of gaining hegemonic control of Europe. Francis of France allied with the Ottoman sultan and he sent his privateers to attack the Mediterranean coast, which was basically dominated by the Spanish monarchy.
The attacks took place everywhere. Redbeard attacked the coast of Valencia, the Balearic Islands, Provence (which then did not yet belong to France), Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica… they even reached Venice. In Catalonia he attacked the Rosselló, the Empordà, the Maresme and the coast of Tarragona.
The most important attacks took place in 1527, 1532, 1542, 1544, 1564… But among all of them, there were others not so terrible. In fact, towns such as Cadaqués, Roses, Palamós, Badalona, Barcelona and Salou suffered the destruction of Redbeard and took a long time to recover.
Footprints of history in our daily life
In Catalonia, these attacks got such an importance that we still find many references to them today in the names of the villages and in the landscape.
The watchtowers that follow one to another along the coast served to make the alarm with large bonfires when they saw ships appear on the horizon.
The “sea” and “mountain” villages remind us how the fishermen who lived near the beach ran to take refuge inland when they saw them coming, thus giving rise to the most fortified village mountain, and the neighborhoods easier to touch the sea.
And Tossa de Mar
Tossa, which had already been fortified in the 11th century, saw its towers and walls strengthened in order to protect its inhabitants inside what we know today as the Vila Vella.
If you want to know more about the Costa Brava and discover some of its most spectacular landscapes, let us accompany you with some of the proposals we offer you to visit it.