From north to south, from east to west, the Catalans do mountains big time, and Els Pirineus (pronounced PeereeNAYoos) are the biggest of the lot. You probably know that they form a formidable natural barrier between France and Spain, and are jammed with ski slopes, hiking routes, all manner of sports and outdoor activities, mountain lakes, horses, natural parks, Romanesque churches tucked away in tiny villages…
But do you know how they got there in the first place?
Thousands of years ago, in the place we now call the Pyrenees, King Tubal had a beautiful daughter, Pyrené, who was desired by many men. But Pyrené had a secret relationship with Hercules, the Greek hero. When Tubal found out, he banished Hercules. Pyrene wandered around inconsolably in the forest.
One day, Geryon, a horrible three-headed monster, tried to abduct Pyrené. She escaped his clutches but the enraged Geryon set fire to the forest to flush her out. An eagle watching the drama informed Hercules who came rushing back, only to find Pyrené breathing her last. Heartbroken, he buried her, building a mausoleum of huge rocks over her grave – the Pyrenees.