Whenever I come to this little piece of Northeastern Catalonia and the weather is favorable, I make a trip to the beach. It’s a tricky proposition as this area is massively touristic and most of the beaches are dreadful; full of drunken, ruddy people hailing from France and Germany. But, if you take the time to drive up the N-260 out of Figueres and head towards Llança and the “hidden” beaches up there, things get a great deal more tolerable and one can have a nice day out under the sun with folks that are more often than not locals.
It just so happens that as you wind your way over the mountains that border the Empordá plane, there are these castle ruins up on a rock, standing by themselves. I asked the Editor in Chief about them as, like most who grew up in the US, I have a large fixation on castles. I didn’t happen to have one on the hill above my childhood house like #1 Fan did when growing up, so I didn’t really get my fill of them. So she said that the castle is a ruin which mostly serves as the backdrop for local heavy metal band members wanting to go pose for group photos and get their proper “Iron Maiden” (still huge in Spain) portrait taken. There are a great many places like this (ruins not Iron Maiden sets) around the area, so we’ve never bothered to stop at this particular one to date.
As I’m here by myself and EiC is off in Côte d’Ivoire, I took the time to visit Quermançó Castle (pron. ‘car-man-so’) as it is actually called. Well, it was also an excuse to buy awesome bulk wine. But, I was expecting something along the lines of my experience with Dvigrad, a dead city in Croatia that has some history, but is more just old ruins. It turns out the ruins of Dvigrad were actually a great deal more interesting than Quermançó, but the history of this castle is by far much more detailed.
I don’t really need to go in to every historical detail as it’s mostly elsewhere and what I cobbled together for the Wikipedia article above. It’s more the cultural references that I find interesting. For instance, Savaldor Dalí was nuts about this place, wanting to do a number of things with it, but most oddly was to create a gigantic pipe organ that would be powered by the Tramuntana (the devil’s fart). This video is on the official site and while sped up a bit, it shows the voracity of this wind in the area. With wind like that, the pipe organ idea might have just worked and the folks who own the castle currently wanted to make it happen in 2004, although that’s never come to be.
But what I really love are the local legends that have popped up around the castle. You can read a few of them here. In summary, The Countess of Molins would make a pretty fun film and The Lady of Quermançó has many different versions, including one where she would only eat the hearts of goats (my brother in-law’s girlfriend knew that version.) The Golden Goat is actually interesting for more reasons beyond folklore as there was a lot of fascination with the Jews who used to live in the area prior to the 1492 “eviction”. In fact Vilajuïga (the town that sits very close to the base of the rock for the castle) can be interpreted as, “The Jewish Village”. And lastly in the legends, there is of course a mention of the Holy Grail, because hey, why not.
Given that the castle is about 1,000 years old, it’s no wonder it’s found its way in to so many aspects of stories and legend here in Alt Empordá, much more so than Castell de Sant Ferran, which while in much better shape and massive in size to Quermançó, it’s only about 250 years old and just doesn’t have the air of mystery that a castle up on a rock, deserted for 200 years gets.