Sant Martí d’Empúries
The remains of the 13th-century castle, ancient walls, and late gothic Cathedral in this medieval village stand witness to its former importance. Sant Martí d’Empúries was home to the first Greeks, who came to the Iberian Peninsula in the 6th century BC and settled in what was then a small islet before founding the bigger Emporium close by.
In the 2nd century BC, the Romans also chose Emporium as their main settlement in the area, founding the new city of Emporiae neighboring the Greek city. After the fall of the Roman Empire, both cities were slowly abandoned, and Sant Martí d’Empúries became the capital of the medieval county of Empúries, becoming the Episcopal See in the 6th century. In the 11th century the capital was transferred inland to Castelló d’Empúries in an attempt to protect the county’s capital from its exposure to the Mediterranen Sea.
Ruins of Empúries (Archeological site)
Empúries was the gateway for the Greeks and later the Romans to the Iberian Peninsula. Today, an archeological site allows visitors to walk through the ancient streets of both the Greek city, Emporium (6th century BC), and of the nearby Roman city, Emporiae (2nd century BC). The site features well-preserved ruins, including ancient walls, streets, houses, and mosaics.
One of the most important findings is the over 2 meter-high sculpture of Asclepius, the Greek God of medicine, healing, rejuvenation, and physicians.
There is also a small museum in the old restored medieval convent which displays a selection of toys, jewelry, paintings, mosaics, and many other items found on the site.
The medieval village sits on top of a hill above the plain, which, until the 15th century, was a marsh. The Latin world “Palus” (marshy) made historians think that the area was already populated in the Roman era; however, the first document mentioning Pals dates back to 889 AD.
Pals suffered constant atttacks from the French, the pirates and eventually the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), which left it severely damaged and later abandoned. In the mid-20th century, a wealthy local doctor, Jaume Pi I Figueres, started a process of restauration that lasted for 30 years and made Pals one of the most beautiful gothic villages in the country.
Pals and Columbus
According to ancient maps, the medieval village of Pals was on (or very close to) the shoreline up until the 15th century, when there was an estuary in the area. Indeed, a Catalan historian claims that Christopher Columbus was a Catalan nobel and departed from Pals instead of Palos de la Frontera (southern Spain) on his voyage to America.
Pals and Radio Liberty
In March 1959, Radio Liberty started broadcasting from the 2.4-km-long beach in Pals. This anticommunist shortwave radio station funded by the CIA (until 1971) transmitted uncensored news and information to audiences behind the Iron Curtain, a key element during the Cold War.
It was the perfect setting—treeless, by the sea and far from any inhabited area in a country still closed to the outside world under Franco’s dictatorship. The almost 200 local workers were happy to receive a good salary under conditions unknown in the area.
Many Eastern European and Russian leaders, including Vaclav Havel and Boris Yeltsin, have testified to the importance of Radio Liberty broadcasts in helping end the Cold War. Radio Liberty and her older sister, Radio Free Europe, were even nominated by the former Estonian President Lennart Meri for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Radio Liberty started its slow decline, last broadcasting in May 2001. The six big antennas were dynamited in 2006, and the facilities have been abandoned (and vandalized) ever since. Only a few local nostalgic people are trying to keep Radio Liberty’s memory alive.
Sa Tuna is a tiny picturesque fishing village nestled in a small cove along the Costa Brava. The sandy beach is surrounded by cliffs, charming waterfront buildings, and old fisherman huts today converted into vacation homes. The quiet Sa Tuna is also known for its seafood restaurants.