Tom bought me “Love and War in the Pyrenees” for our first year anniversary. We spent our honeymoon hiking in the Pyrenees and I was looking forward to a revisit of the beautiful scenery and a bit of a love story amidst the pages. I hadn’t really taken into account the ‘war’ part of the title and found this book a far more harrowing read than I’d expected. Sure, I studied the Second World War at school, and I guess I could regurgitate some names and dates; but the personal stories of struggle and resistance in this book, set in the familiar backdrop of this part of the world I love so much, hit me much harder.
These mountain passes are difficult enough in perfect sunshine, with a pack full of food and the promise of a warm bed at the end of the day. Even with Bailey’s fantastic writing, it is hard to imagine how so many refugees covered these routes in such hard conditions. True tragedies can be a depressing read, and perhaps that is why it’s taken me six months to getting around to reading this book. It is almost impossible to believe the extent of man’s inhumanity to man, but equally incredible to read of the stories of resistance, bravery, and kindness. This book has certainly given me a different perspective on this part of the world. And whilst there is always an argument for simply soaking up the beauty of a place in the moment, this little bit of history has made me marvel at these mountains all the more.
What an extraordinary journey, for the many refugees long ago and for the two young newly-wed eco-tourists. Incredible photo of the mountain lake. Hope it’s on Flickr.