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Break in the Moianès: Treasures Above and Below Ground

In this county, we discover the Toll Caves, the ice wells in La Ginebreda and the Santa Maria de L’Estany Monastery

The small comarca of Moianès is the perfect size for a weekend break, where all the most interesting visits are within easy reach of one another. That doesn’t mean that two and a half days is a sufficient amount of time to discover everything, but it is long enough to get a good feel for the place and to enjoy very diverse heritage sites and natural features.

 

WITH THE COLLABORATION OF BARCELONA ÉS MOLT MÉS AND THE DIPUTACIÓ DE BARCELONA.

 

Day 1, Afternoon: The Wells and Sheep of La Ginebreda

Day 1, Afternoon: The Wells and Sheep of La Ginebreda

Our suggested starting point for this getaway is Castellterçol, specifically on the outskirts of the town as you head towards Moià, where we find Mas La Ginebreda. This extensive farm cultivates cattle fodder and has over 250 Ripollès sheep, including lambs for the visitors to pet. All the crops and the meat they produce are on their way to becoming organic. Here, you can also take a look at the Ice Wells, which date back to the 17 th and 18 th centuries. The four separate and very large wells are unique in the Mediterranean and demonstrate the importance of the ice industry in the pre-industrial age. Their proximity to Barcelona and the cold winters in this spot worked in their favour. One of the wells has recently been restored to make it suitable for visitors to enter its chilly depths.

Day 2, Morning: Some Exceptional Caves

Day 2, Morning: Some Exceptional Caves

A stone’s throw from Moià, and within its geographical boundaries, lies one of the most fantastical and frequently visited sites in the county: the Toll Caves. Explorations have led to the discovery that humans and wild prehistoric animals once lived here. Open to the public under supervised visits, the beautiful and unusual galleries stretch for over a kilometre. The guide explains many curious facts, including how the caves were rediscovered in modern times, what has been found there and what excavations are presently underway. He also revealed that long, long ago the sea ran through this place.

Day 2, Afternoon: A Stroll Around the County Town

Day 2, Afternoon: A Stroll Around the County Town

Having had lunch, we are off to Moià, a town with only around 6,000 inhabitants. We recommend starting in the Plaça de Sant Sebastià, named after the local patron saint, and walking down Carrer del Forn, with its old, emblematic buildings, among which are Can Carner, home to the Consorci del Moianès and the Hotel d’Entitats, and the house at number 25. Built in 1683, this was the first Escola Pia (or Pious School) in Catalonia. Once you reach the Plaça Major, you can feast your eyes on the wide range of architectural details on all sides: the 13 th century vaults, the Santa Maria Church, built between the 17 th and 18 th centuries, and the engravings on the vicarage. Just off the square, you will find the Rafael Casanova House Museum (on the street of the same name), birthplace of the Chief Councillor of Barcelona and symbol of the Catalan resistance against the Bourbon troops in 1714. The same building also houses the Museum of Archaeology and Palaeontology, which is closely linked to the Toll Caves we visited this morning.

Leaving the church behind you brings you to the monument dedicated to the very same Casanova. At one the end of the square, where the statue is, a sequence of manor houses with Modernist touches catches the eye. We also notice that we are on Carrer de Richard Wagner and the façades of the houses are inscribed with the names of the composer’s operas. This unlikely homage is due to the fact that Francesc Viñas i Dordal – one of the best tenors to ever have performed works by the German composer – was born here. We end our tour of Moià with a peaceful wander around the town’s delightful wooded park.

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Day 3, Morning: A Day in L’Estany

Day 3, Morning: A Day in L’Estany

We are going to spend the last day of this break thoroughly exploring L’Estany, one of the most interesting towns in the county for various reasons. There is a spectacular feat of 18 th -century engineering which still performs the same function even now, drawing water from the plain. This is the source of the town’s name, which means pond. Even though the landscape was probably more beautiful when the water was on the surface, it caused disease; plus, the monks at the local Augustine monastery needed the land in order to cultivate crops. The solution was to build a dry stone ‘mine’ extending to almost half a kilometre in length. If you wish to visit this underground network of artificial channels, we recommend you head to the La Mina Visitors Centre to find out about the guided tours they offer.

The Visitors Centre is situated in part of the former outbuildings of the Santa Maria de L’Estany Monastery, a fine example of the Romanesque style. Of particular note are the tops of the columns in the cloister: 72 capitals decorated with sculpted biblical scenes, heraldic icons and plant motifs. Founded in 1080, the monastery also contains a truly Gothic image of Mary sculpted out of a single block of alabaster.

Rooted in history and set in stone, we bid farewell to the county of Moianès.

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