THE BASQUE PYRENEES FREEDOM TRAILS’ ASSOCIATION (BPFTA)
(Registered as a Charity/Cultural Association with the Basque Government No: AS/G/19762/2016)
President: Joe Linehan Secretary: John Morgan Treasurer: Felipe Etxeberria Agirretxe
Commemorative Escape Trail from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port/Donibane Garazi to Elizondo JUNE 19-20, 2021
Watch our 3.5-minute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQ42_or-A1M and updates on Twitter @bpfta
(To participate on the walking trail or otherwise avail of the hired coach, prior registration with BPFTA is required)
The Basque Pyrenees Freedom Trails’ Association (BPFTA) is a voluntary organisation based in the Basque Country and with an international membership. It is dedicated to the recovery of the historic memory of WW2 Escape Lines’ operations across the Basque Pyrenees and which helped Allied escapers and evaders, amongst others, to flee over the Basque Pyrenees border from Nazi-occupied Europe during that conflict. The commemorative events are aimed at paying tribute to all those involved.
During WW2, routes across the Pyrenees in the Basque Country, generally along clandestine smugglers’ paths, were a major link in the escape lines’ networks. There were various safe-houses on either side of the border and many of the mountain guides were local. Donostia-San Sebastian was an important logistics’ point and other Basque cities and villages were involved such as St Jean de Luz/Donibane Lohitzune, Anglet, Oiartzun, Bayonne, Renteria, Hernani, Mendibe, Irún, St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port (Donibane Garazi), Orbaizeta, Otsagabia, Aldudes and Elizondo, to name just a few.
It is important that all those involved on both sides of the frontier are forever remembered for their brave and selfless actions during WW2, knowing that, if caught, they would be tortured, sent to concentration camps and/or executed. Many were.
Thus, BPFTA aim to disseminate knowledge of these WWII escape lines over the Basque Pyrenees and to pay tribute to all those involved from both sides of the frontier and who aided the escapers and evaders: the shepherds and smugglers, etc. who acted as mountain guides, those responsible for logistics, the couriers and safe-house keepers, and to the fugitives themselves. We bring this historical memory to life through commemorative walks across the frontier and with tribute events for those involved, and also by bringing this heritage to the attention of students at second and third level education in the Basque Country – their heritage – as well as of students abroad.
Programme 18-21 June, 2021
Experienced guides will take us on this easy to moderate commemorative two-day trail. On Saturday 19 June our coach will take us from our San Sebastián city hotel to the start point of the first day of our commemorative trek, from just outside Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port/Donibane Garazi in the French Basque Country as far as the village of Banca where a light lunch can be taken, our bus collecting us along the road down to the village. Then our coach will take us to our hotel in Donibane Garazi for the overnight stay. The next morning, Sunday 20, the coach will take us from our hotel to Aldudes, in the beautiful valley of the same name and close to Banca, to hike the second leg, up across the Pyrenees border and then down to the town of Elizondo in the Baztan valley in Navarre. Each day will involve about 13km walking; 3.5-4 hours on foot and, with rests and stops, about 4-5 hours in total each day. We will thus emulate an escape route of 76 years ago. Places of historic and other interest will be pointed out on the way and tribute events with local people and representatives are planned in St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port (Donibane Garazi) and Aldudes in Lower Navarre (both in the French Basque Country) and, across the frontier in the Spanish Basque Country, in Elizondo (Navarre) and in Donostia/San Sebastian and Hernani, both in the province of Gipuzkoa. Only a day backpack is needed on the walks; the rest of the baggage can be left in the hotel in San Sebastian awaiting our Sunday return, or otherwise on the bus.
Friday, 18 June
Participants from abroad arrive at the Olarain hotel in Donostia-San Sebastián (each participant has to make their own booking with the hotel, quoting the BPFTA block reservation). At 18:45 we will go to the Gros neighbourhood of Donostia/San Sebastián for short tributes to Bernardo Aracama and Antonia Sarasola, key providers of logistics to various Basque escape lines as well as to Luis Lizarrizuri, the former Belgian consul, Resistance member and escape lines helper. Transport costs included in the BPFTA event registration fee. Free evening – recommended walk along the Zurriola promenade and then across the bridge over the river Urumea and into the Old Town of this Basque city with its gastronomic “pintxos” (tapas). Further on is the “Concha” beach and its picturesque marine promenade.
Saturday, 19 June, 08:00
After breakfast at 07.30 our coach will leave the Olarain hotel at 08:00 with walking and non-walking participants for the 1h.45min journey to our first day walk start point, near St. Jean-Pied-de-Port/Donibane Garazi, starting not later than 10.00. Distribution of fresh water. The ascent from 321m takes us 3.7km above the Arrobi (Nive) valley, following the waymarked GR10 or PR walking trail, to Beharria at 880m, in less than 2 hours with rest stops. Then a gentler ascent along a wide path to our highest point at 957m for another 3.7km. Finally, a 1-1½ hour walk down this path or asphalt road towards the village of Banca for approximately 15.00. Our bus, with any non-walking participants and a supply of fresh water, will pick us up at some point along the road to take us down to the village. So about 4hours on foot+ 1 hour for rest stops and “elevenses” (hamaiketakoak in Basque!). In the village we will have a light lunch (about 15€ and to be paid in situ) at the restaurant, below which is the free-admission Mining Interpretative Centre (Banca was renowned for its copper mines, the peak of its smelting and forging industrial activity being in the 1750s).
Our bus will then take us back the 15 minutes to our hotel (Hôtel Central) in St. Jean-Pied-de-Port/Donibane Garazi, where we can shower and rest; there will also be free time to explore this beautiful Basque town. At some time during the afternoon a tribute is planned to thank all those in the region who helped escapers and evaders during WW2. Dinner in the hotel will be at about 21:00 and included in the BPFTA agreed half-board tariff for hotel guests-participants (as per the registration form, individual direct booking with the hotel with credit card required by each participant), quoting the BPFTA block reservation).
Sunday 20 June, 08:15
At 08:15 and after breakfast in the hotel (from 07:30 and included in the BPFTA half-board tariff for participants), the coach will leave the hotel to take us up past Banca and to the next village of Aldudes, to start walking the second leg of the Freedom Trail at about 09.00. Aldudes was famous as a smuggling point and there is an Escape Lines monument in the Square opposite the WWII safe house of Hôtel Baillea. A short tribute will be held here in honour of WW2 helpers and escapers.
The first hour is a 3 km climb from 387m, past the Pyrenees frontier at 730m, and up to our highest point at 760m. Then a gentle 2-2½-hour, 10km walk down to Elizondo in the Valley of Baztan (13km, walking time 3.5 hours, total time including rest stops, 4.5hrs). Here, at lunchtime, a tribute event is planned with local people and authorities to give thanks to all those in the region who helped fugitives escape during WWII (restaurant lunch 15€- 25€ to be paid in situ).
At about 17:00 our coach will take us back to our hotel in Donostia/San Sebastián and a free evening.
Monday, 21 June, lunchtime
For those remaining on the Monday, there is an optional lunchtime visit to the nearby town of Hernani with its monument to the four local mountain guides who helped escapers and evaders during WWII, followed by lunch in a local cider house (cost c.35€ to be paid at the restaurant). Participants to arrange own transport (private car or taxi) to Loidi, Hernani.
NOTES ON ACCOMMODATION (All prices include VAT)
Taking into account the good quality of the hotels and the high-season, favourable tariffs have been agreed with both hotels for the BPFTA group. In order to take advantage of this deal, each participant must book directly, quoting “BPFTA”. Our block reservation tariffs quoted below are applicable until March 2021. After that date or otherwise once our block booking is full, room availability is not guaranteed, or at these tariffs.
For the nights of Friday 18th and Sunday 20th of June, at the Olarain hotel, Ondarreta Pasealekua, 24, 20008 Donostia, Gipuzkoa. Spain. Phone: 943 003300; email: firstname.lastname@example.org, the BPFTA-agreed tariffs for the room including breakfast for this hotel are: Friday or Sunday night: single use of a room 92.50€; double or twin room 122.00€. All rooms have private shower, toilet and TV. We would ask participants to pay for the Friday night accommodation on that day (or before) so time is not lost at reception on the Saturday morning. Luggage can be left here until Sunday or the Monday morning.
For Saturday 19th June at the Central Hotel, 1 Place Charles de Gaulle, St. Jean-Pied-de-Port/Donibane Garazi, France. Phone: +33 5 59 37 00 22; email: email@example.com, the BPFTA-PBCL agreed tariff for guests-participants is for half board, i.e. accommodation, Saturday night dinner and Sunday morning breakfast, and includes local taxes. All rooms have private shower, toilet and TV. The half-board accommodation tariff for individual use is 132.90€, a double-bed room for two is 175,80€, and a twin-bedded room for two is 185,80€. We would ask participants to pay for the Saturday night accommodation on that day so no time is lost at reception on the Sunday morning. Any doubts at reception, ask to speak to Christine.
Participants who wish to stay at Olarain or other hotel in Donostia/San Sebastian prior to 18th June or after 20th of June will need to make those arrangements directly with the hotel, not necessarily at the BPFTA-agreed tariff.
NOTES ON TRANSPORT and LOGISTICS
A hired bus will be at our disposal from 08:00 on Saturday until drop-off at our hotel on Sunday evening. Please note that coach pick-up and drop-off points in Donostia/San Sebastian and Jean-Pied-de-Port/Donibane Garazi during the weekend are at these two BPFTA-listed hotels only. As logistics back-up, the vehicle, with non-walking participants, will shadow our walks as much as road access allows.
The cost per participant travelling on our bus, walker and non-walker, is 80€. This includes the cost of transport on Friday evening from the hotel to the Gros neighbourhood of San Sebastian for two tributes, the cost of private bus transport for the two days, the two guides, logistics back-up, bottled water replenishment at en route meeting points with the vehicle, third-party civil responsibility insurance cover for BPFTA (each participant must also have their own personal accident/medical insurance cover), and other administration costs. For walkers who do not avail of the bus, the registration fee is 10€.
The registration form and payment details are on a separate page