Monday, June 30, 2008

At the Mountain Refuge of Estagnous

The group has all met up at the high mountain refuge of Estagnous, 2250m high. Two metal placards are screwed to the face of a boulder. They read:“There passed by here between 1940 and 1944 all those who refused to bow to Nazi oppression and escaped to fight for freedom.” The second reads “Chemin de la Liberte” Underneath is a picture of soldiers and the inscription reads “Faithful to their memory on the 50th anniversary of the (Normandy) landings for the liberation of France.” The first inscription troubles me. How many people refused to bow to Nazi to oppression but had no route out, no possible hope of escape? How many Jews and non-Jews, would have longed to pass by here?

We sit at tables on the veranda of the refuge looking back down at the route we climbed. Except that most of it is hidden in a thick mist which fills the long valley below. Ridges and peaks emerge above it, yet below us like islands in a grey white sea. Near at hand and steeply below us are two small lakes. One still half frozen and covered in snow. We gather we will become better acquainted with them tomorrow before we climb steeply up to the paths which lead to Spain.

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