Orpheus and Norfeu Cape (Costa Brava)

Orpheus cape

As the legend goes, Orpheus, the mythological singer from ancient Greece, was sailing the Western Mediterranean when his boat struck a solitary rock in the middle of the night and foundered. He survived by clinging to the rock all night.

At dawn, he realized that he was too far away from the main coast: it was impossible for him to reach it by swimming. He was sad because of his terrible fate, but also amazed by the beauty of the mountains on the coast. Being a sensitive and mythological guy, he took his lyre and began to sing to the mountains. The high, massive, snow covered, distant and wonderful mountains (which happened to be the Pyrenees range) liked so much that divine song that little by little they approached to Orpheus’ rock for better listening to him. When the easternmost tip of the range reached Mr. Orpheus’ rock, the wise musician hopped to the coast and went home on foot.

Since then, that tip, or cape, has been known as the Orpheus’ Cape (so named by the Greeks 2575 years ago, when this coast was a Greek colony; its current name is “Cap Norfeu”, Catalan contraction of “Cap d’en Orfeu”: Orpheus’ Cape)

In more recent times, another mythological creature -me- decided to visit Cap Norfeu and its virgin surroundings just to take a walk and a bath. This post is the account of that epic day.

Cabo Norfeo

Cap Norfeu is part of a coastal Natural Park (Cap de Creus), subject to strong protection by law.

Natural Park Norfeu

Notwithstanding this legal protection, human beings and mythological creatures are free to walk around as long as they respect the environment and don’t behave as assholes.

Norfeu surroundings

It is difficult to get lost in Cap Norfeu:

Norfeu map

It is easy to fall into the sea if you don’t watch your step:

Trekking Norfeu Cape

It is very unlikely to find anybody following this very path in autumn, but …:

People in the path

It is completely normal to feel like Zeus in Cap Norfeu:

Mediterranean freedom

Life was difficult for shepherds in Cap Norfeu:

Norfeu caves

Life is delicious for yacht owners in the coves around Cap Norfeu:

Cap de Creus Natural Park

The only building in Cap Norfeu -apart from a very old shepherd’s hut- is a ruined defensive tower (17th century) on the cape’s highest point. It was built there because baroque pirates loved to come on holidays to these waters.

Torre Norfeu

Cap Norfeu is located in the world’s most beautiful region (opinion is free): Empordà. Empordà (administratively divided in two comarcas: Alt Empordà and Baix Empordà), as my loyal readers know, belongs to the province of Girona, Catalonia, Spain, Europe, planet Earth. The Empordà’s Mediterranean wild coast is known as “Costa Brava”.

Costa Brava Norfeu

Did you know that the word “Empordà” comes from the Greek “Emporion”, which means “market”? More info about the Greek and Roman roots of this little paradise in Covetotop’s universally acclaimed (18 likes up to date) post “The coastal path of Empúries


I don’t know why, but whenever I think about classical philology (that’s one or two times per century) I feel compelled to swim urgently in the Mediterranean Sea. This time is no exception, ergo I seek desperately an appropriate little corner in the Orpheus’ cape area to swim for a while. By “appropriate” I mean crystal clear waters, blue skies, mild breezes, rosemary scents, total solitude and a long series of physical and metaphysical conditions which I don’t dare to transcript here.

My first thought was visiting Cala Rustella (“cala” means “cove”; cove to top 😉 ), but it is a little far away from the cape and I don’t want to walk so much by now. Disregarded:

Cala Rustella

Cala Canadell lies at the point where Norfeu Cape joins the main coast (North face). It is an unspoilt cave, but I have to descend and to climb a lot just for taking a little bath. Disregarded:

Cala Canadell

Cala Pelosa lies more or less at the point where Norfeu Cape joins the main coast (South face), but there are too many signs of human presence. Disregarded:

Cala Pelosa 1

Cala Pelosa 2

Cala Pelosa 3

After a little walking I find what I deem an “appropriate cove” to get rid of my philological concerns …

Cala Calitja 1

Yes, this place seems very “appropriate” … it has crystal clear waters …

Cala Calitja 2

… nobody around and a there’s a cozy corner to extend my towel …

Cala Calitja corner

Yes … Cala Calitjà is the perfect cove to take the perfect philological bath. This place is so wonderful that I feel like singing now …

Cala Calitja 3

At this point I wonder if such a musically sensitive cape like Norfeu would respond to my singing the same way it did to Mr. Orpheus’ singing long time ago. Facing the cape, floating in the chilly Mediterranean waters, I sing with the full power of my voice an aria from Monteverdi’s opera “L’Orfeo” …

Norfeu viewed from Cala Calitja

I sing, but Norfeu cape does not move an inch. It is so disgusting! Perhaps Norfeu cape is too massive for my musical skills. Let’s try it with this little side of the cove …

Cala Calitja 4

I sing again, but nothing happens. It does not move either. I’m afraid I have no mythological powers. Perhaps the time has come to go home. Yeah.

Coastal path Norfeu area

On the way to my home, singing non-stop, I take a last glance at Norfeu Cape from afar and I am shocked. Of course, I shut up. I’m not very sure, but I’d swear that it really has moved. Not towards me; it has moved just towards the opposite direction, towards the horizon … Is it running away from me? Do I sing so bad?

Cap Norfeu from afar

At home, silent and taciturn, I render homage to the mythological Orpheus by playing on my stereo a really good version of Claudio Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, the first opera ever written (1607) …

Orfeo and Norfeu

This was a mythological day, really …

Norfeu from Montjoi

(“Hi ha quelcom en l’anima empordanesa que no s’explicaria sense la presència d’aquella immensa cavalcada de roques pirenenques, atretes mar endins per les eòliques ressonàncies de la lira d’Orfeu” –excerpt from ”Les Gràcies de l’Empordà”, chapter XIV, written by Pere Corominas, published in 1919)


About Covetotop

A Mediterranean blogger
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15 Responses to Orpheus and Norfeu Cape (Costa Brava)

  1. Covetotop, that post, as well as being very very informative and full of lovely images, (both in picture form, and in the literary sense) is also extremely funny. I learnt a bit of latin, a bit of Greek, and best of all you made me smile. It also brought back happy memories of a small but lovely production of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo i saw here in Dublin maybe 5, 6 years ago. A Very small production, but beautifully designed and beautifully sung, and in a very historic church in the old centre of the city here. I’ve only seen 5 operas in my life. (1 in Dublin, 2 in London, 1 in Verona, and the last, or rather the second, many, many years ago, the beautiful Liceo of Barcelona, a place i would bet money you know very well. 🙂
    Anyway, fantastic post, thank you!
    As always, you have made me want to travel back to Catalunya, nearly 20 years after I was foolish enough to leave ! Some day i’ll go back. Thanks Covetotop.

    • Covetotop says:

      Thank you Arran for your kind comment.As far as opera is concerned, most of the times small productions (probably like the one you mention) are far better than the big ones; specially taking into account that the vast majority of modern stage directors have lost their minds and only produce nightmares, with no respect at all to the original “libretto”. The “Orfeo” cds I feature on this post is a wonderful version -small production- by C. Cavina and the Ensemble La Venexiana (edited by http://www.glossamusic.com). As far as the Liceu of Barcelona is concerned, there is available on dvd another outstanding version of L’Orfeo by Jordi Savall and his team. This time, it is a “big” production, but thanks God the stage direction respects “extremelly” the original version of this wonderful and ancient opera … I hope you’ll like it 🙂

  2. Trish says:

    I love a beach with no one on it. Well, except me. The water looks safe to swim in, it’s so still. Your posts and the photos are much better than tourist brochures, Covetotop!

  3. I’m sure the singing was fine. Problem was, you didn’t have your lyre with you… 😉

    Excellent, Covetotop!

  4. Sue Sharpe says:

    Another beautifully written post supported, as always, by such fabulous photos – thank you – you put many native English writers to shame with your use of the language. x

    • Covetotop says:

      Wow! When I write in English I am most of the time completely lost in English grammar. Anyway … thank you for your nice and very encouraging comment, Sue! 🙂

  5. A mythological day indeed; wonderful.

  6. harri8here says:

    Me encanta those crystal clear waters, your ever informative yet droll words.
    Muchas gracias too Cala to top, for the Jordi Savall link, which i’m watching now.

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