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A grand ruin on the Spanish-French border

A Grand Ruin On The Spanish-French Border

(CNN) — Deep inside the Aragon river valley, close to Spain’s border with France, lies the abandoned ruin of Canfranc International Station.

Once one of Europe’s largest rail hubs, opulent Canfranc opened in style in 1928, with an inauguration ceremony attended by the then-king of Spain in addition to the then-President of the French Republic.

A Grand Ruin On The Spanish-French Border

During World War II, Canfranc was a hive of activity in addition to intrigue, witnessing arrests, espionage in addition to gold trafficking, yet by 1970, the station had closed its doors.

A Grand Ruin On The Spanish-French Border

Today This kind of’s a sleepy spot, well-liked with photographers thanks to its atmospheric external in addition to striking setting beneath the snow-capped Pyrenees.

A Grand Ruin On The Spanish-French Border

“Even though This kind of is actually almost in ruins, This kind of brings a lot of visitors,” Mayor of Canfranc Fernando Sánchez Morales tells CNN Travel.

A Grand Ruin On The Spanish-French Border

today, Sánchez Morales confirms, plans are afoot to breathe brand new life into the station — thanks to a huge regeneration program.

A Grand Ruin On The Spanish-French Border

“We are working on a project in which will change Canfranc,” says Sánchez Morales. “Every day we hear more feedback saying in which This kind of railways line is actually necessary in addition to needs to be reopened.”

A Grand Ruin On The Spanish-French Border

Espionage, escape in addition to resistance

Canfranc saw tons of stolen gold pass along its tracks during the Second World War.

Due to its border position, ownership of the station was originally shared between France in addition to Spain. This kind of’s today owned by the local Aragon government in Spain.

“Canfranc Station is actually a monument to Aragonese culture,” says Sánchez Morales.

The station played an active role during the entire world War II, bearing witness to moments of both trust in addition to despair.

Prior to the Nazi takeover of the Canfranc municipality, the station acted as the gateway to liberty for some European Jews who were persecuted by the German regime.

“inside the first years of the entire world war, through 1940 to 1942, thousands of Jews fled by train through Canfranc to Lisbon in addition to the United States,” says Ramón Javier Campo Fraile, the acclaimed writer behind the project heraldo.es/canfranc, which won the Premio Nacional de Periodismo Digital journalism award in 2003.

Among them, he says were the painters Max Ernst in addition to Marc Chagall. American entertainer Josephine Baker also transited through the station.

Canfranc is actually today a well-liked spot for photographers, due to its atmospheric external.

Spies traveled by train through Canfranc en route to join the anti-Nazi French Resistance in addition to to pass messages to Allied countries.

“This kind of was also used by the Allies, who passed information to France in addition to Spain through a spy network,” Mayor Sánchez Morales explains.

However, the Nazis took the municipality of Canfranc in November 1942 in addition to maintained control until June 1944.

Escape through Canfranc became harder in addition to the station became the site of many arrests.

Uncovered history

Canfranc had a dramatic role inside the Second World War.

Canfranc was the only Spanish municipality occupied by the Nazis — in addition to the regime made its presence felt.

Campo Fraile says more than 300 people were arrested fleeing towards Lisbon in Portugal in addition to sent to prisons across Spain.

“The Germans controlled the traffic of gold, wolfram in addition to they also lowered the French flag” he adds.

Rumors of Nazi gold trafficking through Canfranc station have abounded for years, yet they were only confirmed in 2000.

Campo Fraile explains in which a local bus driver found evidence revealing in which “86 tons of Nazi gold passed through the station between 1942 in addition to 1943.”

“We have found more documents in European in addition to American archives in which prove in which more than 100 tons of gold passed through the area,” he adds.

Preserving the past

Officials are hoping brand new plans to renovate the station will drive tourism to the area.

The tranquil surroundings of Canfranc station today bear little evidence of its dramatic in addition to tragic past, yet officials trust brand new regeneration plans will both preserve the station’s history in addition to drive tourism.

Green trees in addition to craggy mountains frame the remaining shell of the station — which is actually crumbling yet eye catching.

“The town today survives off of natural tourism, such as skiing, additional services in addition to overall the tourism in which the train station brings,” says Sánchez Morales.

Efforts to regenerate the old building are still in their early stages, yet plans include a hotel in addition to smaller station.

The brand new Canfranc station will also commemorate the terminal’s history.

“We are fighting to create a big tourism complex, in addition to also to open the line for international travel soon,” says Sánchez Morales.

“The plans to revitalize the Canfranc station is actually the best way to recover all the historic buildings in addition to infrastructure in which haven’t been used since 1970,” says Campo Fraile.

Both the French in addition to Spanish regional governments are hoping a route through the staggering scenery of Pyrenees will reignite tourism inside the area.

This kind of regeneration might put Canfranc firmly on the map — in addition to allow more people to become aware of the region’s role in 20th century history.

“This kind of project […] will promote tourism to the place where thousands of people were saved when fleeing the horrors of war, in addition to where various channels of espionage helped the allies to victory,” says Campo Fraile.

CNN’s Nabila Khouri contributed to This kind of report.

To learn more about Canfranc’s history, see Ramon Javier Campo Fraile’s extensive work on the subject, including his books
“El oro de Canfranc” (Ibercaja 2002)
“La estación espía” (Península 2006)

“Canfranc, el oro y los nazis'” (Mira Editores, 2012, 2014 y 2017).
Campo also co-directed the documentary “Juego de espías” (Estación Cinema 2015) with Germán Roda.

A grand ruin on the Spanish-French border