Kit Domino’s latest blog about her trip to Nerja reminded me of time spent in Las Alpujarras, Andalucia, Southern Spain. My husband, Peter, and I lived in three different white villages of the Eastern Alpujarras for six year. We began our adventure in Júbar, a small village on the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada. One hour from the coast, two hours from Granada and three hours to Malaga. The population was officially 50 people but we never counted more than 25, except at special holiday times like Easter and Christmas plus the fiesta in August. Many people have left the small villages to find work but still support their families at home. Houses are owned by the family, sometimes three generations share one house but everyone works hard and children benefit in many ways. Each family owns plots of land with olives, almonds, cherries and various types of produce grown in terraces originally introduced by the Moors in the fifteenth century, water comes from the mountain via a series of channels known as acequias .In February almond blossom covers the slopes of the mountainside, a carpet of delicate white and pink, the fragrance is overwhelming. We could see the sea from our house and the snow covered Sierra Nevadas towered above us creating a sort of eco-climate. Paradise.
The village church was built on the site of a Roman Temple then was a mosque, a refuge for Jews during the defeat of the Moors then a christian church. The symbol on the bell tower represents a Crescent, the Star of David and the Cross intertwined, an interesting concept today. The church was renovated during our stay there, thanks to David Illsley, a friend of our’s, several layers of murals were uncovered and preserved. Although not intact they are unique and now protected thanks to David and a team of specialists from Granada University. David and his wife run a Casa Rural, a bed and breakfast, which is how we ended up living in Júbar and is an expert on the history of the area. The church only holds services at Christmas, Easter and during the fiesta. Fiesta time in August is a wonderful occasion, people come from around the area to party but the highlight is the parade following the Christ Child on a decorated bier. It is an honour to carry it and passes through family member, males only but in Mairena the women carry their Christ. I will talk about Mairena, our next home, another time as space is running out!
A highlight for me was being invited to join the literary classes held for the women in the village. The age group ranged from 55 – 86, the older women could neither read nor write so were taught the basics. It was an honour to be allowed to join in as I learnt so much about the history of Andalucia, the culture and local customs. They helped me with my Spanish but it was the stories they told that were special and their recipes. We exchanged my cakes for fresh figs, olives, cherries, eggs and wonderful peppers (pimentos) as well gigantic melons and courgettes (zucchini). Daily chats were held in the village square around the daily bread van but occasionally just impromptu chats whilst taking the rubbish – bassura to the communal bins. I could wax lyrical much longer but hope I’ve painted a picture of a special time in my life.
I originally planned to cover the three villages in this piece but lost the original! Just to show you it is not always hot and sunny I thought you would like the mountains in winter in our garden. I will leave you with the thought that when possible follow your dream, nothing lasts for ever good or bad, but you can take your memories and polish them like gems. I hope there is another adventure around the corner!