Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Capilerilla is often confused, by those who don't know the area very well, with Capileira due to the likeness in the names, both spoken and spelled. Furthermore, both villages are situated high up in the mountains.. but this is where the similarities start and end. The latter in the Poqueira, is the one that springs to mind when talking of the region. It is the higher of the two. The former is very little known and the most isolated and highest among the villages of La Taha. It is situated at over 1300m obove sea level and is so small that officially it is considered to be a district of Pitres.

I personally like to give Capilerilla the status of hamlet in its own right because, in my opinion, it has more charm and character than most of the villages of La Alpujarra.

On a few occasions there have been attempts at opening some kind of public bar, restaurant or hotel, but rather unsuccessfully. The latest hotel inaugurated a few years ago, still exists, but it has changed hands and I believe that it is only open by appointment....if you are lucky enough to have someone pick up the phone to make it. The village Era (threshing ground), however, has been the scene of many a successful classical concert. It is found literally at the doorsteps of the house of John Ward, a friend of mine who edits an e-guide known as "Alpujarra Hoy".

I first came upon Capilerilla on yet onother one of my reconnaissance tours of La Alpujarra with my friend Ole Frederiksen. It was a sunny and warm Winter's day, as many Winter's days in La Alpujarra can be, and we were just about to pass the turnoff when he suddenly veered the car sharply up the hill saying: "I will show you THE place where to find the best chestnuts in the region. I discovered it last year on a picnic trip with my sister, Kiss, who loved it so much that I had to promise to bring her again on her next visit".

He wasn't the slowest of drivers and the road, though surfaced, was very steep and narrow: just what gives my stomach a churn. Was it politeness or fear that caused me to say nothing, I shall never know, but we got to the top without meeting another car, nor even another person. We stopped in a cool area shaded by enormous Chesnut trees. Ole started to pick the chestnuts off the ground, many still in their spiky outer skin, reminding me of sea urchins. The only sound we could hear was that of our footsteps on the fallen dry leaves and the singing of a few chirpy birds. Suddenly he pointed at a bit of ground that had been dug as if by a plough: "wild boars", he said, "they love chestnuts". I felt a chill run down my spine. I had never came across a wild boar, but having seen their tusks was enough to warn me we shouldn't be where we were.

"Don't you think we should get back?" I asked...but without replying he walked on, and I had no choice but to follow. Ole was like that. We got to a clearing where two large and rather grand villas were being built beside a more traditional "cortijo". The views were incredible. There was noone there and Ole saw no problem with us entering the premises and looking around without the permission of the owners. The few months I have spent in Spain had, by the by, tought me that La Alpujarra is unique and functions differently from any other place I have known....and, I have lived in some strange places!

My next visit was in snow one February a couple of years later, this time to the "urban centre" itself (I don't mind if you added a smiley at this expression). It was at the invitation of John, whose house
at the entrance of the village used to be the schoolmaster's. There is no school now in Capilerrilla and barely any children.

From the porch I noticed across the street a line of rubbish bins. It remains a puzzle why such a small village should produce so much garbage.

In the late Spring, John invited me again to show off his culinary skills. I had noticed that many foreign men who lived in this region were self-sufficient to the point of putting us women to shame. After a superb lunch that proved to be quite a culinary achievement where everything
down to the buns was home made, we went for a walk through the narrowest of streets, oozing the charm of a fairy tale. Had Lewis Caroll not written "Alice in Wonderland", Capilerilla would have inspired me to write something like it.

Capilerrilla is a very traditional rural village, where the houses not only house people, but also their animals, where the land is used to produce feed not only for people, but also for their animals.

Towards the end of the village, I noticed a garden with the most wonderful array of flowers. Inevitably, we stopped to admire it. It wasn't very often one saw decorative gardens instead of orchards, specially in such a small rural place. Suddenly a lady appeared and she and John embraced and exchanged greetings before I was introduced to Mercedes, who, after being widowed, had returned from Belgium to settle back in the place of her birth.

Mercedes was a cut over the rest in this tiny hamlet, at least she seemed that way: elegant, with her hair perfectly dressed, her lovely garden an explosion of colour (she didn't keep or feed animals except a cat and a dog), and her spotless home that she invited us to inspect as we sipped a glass of local wine.

She had inherited the main house from her father and bought the one nextdoor to make one spacious home for when the children and grandchildren who still lived in Belgium came to visit.

She showed us how they all slept in the old days before the exodus to either the more industrial and prosperous North of Spain or to Northern Europe
: her parents in one room with the smallest offspring and the rest of the children, huddled together in one bed in the other. There had been no privacy she explained, as we walked back to John's house for a tapa and yet another glass of wine. She laughed mischieviously as she added that she had often wondered, since learning about the birds and the bees, how her parents managed to have so many children.

Could it have been the wine that made her ask me to accompany her to Sevilla in two days' time? She was appearing on a programme, very popular here in Andalucia, where Juan y Medio finds partners to mostly mature singles. I didn't go, but I watched her on that particular episode, and what a star she was. I am sure she has not been short of a suitor or two since!

Photo 1, A typical Capilerilla narrow street taken by myslef
Photo 2, One use of the threshing ground taken by John Ward
Photo 3, Another us of the threshing fround taken by John Ward
Photo 4, Chestnut tree in Autumn by J0hn Ward
Photo 5, From John's house on my first Winter visit taken by myself
Photo 6, Typical scene in Capilerilla taken by John Ward
Photo 7, Mercedes & John taken by myself
Photo 8, Traffic past John's house taken by John Ward

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Mecina , Mecinilla and Fondales

These three villages are often referred to as Mecina Fondales. They are so small and so close together that they seem to be just the one village.

The first time I went there, was on yet another exploratory tour with Ole. We were invited to visit his Danish friends who I had met on some Monday or Thursday morning in Bar Santiago in Orgiva.

We drove past Mecina's church, past Bar Aljibe in Mecinilla (Mecinilla? What Mecinilla)...
locally known as Marisa's Bar and down to the small square by the little church where we parked the car. We had to walk down very narrow, deserted and rather steep streets to get to Fondales and to the house.

What a delight that was too! Surprisingly large once you got inside, it was fit to be featured in House & Garden or the like. All the traditional architectural features of old were left exposed.

The house had been a shop and the village's wine press and what an Aladin's cave it was indeed in terms of its architectural treasures and the original implements, ceramics, "tinajas" (large earthen jars in which oil was stored), wine barrels, the old press room, even down to the smell of maturing wine. There was a huge fireplace in one of the bedrooms, a tiny window in another where you needed to go on your knees to look out of and the two animal sheds that had been transformed into a workshop and a storage room with a window from which the neighbours' mule peeped curiously at us.

Above I put a question mark and asked what Mecinilla…This is because driving past the bar you see nothing else of the village except the signpost pointing at a very narrow lane where a car could pass, but just barely. Going down it, you find a little hamlet with just a few houses. But it is there where many walks start.

Leaving Mecina, the crossroad to Fereirola & Fondales, one felt a sense of calm and quietness seldom experienced in Spanish villages. All the time we were there, this silence was not broken even once by a motor bike speeding through the village with its silencer removed, so common otherwise.

No shops, no supermarkets in any of these small villages of La Taha. For supplies, one had to look beyond. Maybe this is why the Pitres street market (mercadillo) is so popular.

Mecina is the liveliest of the three villages, It has a substantial hotel with a swimming pool where many friends of mine go to spend weekends to relax and Bar Cueva de la Mora Luna. Small as it is, it's often the scene of some piano or guitar concert or even a dance show…their pizzas, Argentinian style, are to die for!

Photo 1, Mecina Landscape
Photo 2, Bar Aljibe, painting by Takashi Ishii
Photo 3, Early exterior photo of Hotel de Mecina