Friday, 28 November 2008

The Hidden Village of Villarbon and a Secret Albergue.

A post for a later date!

Took me a bit longer than expected to source umbrellas suitable for sketching on and the shop I eventually found doesn't open again until Five, so I'm spending the afternoon transcribing notepad notes to blogs before I lose my notepad. Lost my dictionary somewhere and had to do Two interviews yesterday. Totally lost without a dictionary. This post will have photographs and video clips added at a later date. It will no doubt be edited heavily also, but anyway...

High in the mountains on the borders of Leon and Galicia you'll find some of the most stunning views in the whole of Spain. An area of outrageously breathtaking natural beauty. Rich in diversity and packed with thriving wildlife, plants and forest of pine and deciduous tress. Snow capped peaks rising above the clouds below in the deep limestone gorges. Thundering waterfalls and lush green valleys. A natural park in the region of Bierzo known as Anceres. A circular range of mountains with exceptional hiking trails, hunting and fishing, or a simple country getaway.

If you know where and howyou be may be lucky enough to find the hidden village of Villarbon. A small cluster of derelict buildings (houses, a chapel, a tavern, dry stores) nestled amongst a forest of chestnut, apple, pear and cherry. Just Two houses remain in use. One, a weekend retreat for a local retired couple. The other is home and studio to an English artist and his Spanish actress partner.

Many factors make this village unique. As well as the fabulous views and´'other wordly' beauty, there is electricity, drainage, running water and street lighting! A very surreal thing in such a remote and seemingly forgotten location. There is also a fully functioning 40 bed albergue with hot showers and huge wood burning stoves offering basic accommodation to hikers, hunters, fishing folk and anyone who enjoys time in remote wilderness.

Accessible by car via a very steep 3KM dirt track. You really do need very specific instructions to find it. The nearest bar of any description is about 6KM. If you plan to spend time here you need to come prepared and fully stocked. A beautiful place, a very hard and permanent beauty tat can sometimes be very harsh. Not an easy place to live in, but a very, very nice place to visit for a few days.

Home to wolves, wild boar and some of Europes only real wild bears, pastures that were once the best wheat and potato growing fields are now dense thickets of wild rose and some spindly shrub named 'jester' (not sure I heard right). Gentle slopes below the village roll away into deep gorges. The horizon is one distant mountain after the next. Valley rivers offer some of the very best and most picturesque trout fishing anywhere. Ponies and cows graze the lush valley meadows with alder and birch lining the river banks.

40 years ago this was a thriving community. Often the case with many deserted villages in Spain, when franco expanded towns and cities with plans of industrilisation villages were simply abandoned. Faced with the choice between a very hard mountain life, or a warm appartment with all mod cons and regular work in the city, people fled. Those opposed to the Franco regime emmigrated to Argentina, Switzerland, Holland and other countries. Most simply took the new work in the nearest town, or city. Entire villages left to go to wreck and ruin. Climate change is also a factor in some villages. With rivers suddenly running dry and no summer supply of fresh drinking water.

I visited a week ago, or so and enjoyed wild mushrooms (Lepiotas are the local speciality) apples and pears with fresh baked bread and as many sweet chestnuts as you like.

I fried finely chopped chestnuts in pork fat with garlic beore adding the mushrooms and serving on fresh bread. A bit delicious.


Much more to come to this post at a later date...

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