Over the years, Tracy and I have taken MANY road trips together. When you can spend hours, even days together without wanting to jump out of the car in the middle of the freeway, AND you still want to spend time together after the trip is over, that’s true love.
One of the ways we pass the time is coming up with, and then discussing, bizarre and/or hypothetical hypotheses (Do you think dinosaurs had politics? Like, who would be president of a dinosaur society? See those people getting out of the car over there? They’re not just some business guys. They’re bounty hunters on the way to their next job. Who do you think they’re after?) We’ve often talked about/threatened to record some of these conversations and edit the best parts together into a podcast. Rather, a CAR-Cast. Could happen one of these days, though we haven’t actually done it mainly because we recognize that if we knew we were recording, it would make us more self-conscious and less likely to come up with the best stuff.
But the point is, we’ve had a few road trips during our #Spain1516 excursion, and as usual, interesting/funny/weird conversations were had. So, while on the way from Javea to Seville, when I started shouting “CUEVAS! There are caves that people live in around here! I think there’s a whole town where everyone lives in caves that were built like thousands of years ago!” I wouldn’t be surprised if Tracy had just thought I’d seen a crack in a rock, and started my usual outlandish blow-things-out-of-proportion thing, on the way to one of the conversation starters. Perhaps she thought that the next thing out of my mouth would be something like “What if people never figured out how to build with wood, and everything was made out of dirt. Would we have clay cars? Would it be basically like the Flintstones, with technology made out of dirt, rocks and turtle shells?” This is not at all out of the question, taking in to account how things normally go on these trips. BUT…
There really IS a town (more than one actually) where people live in caves, and we were passing it RIGHT AT THAT MOMENT! I googled it and learned about Guadix, a small town that has (in addition to the requisite Cathedral), the “Barrio de Santiago”, which is a WHOLE NEIGHBORHOOD OF CAVE HOUSES! Sorry for the caps but, I have to approximate the excitement with which I was informing/shouting at Tracy to let her know that there were REAL CAVE HOUSES! THAT PEOPLE REALLY LIVE IN! Oh, I said that already? I KNOW, BUT, CAVE HOUSES!
There wasn’t time to stop this time, but we decided we’d try to figure out more about it, and maybe stop on the way back. Tracy was mildly interested, but I SPOKE LIKE THIS ANY TIME I WAS REMINDED THAT PERHAPS WE COULD SEE REAL CAVE HOUSES! And on the way back, I started looking for the first signs of the upcoming “cave area” not long after we left Granada. Sooner than I expected, we started seeing doorways and windows carved into the rock of the hills on the side of the road.
Just as Tracy was starting to suggest that perhaps we should get off at one of these exits, I saw the sign for Guadix and the “Barrio de Santiago”, so I started bouncing around in my seat and pretty much shouting “LET’S GET OFF HERE! CAVE HOUSES! CAVE NEIGHBORHOOD! TROGLODYTE! FRUMKE UMMDERE SNITZ GRABLLE! THIS EXIT!” Yeah, I was pretty much that incoherent, I’m sure Tracy will confirm.
Yes, on this trip, we’ve seen examples of the most amazing architecture, art, and design that I’ve ever seen in person. The Alcazar, The Alhambra, and several of the cathedrals we’ve seen house arguably some of the most impressive and durable masterpieces in the world. I was in awe seeing those places in person, touching carvings made more than 800 years ago. Being in the room where Magellan planned his voyage. But for some reason, my imagination was even more excited by rough-hewn structures carved into hillsides by common people-farmers and ranchers, not commissioned by kings, explorers and conquerors.
There are many different types of cave houses, in various states of modernization. Some have all of the modern conveniences any 21st century home does, others are abandoned shelters from another time with stories I’d love to hear.
As we drove down the street…and up a hill into the neighborhood, we could feel the history. But unlike the aforementioned palaces, these places are still parts of people’s everyday lives. They might be hundreds of years old, they might be new…or a little of both. As we hoped that the street wouldn’t taper into one of the “sidewalk streets” of Tracy’s nightmares, we marveled at half house/half cave structures that presumably offer the best of both worlds. What rooms are in the interior cave section? Bedrooms where no light enters so you never want to wake up? Storage rooms dug any size you need into the side of the mountain? Wine cellars with natural temperature control? Part of the fun of Guadix was talking about all of these possibilities, like one of our road trip diversion conversations.
After getting out, walking the cave-dotted street, and climbing up to an overlook that showed amazing views of the whole valley and more caves, we drove on.
Now with additional images to stimulate our imagination, and an awe of human ingenuity, heartiness, creativity, and ability to find and enhance beauty in almost everything. And I wasn’t shouting anymore. I was quietly processing not only what I’d just seen, but how it all fit together with the other sights we’ve explored. This is why we took this trip-to find the unexpected, and share the experience together. And once again, it all proved worth it.