Tahal : The heart of the Sierra – The village
We -Kevin and me, of course! – have just come back from a three day motor home trip through one of the Spanish wildernesses, in La Sierra Alhamilla (Provincia de Almeria). It was in fact one of those sketching trips I regularly do, not so much to get a lot of sketches done, but much more to complete my unconscious brain and hands databanks of Spanish colours, lines and shapes.
I did a lot of sketches and I will use them to make some art works for my series of “Fantascapes”. But what I want to do first is a reportage about a little village, Tahal, which we found by accident in the middle of the first night, after having been obliged to move down from the top of a mountain where the furious winds threatened to roll us and the motorhome over the edge.
Reportage is much too big a word though. It won´t be one of those clever writings, full of facts and/or tourist information. It will more be a patchwork of characteristic details which made this place for me so special.
There will be 3 parts. I will first write about the village, then about its inhabitants, and finally about their pets.
Read Part 2
TAHAL, the village
As we were looking for a place to park the motorhome, at 3 in the night, in the middle of nowhere, we saw this village in the distance glowing with hundreds of lights. Strange, I thought, it must be a very special place, Spanish villages don´t shine like that normally, and above all not in the middle of the night and of nowhere. We drove towards the lights and had the immense luck to find a great, windless place to park, just before the entrance of the village. We went to sleep at once, exhausted.
The next morning the sun was shining, the sky was blue and the air was wonderfully pure. From our vantage point the village didn´t look like anything special, now that the lights were gone. Yes, there was a strange old brown building, but in fact, nothing really exceptional compared to these incredible monuments you can see everywhere in Spain. But my natural curiosity and genuine understanding of Spain told me that it couldn´t be all… and anyway, if they call it “Tahal, El Corazon de La Sierra” (the heart of the mountain), something must beat there!
In fact Tahal is a wonderful village whose real beauty is to be discovered the deeper inside one explores. Old but well kept white houses, artistically arranged, a fort (the brown monument), a church, and dozens of little streets, up and down and up again. A real labyrinth… in fact there are almost as many streets as houses! Beautifully paved streets by the way. Each house has a big number written on it, normally one of these beautiful blue Spanish ceramic tiles. You will say, nothing special in that! The funny thing here is that, due to the relatively large amount of streets, the numbers written on the houses rarely exceed 3! What is the point then? Well, I guess the ceramic number tile is seen as a decorative detail … or the people think, the houses must have a number as we have a name… or they really need numbers to get their post… and anyway, I am exaggerating a little bit, but really, not much!
Speaking of streets, I paid special attention to the names of the streets and places. Of course there is in Tahal “La plaza Mayor” (no translation needed, I guess!), as it exists in every Spanish settlement with more than 100 inhabitants inclusive of animals, around which the village is built.
Then you have the functional streets and places, like “La Calle de los Almacenes” (the shops street), “La Calle de la Feria” (the feast street), “La Calle de Mesones” (the hotels street), “La Plaza del Estanco” (the tobacco place) y “La Placeta Juego Pelota” (the ballgame little place).
Then come the more symbolic streets like “La Calle de la Fuente” (The fountain street), “La Calle de la Cruz” (the cross street) and “La Calle del Aire” (the air street). Don´t ask me why the air street… all the streets had air there, and even the same air… if I had had more time I would have asked! Any theory among my readers?
Anyway, then came the historical streets like “La Calle del Cid” and really philosophical streets like “La Calle de la Concepcion” (the conception street) and “La Calle de Amargura” (the bitterness street, close to the church I guess).
And of course, all around Tahal, the streets with the names of the other villages where they are leading to.
In fact a whole Spanish human life in time and space is reflected only in the streets names… I found it fascinating!
And what struck me too was the pride and the love this village reflected. It was full of little parks, very little though because there was not much room, but nicely done. A modern school house, a modern health centre, an enormous modern building in construction, surely a youth centre or something like that. A lot of money has been invested in this village to make it attractive and prevent it from dying, like so many villages in the middle of nowhere…
And what I felt there when I walking around was simply: health. Yes, this mountain has a very healthy heart!
Next time: “Tahal, the people”