The ghost village of Granadilla
Granadilla Travel Blog› entry 92 of 113 › view all entries
About 25km west of Hervás, the ghost village of Granadilla, overlooking the Embalse de Gabriel y Galán, is a beguiling reminder of how Extremadura’s villages must have looked before the rush to modernisation. Founded in 1170 but abandoned in the 1960s, the village's traditional architecture has been spectacularly restored.
The towering stone castle defended this walled hilltop village for five centuries but it was no match for the Government, which built a large dam, flooded the surrounding farmland and made Granadilla a ghost town. The last of the 1,000 residents left in 1965, when Granadilla still had no electricity or indoor plumbing. Pillagers then replaced villagers.
But in 1984 the Government resurrected the town, 180 miles west of Madrid, as a base for teaching urban high-school students about rural life.
Granadilla is not typical of Spain's estimated 900 ghost towns. Most were dirt-poor villages that slowly bled to death starting in the 1950's as a majority of Spain's agricultural workers left for better-paying jobs in the burgeoning cities. But lately a highly urbanized and far wealthier Spain, with a per capita income three times that of 1965, has been taking a new look at its ghost towns and several thousand other villages. The Granadilla program, once unusual, is now part of a trend to protect, and experience, rural life.
The signs of change are abundant.
The purpose of the Granadilla program is not for people to return to live in the villages, but to know about their past. Yet some Spaniards are returning, at least to make second homes. Forget the apartment on the beach, because it's massively overbuilt, people are now looking for tranquillity and to feel what their grandfathers felt. However, that tranquillity does not come cheaply. A house without a roof and with crumbling stone walls on a small plot of land could be bought for $1,000 in the early 1990's in ghost towns an hour or two from Madrid.
Seventy-five students in Granadilla were recently enjoying the fruits of ghost-town restoration. Since 1984 the Government has spent $5.5 million here to repair the city hall, the house once used by the local priest and 18 other buildings for use as classrooms, a mess hall or dorms, although dozens of structures are still in ruins. The students come here only after their teachers won approval from the Government for lesson plans using the village theme. The students spruce up gardens, survey solar panels installed in the village and also discover the downside to village life.