HOUSE OF THE BLUE SHADOWS
Welcome to Andalucia.dk
We knew nothing about either Andalusia or Spain when one sunny afternoon in 2006 we rented a car in Malaga. Yes I’d read Hemmingway and his ilk in the distant past. I’d actually also paid a flying visit to the Costa del Sol, but that was pretty hazy in my memory when we set off in the rented car, a Nissan Micra that was so small that my knees were scrunched up into the steering wheel.
The purpose of our journey was to find a cheap retreat – it should just be situated in a better climate than that we were familiar with in Denmark. A rather ordinary dream I would imagine, a paradox, something I’d always dreamed of but at the same time had associated with ageing millionaires who loved to idle away their time seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year.
Had we – without knowing it – undergone the classic transformation from young idealists to elderly eccentrics, who were now only waiting to drink ourselves to death on a sun-dappled terrace? Were we preparing a life where the high-point of the day would be the obligatory “sundowner”, where complaints about idle Spaniards would intermingle with marital discord, I wondered.
We would end up much wiser over the next four years! The discussions certainly became more intense and wide-ranging.
After having traipsed around with various obscure estate agents along the Andalusian East Coast for some days, we ended up in a small, forgotten hamlet called Albuñol. We’d been “on the road” non-stop and were getting tired, but that day in particular, we felt an air of expectancy; we were sure that it would be a fantastic day.
At the appointed place we were met by a middle-aged Englishwomen with dark circles under her eyes. She was going to show us that favourite house we’d chosen on the Internet. It looked so enchanting on the screen, I can tell you. But, but, but … as so often happens, in reality it was somewhat different from the romantic picture that we’d been captivated by on the net while we drank Rioja from Aldi. The place turned out to be a ruin. The residents of the house, a large flock of racing pigeons, disappeared noisily through an open window when we entered through one of the doors which was still just able to hang on its hinges. On the floor there was a solid mountain of pigeon guano about a metre high.
We were suddenly very disappointed.
In spite of everything, we still tried to remain optimistic…
-We suppose there are other old houses in this town? we asked the English lady, while we looked at her pleadingly.
She nodded briefly and then made a call on her mobile phone and began to speak horribly mangled Spanish with an unknown person.
– Yes I can show you another house, it was put on the market only 3 days ago, she said with her deep alcohol-ravaged voice, whilst wanly trying to smile at us in a customer-friendly way.
The house was a gigantic ancient building in the historic centre of the town, La Plaza. The name oozed poetry, Casa Frederico, the name of the mythological martyred poet from Granada, Fredericio García Lorca. He’s surely written into the annals of this house, I thought.
I remember clearly how the whitewashed stones immediately began to tell me stories the first time that we crossed the threshold. It reminded me of the houses which I’d visited in my imagination when I’d travelled within the tales of Gabriel García Marques or Mario Vargas Llosa; stories of lost souls, and of greatness and decline.
With its many labyrinthine passages and small rooms the house was much more than a house. It was a micro-universe, a town-within-a-town.
The sellers were a family who’d made it their way of life, in best nomadic-style, to move from place to place to work in the burgeoning building sector. Because of that, they’d probably never settled down in Albuñol. Perhaps they didn’t like the town. Perhaps it was just because that building boom which was predicted to follow in the slipstream of an army of fictitious rich foreigners never really got off the ground. In any case, they disappeared just as quietly as they’d arrived four years previously. Then as now – without talking to anyone.
I’ll spare you the details of how Casa Frederico was slowly transformed.
From being a mysterious, barrack-like, semi-ruin, it has been resurrected “Poco a poco” as they say, to its former glory. Like a phoenix, it has rediscovered its proud character as our Carmen Del Rayo Azul, or the House of the Blue Shadows, as we chose to christen it.
Instead, I can confirm what you’ve probably already divined, that for me, the project has developed into a spiritual journey into the narratives and forgotten fables from Granada and Andalusia. It’s as if the house is luring me into itself, pulling at me, disturbing my dreams, just so that I can translate the stories that the metre-thick walls are whispering in my ear.
Andalucia.dk has two purposes.One to attract people who’d like to experience a unique tour round the Granadan mountain landscape and who also wish to feel poetry and melancholy by renting the House of the Blue Shadows.
The other (This section is only in danish) is to commend itself to the armchair traveller and other interested parties. In a series of articles, I intend to examine some of the cultural phenomena and fables from Andalusia. The area which, with its very special history and geographical situation a stone’s throw from the African coast, has played a decisive role in how our western civilisation has developed over the last 1300 years.
I thank you for your interest and hope you will feel well at ease with my bulls, gypsies, poets, Moorish mercenaries, horses, Columbus, bandoleros, cynics, market gardeners, the unlucky Sultan Boabdil, illegal immigrants and ordinary mountain farmers. Welcome to Europe’s farthest border, welcome to Las Alpujarras – the grassland or Al-Busherat as the Moors called the mountains around the House of the Blue Shadows.