Ocupación Rural - New life in the ghost villages of Spain


The construction of dams, reforestation and reforms have led to a veritable rural exodus in Spain, in the 1960s and 1970s. Hundreds of mountain villages stood empty for a long time until they were occupied and revived in the 1980s.

Wildly overgrown paving stones let us guess that there must have been a small road here a long time ago. We follow the bumpy path that winds through the rugged rocky landscape of the Pyrenees. After a two-hour walk under the burning sun of Spain, we finally see the first signs of the mountain village Sasé.

Eduardo, a keen Spaniard whom we met while hitchhiking, co-founded the group "Collective Colores", who in 1996 brought the once deserted village back to life.

Utopia of animals?

Still and spooky, the silhouettes of the ruins of Sasé stand out on the horizon. The wind rustles softly through the leaves, crickets chirp their usual songs. No laughter, no voices, no sounds that would indicate the presence of humans. Maybe we are not in Sasé at all, I think shortly, as we are torn out of the silence by a terrible barking at the same moment. Two angry dogs are suddenly in the middle of the way. Snarling teeth and with erect hair on the back, they growl at us.

The guardian of the ghost village

With a few gentle words, the dogs can calm down quickly. Fortunately, we seem to be quite sympathetic to them, because from now on, they follow us at every turn during our reconnaissance tour through the small mountain village. We encounter cats, chickens, donkeys, horses ... but people are far from being seen. We look at each other in astonishment: "Did we find a village that was occupied by animals? Is this the lived Utopia of the animals, or how?

In Sase, we meet only an old horse that lives in the church ruins of the former village.

But then, hidden behind an old oak tree, we find a small house that seems inhabited. Carefully, we push the rusty grid to the side, which serves as a garden gate. Even the front door is not fired. In a loud voice we call "Holaaa" into the darkness of the little house. No reaction. With the hope that the residents of the house will return in the evening, we make a small fire nearby to prepare our dinner.

Dinner on the former village square
The last inhabitant

No sooner did we rummage our sleeping bags out of the backpack, loud engine sounds announce the arrival of a car. We look intently in the direction of the two headlamps, which break through the darkness and seem glaring towards us. An old SUV torments slowly over the bumpy road until it comes to a halt near our night camp.

The driver, in his mid-40s, with long dreadlocks, gets out and greets us friendly. When we explain why we're here, Pepé laughs out loud, "That was a few years ago!"

"Today only a few people live here. At the moment maybe three or four. We occupied the village in 1996 with a few people. That was a hustle and bustle back then! There was no water or electricity here, so we laid miles of tubing to bring the water from the springs to us. Many people felt inspired to occupy more villages in the Valle de Solana. An incredible time ... "he remembers.

Patchopa lives in Sieso - a community in the Spanish Pyrenees. „Ich hatte einen Traum, den Traum einer Utopie . She sings her own song about utopias: "I had a dream, the dream of a utopia . And I have tried to achieve the forbidden peace. Freedom has owners. And love is fantasy. I wish that we transform it, this reality with joy. And that's how we change life. "

The next morning we try to talk to Pepé to learn more about the history of the village. Quickly he lets us feel that he enjoys the loneliness up here and has enough of the visitors who chase after the "Mythos Sasé".

The search continues…

So we start again. Hike through the Pyrenees foreland, past azure rivers, imposing rock formations and small villages. Fresh, juicy figs sweeten our lunch breaks. In the evening we set up our tents in nature and enjoy the starry tepid nights.

In search of the revived mental villages we hitchhike through the Pyrenees.
The search leads us through the most remote places in Spain.
Our midday meal: white bread and fresh figs from the tree.

At some point we learn of a small mountain village near Huesca, which is occupied and inhabited by young people. So we decide without further ado to look over there.

Only a few kilometers from our destination, we wait for a car that takes us the last bit. One hour? Two? A while. But time does not matter much in the last few months anyway.

We read, play harmonica and joke until the next car comes. There are only very small streets, hardly any traffic. But then a small van stops. "Unfortunately only room for one person," the driver tells us. We improvise and look for a place in the hold of the van. Dark in here. But we are progressing.

Artaso - the ruins were re-habitable by a group of young people.

As we enter the village, soft guitar music resounds through the air. We follow the sounds and soon meet a small group that has gathered in the square in front of the community center. With friendly smiles and warm hugs we are welcomed by the residents.

"It's great to see you over here!" Hugo greets us with joy and jumps up to show us the village. Here we meet Pilippe, who came here from France with his two donkeys on foot. He is currently building a wooden house for the winter. "All the materials I use come from nature. No plastic. No chemistry. That's very important to me! "He explains with a penetrating look.

Philipp traveled with his two mules over ten years across Europe. Now he wants to settle temporarily in one of the abandoned villages. "But who knows when it will keep me going?"
Between the ruins is also experimented with other housing options. In this yurt lives Christina with her dog.
In the land of utopians

Over the next few days, we immerse ourselves in the colorful life of the small, anarchistically organized, community. Here a free and open togetherness is lived. Everything is possible, nothing is neccesary. The only "rule" is mutual respect. "I have my needs, yes. But needs vary from individual to individual. We need to learn to work together to achieve mutual understanding and harmony, "says Monchi, who has lived in the community for a few years.

There are no permanent houses or sleeping places. "Just as it fits. We have the big community house, the yurt and in the ruins there is a mattress to sleep here and there ... with a panoramic view of the starry sky, "he adds with a grin. "Showered and washed outside. When it's cold, we use the greenhouse to take a shower, it's warmer. "

The washing machine is powered by muscle power.
Everyone comes together for lunch. In the ruins of the deserted village, the inhabitants of "Artaso" want to fulfill their utopia of a life in communion and harmony with nature.
The interior of the houses is largely made of recycled materials. The residents have been able to find a lot of useful things on the streets of cities or bulky waste.

The door to the community house creaks loudly as we open it to enter. No key is required for this - there is no lock. The walls in the hallway are colorfully painted. Flowers, fairies and all sorts of patterns glow in bright colors. On the left corner, next to the couch, hang guitars, drums, and flutes.

As soon as we enter, the smell of freshly cooked vegetable stew that pervades the whole house rises to our nostrils. We follow the enticing scent and meet Christina, who prepares a joint lunch in the kitchen. "There's a big bell hanging outside. Can you really make a loud noise with it, so that everyone knows that the food is ready? "

The tree house should be built only with natural materials. A mix of straw, water and clay serves for the later soil.
Together we work on Hugos Treehouse.
Joined forces

After lunch, we help Hugo with his homebuilding project, which plans a baby with his partner. "It should be warm and comfortable when it's born!" He says with a dreamy smile. For his project, he cut pine beams, which we pull to the site with ropes from the forest. Slowly, step by step, we drag the heavy beams over the forest floor.

The sun is almost disappearing behind the mountains when Rachel comes with a pack of beer to the construction site, which she just caught fresh from the fountain - the refrigerator of the community. Exhausted and happy, we enjoy the cold beer and look contentedly at our daily work. Enough worked for today.

In the evening everyone gathers in the kitchen again. At one corner of the table, Theo and Filippe are concentrating on a game of chess, Lisa and Hugo are painting the portrait of each other, Rachel is writing her diary and a small group is discussing the pros and cons of tractor use when we hear a loud hoot hear.

Dinner from the supermarket bin

This is Manu, who was in town with his bus to contain some food. Everyone jumps up joyfully and carries the goods into the kitchen. Crumbly bread, cheese, yoghurt and pies pile up on the table. "Fished everything out of the supermarket bin," he says proudly. Then Monchi gets the guitar out of the hall and hops loudly around the table singing .. "Oooolaaa FIESTAAA!" It sounds loud through the house. While some take a few instruments out of the hall, the others prepare a true feast. The evening ends in a boisterous hustle and bustle of music, dancing and feasting.

Even as we go to bed, we hear from below the soft sounds of the guitar ...

  1. Wow, the post is really great written and makes you want to fly directly yourself. But as romantic as that sounds and looks, I do not want to live like that. Thanks for the great insights!

    Best regards,

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