Houses in the mud: the troglodyte dwellings

by Victor Grigore, Webphoto.ro

If you consider holiday resorts boring and want to feel more like an explorer without leaving Europe, you might wanna have a look at the mud houses in Spain. With a bit of imagination you could feel like a time traveler, going as far as the stone age, because in villages like Guadix people are still living in caves and don’t think about changing things.

Guadix is found in Granada, the southern Spanish province of Andalusia, famous for its treasure of Moorish art. It is very contrasting to see only minutes away modern villas and the resorts on the Sierra Nevada mountains. The contrast is also found in the houses of the troglodytes, as the people who live in cave-like homes are known. From place to place you see satellite dishes hanging near the holes that stand for windows and the whitewashed chimneys of the fire place. You feel kind of sorry for the poor people who seem to be living in African conditions in a rich European country, and especially for the numerous children who gather around. Other Spaniards maintain that the troglodytes are quite happy with their homes, which they improved with furniture, television sets, internet connection and many appliances. Most of them are now completed with glass windows and doors as well as electricity and heating.

Though the village made the troglodytes a tourist attraction, for which normal hotels appeared not far away, I was embarrassed to bother the locals and ask them for a visit. Instead, I took a look in one of the empty troglodyte houses. Once inside, they don’t have the scary look of a cave. A mud wall whitewashed with lime doesn’t look any different than the inside of an adobe made of mud bricks as you still see in poorer places of Europe. The difference is that instead of making bricks out of clay mixed up with straws, drying them in the sun and using them like a normal brick, here the houses are dug directly in the soil. It is a special reddish soil that turns into clay very easily. It’s no surprise pottery is one of the popular crafts in Granada.

The troglodytes create complex galleries inside their man made caves. It must be one of the advantages of this type of house, that you can extend it with as many rooms needed. The first room is used as an ingenious cooling and ventilation system, with the numerous holes creating a transition space. The terrible Andalusian heat was the main motive behind the invention of this type of caves, that protect against the sun. The stove with chimney is also an important element for cooking and warming the house during the winter.

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