The north of Extremadura is a land full of history. Some places have bravely resisted the passing of time, like Hervás, or recovered in time, like Cáparra. Together with an astonishing landscape, watered by streams and natural swimming pools, it makes a great area for the traveller to stop by. However, we have not mentioned yet one of the most amazing places in this region: Granadilla. There are not many cities like this one. Why? Because in the 1950s, Franco, Spain’s dictator, decided that he would build there a reservoir. However, the engineers did not calculate properly, and the water never covered the town. But the inhabitants were never allowed to go back to their houses. Therefore, this is the story of Granadilla, a village frozen in time in the 1950s.
Granadilla was a great village from the very beginning. It was founded by the Arabs next to the Silver Way, which links the north and south of Spain since Roman times. They built a sturdy city wall that has survived to our days (one of the few in Spain that has managed to, after all the wars). Then it was conquered by the Christians and turned into a villa, entitled to many rights. It was called Granada then, but eventually, it was named Granadilla, “little Granada”, in order to distinguish it from the Andalusian Granada. Although not so big as this one, it became so important that it ended up belonging to the House of Alba (to this day, they are in the line of succession to the English throne). This family built the fortress at the entry with a very original shape. From the top of it, the visitor has a great view of wild Extremadura.
In the 1950s, Franco decided to revitalize Spain’s rural areas by excavating loads of reservoirs. It did not matter if they covered cities like Granadilla or ancient sites like Valdecañas. And so, the inhabitants of Granadilla were forced to leave their houses, their church, their buried loved ones, and leave to a new town that was being built nearby. However, when the water was released, they realized that the waters stayed quite far from the village, so they asked to come back. To this day I do not understand why Franco refused. They were forbidden to do so! They still are; they are only allowed to go back on the local feast on August 15th, when they can attend mass at their ancient church, and on November the 1st, when people visit their loved ones at the cemetery.
This situation became ridiculous in time. The houses were falling apart, the church was about to collapse. Then, the Extremadura Government decided to act. Every summer, groups of volunteers would come and work to renew the houses. They were not allowed to change the structure, so the town has an air of an old movie from the 1950s. I have travelled all over the world, but this village made a huge impression on me: I have never seen anything like this. Ideally, you should go at the end of the afternoon to catch the sun hiding behind the reservoir. After this, somebody will ring the bell, announcing that the town’s gates are closing for the night. During the day, the village is full of life, with visitors like little ants roaming the streets. You will see colourful houses with their corral, you can walk the long city wall (almost one kilometre long), or climb all the way up to the main tower. From there, you can admire the view of the whole village from one side and, on the other, the chain of mountains that block the way to Salamanca.
One piece of advice: there are no bars whatsoever, so bring anything you need with you! After all, you are in Granadilla, a village frozen in time in the 1950s…
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