Adventures in Spain — Time with Brunborgs; October 7-13, 2019

On October 6, we (Shipleys and Bill & Colleen) drove our rented auto down from Madrid to southern Spain.   We were in the neighborhood to visit Norwegian friends Lars Helge & Tove Brunborg and to help them with their almond harvest. Also joining in the harvest, and the attendant merry making, were Rasmus and Kari. They bunked at Casa Emilie, villa of Lars Helge & Tove.  We stayed in the villa of generous Norwegian friends Bjørgulf & Berit Haukelid in the nearby little Spanish village of Itrabo.

We began the picking on the morning of the day 7th.  For a few of the smaller trees, the almonds could just be plucked from the branches, but for most, the almonds were persuaded to release by beating the branches with long sticks. A large net lain underneath the tree collected the proceeds which could then be coaxed into large plastic tubs.  The byproducts of the process include leaves and bits of twigs as well as outer husks, so the tubs are taken up for sorting on a table outside of the villa.

We spent the morning of the 8th picking more almonds, and then all went for a short walk in the neighborhood.  That evening, the Americans made dinner.

On the 9th we all went to Almuñécar.


Almuñécar is a municipality in the Spanish Autonomous Region of Andalusia on the Costa Tropical between Nerja (Málaga) and Motril. It has a subtropical climate. Since 1975, the town has become one of the most important tourist towns in Granada province and on the Costa Tropical.

The Phoenicians first established a colony in Almuñécar in about 800 BC and this developed for six hundred years into an important port and town with a large fish salting and curing industry that was a major supplier of Greece and Rome.

The Romans came to southern Spain at the time of the Second Punic War between Rome and Carthage in 218 BC as part of their campaign to subdue the Phoenician settlements along the coast. During 700 years of Roman colonial rule the town and its industry prospered, and in 49 BC the municipality (one of 20 cities in Spain honoured at that time) was given the title Firmium Julium Sexi in recognition of the town’s loyalty to Rome.

With the decline of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, Germanic peoples, including the Visigoths, crossed the Pyrenees mountain range into the Iberian peninsula. By 456 the Visigoths emerged as the dominant power, and expanded their territory onto the southwestern Mediterranean coast. However, Hispania remained relatively Romanized under their rule. The Visigoths adopted Roman culture and language, and maintained many of the old Roman institutions, although much of the economic structure collapsed, and at Almuñécar the fish curing industry declined rapidly. The Catholic bishops were the rivals of Visigothic power and culture until the end of the 6th and beginning of the 7th century—the period of transition from Arianism to Catholicism in the Visigothic kingdom.

The first Muslim invasion of southern Spain came in 711 AD at or near Gibraltar. At Almuñécar, the town remembers 15 August 755 when Umayyad Abd ar-Rahman I of Damascus, the founder of the Emirate of Cordoba, arrived from North Africa to establish his Moorish kingdom. The Moors introduced the growing of sugar cane and sustained the fishing industry; many of the streets and buildings of the old town were developed by the Moors. The castle remained the stronghold of the city and the seat of government and its walls were strengthened. Extensive dungeons were built for those out of favour with local rulers, but also baths for the use of the social elite.

The cross on Peñon del Santo, the rock at the old harbour entrance, marks the defeat of the Arabs, their surrender at Almuñécar, and the beginning of Christian rule in 1489.

Following the restoration of Christian rule, new architectural statements were made – for example the construction of a new church was started in 1557 and completed to the latest design in 1600, the first Baroque-style church in the province of Granada. The old town was also Christianised (or perhaps paganised – by the Goddess of fertility herself), as in the building of the water fountain on the Calle Real (Royal Street), dated to 1559 and with the royal cypher above, but at that time using the existing Roman water supply from Las Angosturas first installed 1500 years earlier.  [Source: Wikipedia]


We explored the crowded old-town shopping area, stopped at the busy indoor market, and then retired to the beach for lunch at one of the seaside restaurants.  As I walked the beach after lunch, a merchant, recognizing me as a tourist but unaware of my Caribbean experiences, benevolently insisted that I take pictures of his several banana trees.

On October 10th the Americans broke away and drove up to Granada to visit Alhambra. (Blog coming)

On the 11th, having returned to Itrabo, we all drove up into the spectacular Sierra Nevada Mountains and visited two picturesque villages. In the first, Pampaniera, we paused for some shopping and coffee. In the second, Capileira, more shopping and a delicious lunch.

On Oct. 12 we all walked up the hill that Lars Helge & Tove live on. Their villa is on the west side of a ridge, and the road runs up the east side, climbing much much higher. At the top, we found paragliders!

On the morning of October 13 we showed Bill & Colleen the marvelous almond sheller that Lars Helge had commissioned by a group of design students.  After that demo we jumped into our respective autos and took a narrow twisting road high up to see “the ghost village” in the Sierras of Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama Natural Park: the lost village of El Achebuchal.

In 1948 some two hundred villagers were ordered to leave El Achebuchal.  Authorities suspected the villagers of supporting rebels hiding in the mountains, by providing them with food and shelter.  Effectively the villagers were victims, caught between a rock and a hard place; hassled by both the authorites and the rebels during the remenants of the civil war.   Once vacated, the village became empty, derelict and was lost in time.

Fifty years later one man returned to re-build the village where his parents once lived.  His family restaurant, the tavern in the village,  is an authentic Spanish tavern, serving seasonally available specialities of delicious plates of game in rustic sauces.  Inside the restaurant there is an interesting collection of black and white photos providing a fascinating insight into campo life, and a life when El Achebuchal was a bustling hamlet.

On the morning of the 14th we took our leave of our Norwegian friends, and drove back up to Madrid.  The visit with Lars Helge & Tove and with Rasmus & Kari had been, as usual when we spend time with them, thoroughly enjoyable.  Tuesday the 15th we caught a flight to Rome, and from there, another flight to Florence.  See a later post for coverage of our Florence stay.