I live in a quiet part of Andalusia (Andalucia), Spain known as the Altiplano de Granada. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty with a number of contrasting landscapes vying for attention. The traditional dwelling in and around the Altiplano is the cave house (casa cueva) and here you will find a large resident population of 21st Century troglodytes. Forget the Fred Flintstone jokes, living in a cave is not to be sneered at and I'll tell you why
My home was first excavated into the compacted earth, stones and clay of a dry Andalusian hillside, possibly centuries ago. I have eleven subterranean chambers with a couple of external buildings annexed to them. As the inner parts of the house are several metres underground they are extremely well insulated and maintain a constant temperature of 18-20 degrees Celsius. It is, therefore, economical to live in. A wood burning stove, or in this case an eco-friendly wood pellet burning stove, is all that is required to raise the temperature in winter and there is no need for air conditioning even during the hottest part of the summer. (It's great to snuggle under a light weight duvet at night even after the temperature has been in the mid 30's C all day.)
All my cave rooms are painted white, are well lit and each one is a different shape. There is no feeling of claustrophobia even in the deeper recesses of the house and I am pleased with the quirky and cosy character of the place.
No two cave houses are the same. They come in all manner of shapes, sizes and condition. There are newly excavated properties finished to a high standard and ready to move into, those that need a little bit of modernisation and those that require complete renovation.
My cave bedroom, for example, was once used as place to house animals - pigs, chickens, rabbits, donkeys and/or mules at a guess. It boasts a couple of mangers, hand carved into the walls, and a feed chute in the ceiling. The feed chute is a one metre diameter hole rising from the ceiling through six metres of earth to the surface. In days not too long ago fodder was thrown down here to the animals below. It also, presumably, allowed the smell out! (It does have to be admitted that these features may seem a little unusual in the bedroom accessory department).
Now, I'm pleased to say, the mangers have been turned into a vanity unit and a niche for ornaments, and the feed chute into a light well and ventilation shaft. The floor is now covered with lovely rustic style tiles and the walls plastered and painted. An en suite bathroom has been added, along with a little bit of subtle lighting, and hey presto we have modern and peaceful sleeping quarters as befitting any self-respecting latter-day trog.
My lounge, on the other hand, is situated in an external front addition built into the side of the hill and adjoining the underground part of the property. The walls are half a metre thick and the roof has been replaced and fully insulated using modern materials. It is light and spacious although it was also once probably used as a place to keep animals.
Lots of cave houses have front additions that are easily recognisable as normal houses. (In these parts, however, many seemingly normal houses have rear additions that are caves). The point is that sometimes cave houses are caves and sometimes they're houses as well but, tastefully renovated, they are always homes.
Cave houses can be cheap to buy, reasonably cheap to renovate and economical to live in. Local council taxes are usually very modest too.
The village of Purullena (pictured) Is known as " Ciudad Trogladita" (Troglodyte City) and has cave houses that date back to Arabic times . As recently as thirty years ago all the local residents lived in caves, but nowadays there are about 1,100 cave dwellers out of a total population of 2,700 inhabitants.
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