Tuesday, 27 August 2013


Much like the Smurfs themselves, Júzcar is small and does not boast too many alternatives for lunching. Village's Smurf-themed hotel has a small restaurant, but neither one of us was kiddy enough to get giddy over the thought of a Smurf-themed burger menu. So, we made the executive decision to keep driving to a nearby village of Cartajima, where the hotel Los Castanos was said to celebrate local produce on its menu.

Cartajima in itself is one of the small and quiet villages of Serrania de Ronda bit a couple of hundred residents. The seemingly generic appearance belies a long and rich history though, dating back to Moorish times. It gets its name from Arabic, the original name translating as "the farmhouse of Aljaima". First Christian texts write the name as Xaritalxime. 

Following Reconquista at the end of the 15th century the Muslim population was evicted resulting in the death of many surrounding villages. In the Independence War 1808-1814 the village boasts having been in crucial part in defeating the French.

The area used to be famous for its wine, but the industry was served a lethal blow in the form of phylloxera. Now, slowly but surely, its making a comeback though.

Today the villages reminds me of the wilting little towns back home, each year with less and less people, each year just a little closer to the inevitable death. The post office has been closed for years and the village shop is about to follow. People are getting older and older as the youth faces the move to the big cities in the South in the search of jobs and better life.

Fería had recently been celebrated here, too. This is their celebrated patron saint.

At this point even the religion buff that is yours truly found herself baffled. Are they all just interchangeable names for the Virgin Mary that enjoys a rock star-like popularity throughout the Catholic world or have there really been enough virgins to go around for each village? And if so, is their miraculous status result of anything other than the fact that they managed to avoid the temptations of happy hour at Weatherspoon?

Only the flags dancing in the afternoon wind over the narrow alleyways bore testament to the recent celebrations. The streets were empty, no living soul anywhere. The lanterns lighting the night falling on the village had already been put away and were collecting dust at the corner of the city hall. The only sounds were the muffled voices of a family getting together for lunch at the back room of the village's tiny tobacco shop.

And the hotel? Cerrado. Closed.

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