So, This Is What It's like to Be Fred Flintstone

Article excerpt

Byline: Annie Caulfield

The first night you try to sleep in a Spanish cave house, you will probably lie awake imagining the whole mountain is about to fall in on you. But then you'll have a more sensible thought. These caves have been lived in for hundreds of years, so why would they fall down tonight? Once you've cleared that irrational fear from your mind you'll still feel unsettled because the cave is so completely dark and quiet, too quiet. Then, finally, you'll have one of the best night's sleep you've ever had. As our distant ancestors realised, a cave is warm, dry and a place of peace.

In northern Andalucia the climate is harsh: too hot in summer, too cold in winter. When the sun beats down on the jagged desert landscape, a dark cool place to hide is very welcome.

And when the air freezes outside, a log fire heats a cave room quickly.

This is a landscape without trees and a limestone soil makes for hard farming. Digging down into the soft limestone, rather than building up, was the logical way to make a home.

And as tourism developed, many of these cave-dwellers fled for the cities and the coast looking for work. Now, foreign visitors and young Spanish city dwellers are rediscovering the abandoned caves. Restoring them is a booming business.

Inside a typical restored cave, there is a rugged, cottagey feel, with white walls, tiled floors and local ceramics in bathrooms and kitchens. Oh yes, there are bathrooms in caves. A cave hotel in the city of Guadix even offers a cave for two with a Jacuzzi.

Guadix, with views of the Sierra Nevada, is the heart of Andalucian caveland. Although there are caves full of flamenco shows on the edge of Granada, the Guadix region has the authentic feel of a cave life really lived. And being a couple of hours inland, the area still has good, cheap restaurants and bargain accommodation. …