THE Marques de los Velez castle in Cuevas de Almanzora was built in 1507 on the site of a Roman fortification that had itself been strengthened by the Moors hundreds of years previously to guard the region against attacks by Berber pirates. Yes pirates!
The castle is listed by the national government so is in good condition and well worth a visit as not only is there the Campoy Art Gallery also housed there are the Town Library, the Record Office and the Museum of Archaeology.
The museum exists to display the archaeological discoveries made by the Belgian Luis Siret and his brother Enrique in 1882. When the brothers were working on a project to improve the town water supply they visited Fuente Alamo in the Sierra de Almagro as this was and is still famed for its high quality drinking water. Adjacent to the spring is the hill named El Cabezo de los Muertos or the Hill of the Dead. Here they discovered the remains of a village dating back to the Bronze Age 4000 years ago. The people that lived here were named the Argar as this region was once named Axarquia and stretched throughout Almeria to Granada, Murcia and Alicante.
Bronze is made from a mix of copper and tin and the two metals are only rarely found together in nature so it is quite possible that the bronze artefacts in the museum contain tin from Cornwall as this was traded throughout the Mediterranean 3-4000 years ago as back then it was a major commercial source of the metal.
Fuente Alamo is a beautifully scenic but quite eerie place today and it’s found by turning left at the Fuente Alamo signpost 2km out of Cuevas on the A332 Pulpi road. Then it’s a drive up the rambla into the mountains. Having visited the excellent museum in the past I naively expected the place to be just as informative. Instead it seems to be yet again an example of tax-payers money thrown at a project by local government and then left to crumble. There is just one faded sign with a unreadable black and white map so navigation of the site is impossible.
Very importantly though there is a brightly coloured plaque tacked onto the side of the little building housing the fuente or spring that commemorates the glorious day back in 2006 when civic leaders gathered to pat each other on the back for repairing the building and creating a tacky picnic area and not much else. A visit to the hole in the ground toilet that was specially built is to be highly recommended. The local goat population certainly find it a popular attraction.
Undeterred I walked up the valley in what turned out to be completely the wrong direction. Thirty minutes later and having gained a sprained ankle the mission was abandoned and I hobbled back to the car. Having done further research I now know where the ruined settlement is. The remains of the walled acropolis can still be seen and this is where the richest and most powerful used to live in safety at the top of the Cabezo (steep hill). Inside the walled area are also the storage areas for water and foodstuffs so protecting them from any attack. As is all too often in life, the poorest miners and farmers were left to fend for themselves in dwellings cut into the surrounding hillsides. Over the years the area became deforested and the climate became drier so the place was gradually abandoned. Once my ankle has healed there will be a return visit with sensible footwear.
Bar Paniajo in El Marchal often puts on live music at the weekends and recently the Cactus Twins performed a great set of mostly 60s and 70s acoustic and rock covers and it was a great evening. Any old bikers out there may have seen them perform at Harley D’s Bar near Carboneras. The food is also truly excellent at El Paniajo and has a classic French twist. Superb and delicious value is the 2 course set menu available for 12.50 euros. Soon the bar will be dragged into the 21st Century and broadband will be installed. There is a website to be found at www.elpaniajo.com
With Bar la Montana in the same area music lovers and all the old rockers out there are definitely spoilt for choice.
By Stephen Amore