Portrait of Montefrio: A Spanish Town in the Western Hills of Granada Province

Portrait of Montefrio: A Spanish Town in the Western Hills of Granada Province

by Lawrence Bohme


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An artistic and historical guide to the Andalucian town of Montefrio by Lawrence Bohme, world citizen, artist and "passionately self-taught historian" who first discovered this remote place in 1960 and lived there between 1983 and 2002. The town's many monuments and archaeological treasures are fully documents with the author's own sketches and maps.

The guide book is followed by eight stories of the author's life in Montefrio, and an eclectic assortment of stories about Spain previously published in Spain's English-language press. Lawrence is also the author of "Granada, City of My Dreams", which he illustrated with pen-and-ink drawings and translated into French and Spanish, as well as "Stories from Spain and Other Places", a collection of "tales from the life".

The monumental town of Montefrio, in the northwestern corner of Granada Province, stands well off the beaten path for most tourists. It came into mainstream history in the 14th century when the Moorish rulers of the Alhambra, 30 miles away in Granada, built a great fortress on its promontory intended, but never used, to ward off the attacks of the marauding Christian armies whose aim was to reconquer Spain from the Muslims, or at least to collect tribute from them.

But long before, the region was home to native Iberians who left the remains of settlements and graveyards strewn about the spectacular landscape. The Romans settled there to grow wheat, mixing with the local peoples and eventually introducing them to Christianity. They built a series of mills which ingeniously gathered the water from a plunging river gorge in tall wells or "penstocks", which, when full, were opened to turn grinding stones. One of these mills can still be found today, with the help of Lawrence's guide..

When the Moorish invasion threatened the dwellers of the secluded "Cliffs of the Gypsies", they withdrew to a forbidding hilltop, El Cerro del Castellón, leaving an impressive grid of excavated ruins. Lawrence has disovered and tried to identify a number of extraordinary rock carvings in the shape of a baptismal font, a primitive pulley for withstanding sieges, and even an olive oil mil, perhaps the oldest one extant in Spain.

Lorenzo, who lived for ten years in a farmhouse nearby, eloquently describes these treasures with words and drawings in his highly personal book. He has included a collection of autobiographical stories relating his own arrival on the scene in 1960 as a hitch-hiking student in love with flamenco music, with as fellow traveller a young French novelist he met in the festival of Pamplona and who introduced him to Jean Cocteau in Malaga, as they hitched around Spain following the bullfights. He also bumped into Orson Welles and a curious man known to the Spanish press as "el falso Hemingway"...

The book is enriched with Bohme's lively articles and essays about Spanish mountain ham or "jamón serrano", the making of virgin olive oil as well as tapas and the originally-Spanish sauce called mayonnaise. Several stories describe Lorenzo's experiences of the Franco regime, and dramatic sightings of the dictator himself, while a student in Madrid and Granada Universities, as well as life on the island of Ibiza circa 1962 and in the mountain town of Capileira, at the heart of the region called La Alpujarra, the last Moorish frontier of medieval Spain.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781530807956
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 03/31/2016
Pages: 150
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.32(d)

About the Author

Lawrence Bohme was born in London in 1942 "under Hitler's rockets", to a refugee from Berlin and "a daring young Englishwoman". In 1946 his family left "grimy, threadbare war-torn England" to settle in Vancouver, where Lawrence's father set up his own business and his mother "discovered she was an artist". When he was 14, Joan took offspring in hand and embarked on a long odyssey as a budding abstract painter, living "not quite hand-to-mouth, but almost" in Mexico, where Lawrence learned Spanish, and then in pre-independence Jamaica "which was an earthly paradise". But life in a British colony was too dull for the adventurous Bohmes and by 1958 - "on the eve of America's cultural revolution" - they were tucked into a tiny flat in New York's Greenwich Village, "which Joan had read about in a newspaper as a good place for bohemians and artists...". There, Lawrence flourished, "making interesting friends of various origins, including - thanks to the Blackboard Jungle sort of high school my mother put me in - a girlfriend who introduced me to Harlem and its fascinating people and music". In 1960 Lawrence fulfilled his dream of studying in Madrid and sailed to Spain, where he "spent more time carousing in taverns with a bunch of anti-Franco students than at the overly staid University". He soon found his way south to Montefrio, the olive-farming town west of Granada where he was to live, later on, for over 20 years. There, Lawrence became the undying friend of the flamenco singer Manuel Avila, "who was also a shepherd and village butcher". In 1961, giving up on the Spanish University, Lawrence - now with a temperamental Bavarian painter in tow, the footloose tomboy Lilo - set out for Paris and the Sorbonne, where he studied French civilization and discovered his beloved poets Baudelaire and Villon. Finally, in 1963 and "a bachelor again, I hitched a ride to Rome planning to work in a hotel, but instead ended up in Sicily trying to teach English to fishermen's kids in exchange for sardines and spaghetti." He failed, but "found all that and much more later on" in a favela of Rio de Janeiro where he stayed "for five blissful years". After a decade working as a pen-and-ink postcard designer and leather sandal-maker in Haiti and other Caribbean islands, Lawrence returned to Paris at age 41 to become a quadrilingual Unesco translator. Now retired, the ex-nomad lives in southern France "writing all this down" in his ongoing 16-part memoir, "My Very Long Youth."

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