Janovas Abandoned Village
15km from the hilltop town of Ainsa lies Janovas, an abandoned village in the most picturesque setting. Here, at this beautiful riverside spot, we find a place to park for the night along with around 10 other campervans.
First, for those not following our travels, this is part of a longer Summer journey through inland Spain. The heat of the day is subsiding, but the August air is still hot and dry.
The views and location here are very special, it’s one of those places where time has stood still and we’re so lucky to be here tonight.
We found this place through word of mouth, by chance really. It’s a wild camping spot, and we wonder for how much longer?
The parking area above the river is in parts rough, undulating and stoney, but it’s tranquil. A sign beside the river which crosses into the remnants of the village, tells visitors not to enter by vehicle. As usual, there are those who ignore the requests, and park across the water for the night, as if by special permit.
The history of Janovas Abandoned Village
It’s hard to imagine looking out at the remains of Janovas, that this was once a thriving community. Now, the stone fragments of its past rise above the river and it’s a fascinating, yet sorrowful story which began in the 1960’s.
Back then, Janovas, along with 14 other villages in the region were destroyed, in order to make way for the construction of a series of Dam’s.
The village occupants had to leave their homes, without any recompense for the loss of their land, homes and livelihoods. Instead, buildings and homes were blown up with dynamite and crops destroyed, giving people no choice but to leave.
Now, after all these years, there is hope, after the government finally acknowledged the events that took place. The hope is for the homes and land to be returned to those forced to leave, and finally give back to the families what is rightfully theirs.
The good news, is that there is already progress and through fund-raising, there is signs of life again at Janovas. Slowly, re-building has begun and we can’t wait to see the work for ourselves.
Wondering through the abandoned ruins
Wondering across the wooden treads of a long swing bridge crossing the river brings the crumbling ruins of Janovas a step closer. It’s hard to imagine what this village used to look like, prior to its abandonment.
Despite the destruction, the surroundings are beautiful, with the river flowing peacefully and the sound of bird song. There’s signs of the past scattered throughout, from a crooked street light to an old shoe in the overgrowth. Window frames are bent, the glass long since shattered and empty shells still hold signs of paint within the walls.
As the light blue paint clings to the remnants of plaster, the old chimney rises towards the morning sky. Then there’s the narrow streets, still forming the criss-cross maize beneath the stone ruins.
Strangely enough, you can just walk around, with little in the way of signs or fenced off areas. As usual we think of how different Britain is to many countries, not a reflective jacket in sight and we like that.
Cement Mixer, a Digger and the best Church
There’s good news though, soon we spot a cement mixer in action and people working. Then the movement of a digger further along the old streets, clearing what was once a home.
A few buildings are already well under way in terms of re-build and it’s great to see. They look almost finished on the outside, and there’s even a bar – it’s good to see the priorities are right.
A little further beyond, we walk to the back of the village, where a church, complete with a new roof sits proudly. Inside is just fascinating, and a realisation of how things used to be.
There’s murals on the wall, the colours glistening in the streaks of sunlight edging through the door. Despite the dusty, bare interior and original wooden doors, this church is at best a shell.
Waiting to be restored to its former glory must seem like an enormous task. It’s dirt floor and ruined interior have a long way to go.
Yet, the bell tower is intact, compete with large bell, hopefully this will ring loudly across a new Janovas someday.
A donation box
Walking around is somewhat peaceful, almost taking us back to how things used to be, in less complicated days. Back in the village we spot a donation box in a wall. Here, a sign gives information on the village and requests for support.
Obviously, we contribute to the funds. Only too happy to give a little towards the task, knowing they need every penny.
Before leaving, we find a house set back from the main village centre and there’s a family outside. Then, we realise from the outside, it looks fully restored. It’s the same family that we saw walking around last night, passing the visitors parking up overnight. We notice their eager eyes on all us strangers across the river.
We hope they live here, having reclaimed their family land, there’s a car parked outside and the garden is tidy. This is how Janovas will look one day, or we at least hope it does. Out of destruction, once again comes hope and a future.
We wonder if one day we’ll return to Janovas and if so, will we find a village full of life, restored to its former glory and a place for future generations to enjoy? Let’s hope so, because this is one very special place.