Recent years witnessed Bárcena de Bureba's community dwindling as residents sought brighter prospects in bustling cities, pushing the village to the brink of extinction. The struggle for survival unfolds in the abandoned houses and crumbling storefronts, reflecting the delicate balance between preserving history and adapting to changing aspirations.
A vision awakened: from shocking realities to a unique mission
This forgotten hamlet caught the attention of Maaike Geurts and her husband, Tibor Strausz, intrepid Amsterdammers with a shared dream to make a difference. Their journey began when they stumbled upon a shocking documentary highlighting the plight of villages succumbing to desertification, a wake-up call that propelled them into action. Fueled by a deep-seated desire to contribute meaningfully to the well-being of the Earth, they embarked on a unique project - one that would rewrite the destiny of a ghost village.
The Dutch couple envisioned more than just rescuing Bárcena de Bureba from impending doom. They aspired to gift it a newfound purpose and vibrancy. Their ambitious plan involved acquiring 65 houses in one fell swoop, including adjacent structures and the surrounding land.
Cultivating life: the nurturing power of the food forest vision
To rejuvenate the derelict village, Maaike and Tibor immersed themselves in the creation of a 'food forest', a collection of trees, perennial plants and bushes designed to support each other and provide edible produce. This undertaking, they believe, fosters increased biodiversity, improved water management and lower temperatures. Their vision extends beyond the flora, aiming to build a 'beautiful community' where diverse organisms - be it animals, fungi, bacteria or plants - flourish alongside a diverse human population.
The establishment of the food forest marks the genesis of their initiative, poised to catalyse local trade in healthy food, flourishing eco-tourism, green energy generation and ultimately, an upswing in local employment. As they eloquently put it, "At some point, just like in a forest, an equilibrium will be reached, where positive life-enhancing interactions will further stimulate interactions. Health will then be naturally created."
Strategic tranquility: transforming Bárcena de Bureba into a haven
Bárcena de Bureba, on the market since 2022, occupies a strategic location between Madrid and Bilbao, surrounded by picturesque landscapes adorned with vineyards and fig trees. The village, now devoid of inhabitants, beckoned the Dutch couple with grand visions. Their extensive plans encompass not only the restoration of dilapidated houses but also the rehabilitation of infrastructure, transforming the village into a habitable haven.
These revitalisation efforts couldn't come at a more opportune time for Bárcena de Bureba, which currently stands far from a thriving community. Amidst the decay, the 12th-century church of San Julián and Santa Basilisa stands tall, a testament to the village's historical richness, albeit showing signs of wear and tear. However, it's not entirely deserted. "Even though there's nothing to do, we've encountered people wandering here. A ghost town has its allure", the couple notes.
A commitment beyond restoration: permanence and future visions
The bond between the Dutch couple and the village runs so deep that they've decided to permanently relocate to the region in 2025. This coincides with their ambitious plan to have the first houses ready by that year. Their overarching goal is to complete the food forest's production within five years, with the forest reaching its maximum production capacity in a decade.
As the couple becomes intricately woven into the fabric of Bárcena de Bureba, they envision more than a restoration project. Their commitment extends beyond physical renovations. It encompasses fostering a sustainable, interconnected ecosystem where nature and humanity coexist harmoniously. In the span of a decade, they aspire not just to save a village but to craft a model of regenerative living - a testament to what can be achieved when love, dedication and a profound connection to the Earth converge. The revival of Bárcena de Bureba is more than a restoration - it's a celebration of resilience, a narrative unfolding at the intersection of history, nature and human compassion.
To be continued...
Thierry Hanan Scheers
I travel around the world to find stories I never knew they excisted.
Destination? Where my heart goes.
writer and storyteller
Text: Thierry Hanan Scheers
28 January 2024
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