The Swede who found paradise in Carratraca

Pelle Lundborg now produces olive oil on his farm in Carratraca.
Pelle Lundborg now produces olive oil on his farm in Carratraca. / RICARDO PASTOR

  • A businessman turned his back on a successful career in the videogames industry for a new life in the Andalusian countryside

One fine day Pelle Lundborg was persuaded by his friend Pedro Fernández to go hiking in the rugged Sierra de Alcaparaín. From high up, looking down at the view, he noticed a large farm with numerous olive trees, which appeared to have been abandoned.

That is the beginning of the tale of this Swedish man who exchanged the stress of life in a multinational videogames company for the peace of the countryside in Malaga province. Pelle decided to buy that farm at the foot of the mountains, opposite Carratraca, and make a new start.

Behind him lay a very stressful time, filled with the tension and anxiety of major professional success. Years before, he had founded the Nordic Games company which, with two others, created We Sing, the famous karaoke game which has entertained millions of users all over the world.

That company then merged with another to create the Embracer Group, of which Pelle is just a shareholder today. However, thanks to its revenues he does enjoy a certain economic comfort. Nowadays he lives in La Cala de Mijas, but is continually supervising his land in Carratraca.

After two decades working in the competitive videogames sector, this Swede decided to make a new start in life. From a company listed on the stock market with 4,000 employees all over the globe, El Sueco, as he is known in Carratraca, moved body and soul into the rural world.

As well as the stress, Pelle wanted to turn his back on an illness which had left him practically out of the game for two years. Although he just says he "wasn't very well", it wasn't easy to live with a condition that affected him physically and psychologically. "There was a time when I was just lying on the sofa for hours and hours watching Netflix series," he says.

The lure of the Andalusian countryside helped him to overcome that apathy. It only took an abandoned olive grove for him to acquire 'another life' in Carratraca.

There, Pelle has created Finca Solmark, which has 16 hectares of land, and developed a vocation for growing those battered olive trees he had seen with his friend Pedro from the top of the Sierra de Alcaparaín. Those trees have begun to produce high quality extra virgin olive oil again, and now there are different types of avocado as well. He plans to plant the Reed variety soon, which will mean he can have avocados all year round.

The farm also includes a house for holiday lets, which has already been rented by quite a few Swedish guests; Pelle may have changed his life, but he still has many contacts in his native country and elsewhere in the world.

However, Finca Solmark, as the accommodation is also called, welcomes all nationalities. Although the Spanish and Swedish flags fly there, it is open to anyone who wants to immerse themselves in authentic rural living.

The name Solmark was chosen for a reason. It means 'land of sun'.

"That's what the area where I grew up in Sweden is called, close to Linköping," he explains.

He has many happy childhood memories. His mother, who was passionate about my cology, passed her love of nature on to him. From his father, a well-known translator, he inherited his facility for languages. And from both, a love of learning.

And through this continual quest for knowledge, Pelle Lundborg now knows what it is like to produce his own ecological extra virgin olive oil - of the marteña variety - whose name pays tribute to the illustrious past of the land on which his trees grow. He has called it Mainake (after the ancient Greek settlement thought to have been located in the Malaga area).

This 'liquid gold' from Finca Solmark is primarily made for sale in Sweden, where olive oil is still an exotic, little-known product.

"A Swedish person barely consumes a litre a year; we still have a great deal to teach them," says Pelle, showing the Andalusian side of his character.

People in Sweden don't much like the strong, bitter taste which is a positive attribute in oil made from olives that are harvested early. For that reason this Swedish businessman, although he sends his olives to be milled in November, doesn't bottle the oil until April at least.

What's more, many people who live in his immediate area are now starting to copy his example. Pelle Lundborg's enthusiasm for his new life seems to have lit a spark among his neighbours in Carratraca, where the green shoots of an unexpected agricultural and rural renaissance are now beginning to emerge.