Monday, June 19, 2006

Mallorca: Part I

In Mallorca, we felt we’d dropped off the edge of the earth. This was unexpected: in all our research about Mallorca, we read again and again about the hordes of package tourists and the marring of Mallorca’s stunning natural beauty. When Andrew and his sister visited Mallorca a decade ago, they hated the ticky-tacky shops and crowds in the area where they stayed. But Andrew and I shaped our trip carefully, with all this in mind. We stayed in the southeastern part of the island, in a hotel overlooking a less-touristy cove. And we rented a car, which meant that when we weren’t on the beach we were traveling through the island’s interior—a wild, almost entirely uninhabited expanse of pine trees, mountains, and fields full of overgrown wheat and scrub. On our last day, we started out early and drove around the whole island, first to the north, then down and around toward Palma, the main city and the location of the airport. We did see some of the terrible, package tour havens, but we simply drove through without stopping. It didn’t take long to leave these small sparks of civilization behind.

When we did see people, they were German. In Cala Santanyi, where we stayed, our hotel and the small cafes around the cove were full of Germans. We heard no English and almost no Spanish, and menus and signs were in German—sometimes exclusively. The owners of a nice café where we had dinner were German. At the airport, the lines at the check-in counters for the Germany flights were unbelievably long; our Barcelona flight was almost empty. We already felt like we were in another world in Mallorca; but the unfamiliar language and our twice-removed minority status—not only from Spain, but also Americans—made the disjunct even more acutely felt.

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