Majorca of all places! I don’t know about the reputation of Majorca in the USA, in Germany it’s bad, everyone associates it with low life tourists going there only to booze and behave badly.
Whose fault is it that Majorca has got this negative image? Well, mass tourism began in the 1950s, people had rebuilt the destroyed cities and reorganised their lives, had some money to spend and decided to spend it in the warm climate of Spain. The Spaniards were clearly overrun by the hordes from Central and Northern Europe (50% of the tourists are German, 25% British, the rest comes from various nations, from Scandinavia mainly but surprisingly even Italians go there in summer), but reacted quickly, all along the coasts enormous and often horrible hotels were built without a coordinating central plan to cash in on the invasion.
The Balearic islands (Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza) are now the richest area in Spain (they belong to the region Catalonia but are autonomous), approximately 40% of all tourists going to Spain go to Majorca, 90% of the money earned on Majorca comes from the tourist sector. I read in a guidebook that Majorca didn’t change as much in the 5000 years before mass tourism began as it did in the first forty years of the era of mass tourism. Why only forty years? Things had gone too far, tourists began to stay away, they wanted cheap hols but refused to accept everything, in some areas the ugliest hotels have been destroyed, the coastline and the beaches have been cleared up, new hotels aren’t of the cheap and shabby variety any more, quality instead of quantity has become the motto and it’s working, you must have heard of the rich and beautiful who now own property on Majorca. But as it is with a bad reputation, it’s persistent and takes its time to disappear.
Now so-called soft tourism is also offered, people don’t have to lie only on the beaches all day long, they are invited to discover the hinterland, bike tours, horse riding, hiking – all this can be done in small groups or individually, tourists responding to these offers will certainly not think of Majorca as a tourist hell come true.
Cala Millor, our destination: We landed on the airport of the capital Palma and were taken by coach to our hotel, (70 km, about one and half hour). The area is known as the one with the longest and most beautiful beach of the island and because of this it’s crammed full in summer, when we were there in the second half of May the season wasn’t yet in full swing, though, which we appreciated.
At the north end of the long bay is a village called Cala Bona meaning ’good bay’, this is a normal village with an active fishing port and rather small hotels which don’t hurt the eyes when looked at from afar. For some reason British tourists are in the majority here. In 1962 the beach stretching further south was discovered so-to-speak, it had been just a beach, but then the seafront was developed, a promenade designed and hotels built, in 1965 the area was given its urban layout thanks to the General Plan for regulating the coastal area. The place got the name Cala Millor meaning ‘better beach’, not very original but true; Cala Bona has only very small sandy patches and rocky cliffs, Cala Millor a long stretch of fine sand.
Now the two places have grown together, it’s not possible any more to say where one ends and the other begins (It isn’t possible, either, to tell the tourists apart, bad news: the British tourists are now as fat as the German ones! Many men move their barrel shaped beer bellies proudly along the promenade accompanied by their flabby wives, the fatter and uglier - the nakeder ! A possibility not to despair of humankind is to see them as members of a human zoo and derive some weird pleasure from it).
The hotel we stayed in, Hipocampo Playa ****, is situated at the southern end of the beach, it’s a six-storey-high white building of the new generation, together with other similar buildings it does hurt the eye when looked at from afar. My husband and I had long discussions about the disfigurement and mutilation of the coast line, is it really necessary to built hotels so near to the water, couldn’t tourists stay more inland in small inconspicuous hotels and move a bit when wanting to go to the beach? On the other hand, however, we did enjoy the fact that we could get to the seafront directly from the hotel, there’s no street with traffic to cross as is so often the case in seaside resorts.
We had to think of Sardinia, on the whole island there are no big hotels, there are mainly ‘tourist villages’, a central building with the restaurant and small houses around it for the tourists, passing these establishments by car one hardly notices them. But then Majorca is only one sixth of Sardinia but has four times as many tourists per year (Majorca 8 million, Sardinia 2 million), one can’t have everything! Obviously tourism on a big scale can’t remain inconspicuous or can it? I really don’t know.
Coming from a Mediterranean island where water shortage is a constant scourge my husband wanted to know about the water supply (there are dams) but even more about the sewage system. Is there any? We couldn’t imagine the hotels pouring waste water clandestinely into the sea at night, the water looked so wonderful, absolutely limpid and we had read that Cala Millor had got the blue flag for its clean water, but one never knows. We asked around, got so many contradictory answers that in the end we went to the tourist information office, my husband pretended to be an engineer on hols and interested in the subject and got a map on which the woman in charge had marked the site of the sewage facility!
Not only is the water clean, the beach is also cleaned every night from what the tourists leave there if they’re too lazy to go to the (many) bins and algae getting washed onto the sand when the wind comes from the sea. The whole resort is very clean, we thought that this was the case to please the tourists, but no, the Majorcans are indeed clean people, we found the capital Palma, a city of about 333 000 inhabitants impeccable, in the historical centre neither cigarette butts nor dog poop on the pavement!
What is there to do in Cala Millor besides bathing? The resort has a pedestrian precinct with a good selection of shops, but they lack any great variety in the range of products they each stock (mainly leather products and souvenirs). Evening entertainment here is not rowdy and is generally hotel based, although over the past few years a number of more lively bars have started to appear. It’s not possible to eat out in typical Spanish restaurants, there aren’t any, all eateries offer food for all nationalities. While you’re eating a, say, Spanish speciality the tourists at the neighbouring table may be having a German or a British one, an Italian pizza or Greek gyros.
At the southern end of the bay is a small, slightly elevated peninsula with an old tower, the remains of a fortress, which one can walk to, besides it is a small and simple restaurant, from there riding tours are organised. The immediate hinterland is not attractive, but it’s possible to travel around with the local bus operator Aumasa (the hotels have timetables) or to rent a car, going north along the coast one can visit caves (of which the island has many), a town with Roman remains, prehistoric sites and the northernmost cape in a day. Travel agencies offer organised tours all over the island including visits of pearl factories for tourists who’re afraid of or don’t like doing things on their own.
Cala Millor is more suited for the traditional family holiday (the water is shallow, i.e., ideal for small children) than for the age group of the 18 to 30s who are possibly looking for all night clubs and karaoke bars. The ten days we spent there were certainly not the most exciting holidays of our lives, but we got what we had been looking for: a relaxing sunny break.