Early Springtime Greetings

buttercup_oxalis

Spring was in the air yesterday, at least where I live in south east Mallorca. Temperatures rose to 17º Celsius, even 18º in some places; the skies were blue and there was not a cloud in sight over Felanitx.

The Oxalis pes-caprae (Buttercup oxalis or African wood-sorrel) is out and about everywhere in Mallorca at this very moment. Fields and meadows are yellow all over the island. The ubiquitous yellow has a quite soothing effect on our eyes and our minds.

The plant is considered a weed by many, as plants often are, unfortunately. The Oxalis flower originates really from Africa and thus is alien to Mallorcan shores but somehow it has spread all over the South Mediterranean basin. The plant is not seen as a useless weed by the Mallorcan farmers; its virtues are known to be refreshing, diuretic and antiscorbutic.

When our children were little they liked to suck the flower’s stems for their bitter lemony tastes. One has to be cautious though. When eaten in large quantities, the flower has its detrimental side effects; the plant’s oxalic acid contents can bind up the body’s supply of calcium leading to nutritional deficiency. Sheep for instance like to overindulge on the Vinagrella as the flower is called in Catalan; they can sometimes be found sick, and even fatally ill.

vinagrella

May I point you in the direction of a superbly illustrated book on Mallorcan medicinal plants, Gloses i Plantes Medicinals. The drawings were lovingly executed by Wendy Spooner. The book is published by the admirable La Foradada publishers in Palma; it retails at 24 €. Unfortunately, this rather essential book is so far only available in a Catalan version.

gloses-i-plantes-medicinals

The photo (top) was taken near Son Prohenç, Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: February 20th, 2009. The time was 13:47:15. The photo (bottom) was taken from the Internet. Thanks are due to the Herbari Virtual del Mediterrani Occidental and the UIB Universitat de les Illes Balears. Moltes Gràcies.

Early Springtime Greetings

Baleares Gold Medal for Jørn Utzon

can_feliz

On the occasion of the Día de les Illes Balears, to be celebrated next Sunday, March 1st, Jørn Utzon, the late Danish architect, Pritzker laureate and long-time resident in Mallorca, was posthumously awarded the Medalla d’Or de la Comunitat 2009 (the Balearic Gold Medal). Why Mallorca had to wait till after Utzon’s death to honour him, nobody knows. Anyway, the awards will be presented tonight at the Palma Auditorium by Francesc Antich i Oliver, President del Govern de les Illes Balears.

¡Enhorabuena!

Jørn Utzon is best known for designing the Sydney Opera House in Australia. The Sydney Opera was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007, when Jørn Utzon was still alive. Here in Mallorca, Utzon designed Can Lis, Can Lin and Can Feliz (for the latter, see photo above). 

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In 2003, Utzon was asked to be involved in redesigning some interior areas of the Opera House such as the reception hall. After his demise, Utzon’s son Jan and his grandson, Jeppe, both also architects, were commissioned to modify the interior design of the Sydney Opera. The aim is to re-appraise some of Jørn Utzon’s original designs that at the time were not adhered to and also, to alleviate space and acoustics problems.

No such modifications are to be carried out in any of the Mallorcan buildings, as far as I know.

The photo (top) was taken near S’Horta, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: December 6th, 2008. The time was 15:21:52. The photo (bottom) was taken from the Internet. It shows Jørn Utzon with a model of the Sydney Opera House. Credit for this photo is due to the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. Many thanks, mates.

Baleares Gold Medal for Jørn Utzon

Street Workers

putas

In Sweden it is illegal to pay for sexual services, but not criminal to sell them. In Holland, prostitution is considered a job that entitles one to Social Security. In Denmark, prostitutes pay taxes; however, they are not entitled to sickness benefits or unemployment allowance.

In Spain prostitution is not really allowed, but not really forbidden either. Sex workers here live in a limbo under a term called alegalidad. It is a grey zone between legal and illegal. The authorities don’t like the sex trade but don’t really know what to do about it. They are mainly concerned about the “preservation of public order”, and that’s about it.

The street workers in my photo are more concerned about the implications of La Crisis than about the strong arm of law and order.

The photo was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: January 29th, 2009. The time was 14:54:39.

Street Workers

The Old Jaia Corema Lady

quaresma_vella

The period of Lent, starting today (Ash Wednesday), is called Corema in Mallorca (Quaresma in Catalan, Cuaresma in Spanish). The word originates from the Latin word quadragesima, meaning forty days [before Easter]. Of course, Lenten customs in Mallorca are no longer marked by the restraint of years gone by.

Yesterday saw the Enterro de Sa Sardina (the burial of the Sardine) to signify the beginning of Lent. One of the old traditions was to bury a backbone of pork called “sardina” in Spanish as a symbol of fasting. According to some experts the name was confused though and the pork was later changed for a fish.

quaresma

At one time, Mallorcans hung a figure with seven legs known as Jaia Corema (Quaresma Vella, Old Mother Lent) in their houses and, as Lent progressed, a leg was tugged from it each week. This custom is still maintained in some primary schools and nurseries in Mallorca, certainly in the Part Forana (all of the island apart from Palma), a simple and entertaining way for children to measure the time until the Easter celebrations and the return of less monotony in their madre‘s cooking diversity.

vella

My children were taught this custom in their respective guarderías and colegios, years ago. That’s why I wanted to share this information with you, even though I cannot offer you a photo of my own making. When I went to the Felanitx parish church last Sunday to take a photo of the Jaia Corema, I couldn’t find one. I asked why and was told that the Jaia had been there but was moved prematurely by the Sacerdote (priest). Sorry.

The images were taken from the Internet. My thanks go out to (from top to bottom): Piikkiö Junior High School in Finland (www.pjhs.piikkio.fi), Farcint la Faixa in Catalunya (www.farcintfaixa.blogspot.com), and Montse Escoi Martínez from the Racó Tic blog (www.blocs.xtec.cat/racotic). Moltes gràcies.

The Old Jaia Corema Lady

Route GR 221

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It may be too chilly now with the prevailing winds to embark on a lengthy hike down Mallorca’s Ruta de Pedra en Sec (Dry Stone Route) at this time of year, but give it another two or three weeks and you’ll be glad you didn’t wait for Summer’s heat and the influx of the millions that usually descend on these shores from Easter onwards.

The Ruta de Pedra en Sec along the Route GR 221 path is a hiking route of approx. 140 km that can be walked leisurely in stages, or hiked from refuge to Refugi over five, six or eight days depending on your ambition and on your actual state of fitness.

The Dry Stone Route traverses the entire length of Mallorca’s majestic Serra de Tramuntana, starting in Port d’Andratx, passing through La Trapa, Banyalbufar, Valldemossa, Deià, Port de Sóller, Fornalutx, and the Santuari de Lluc, to finally end up in Pollença. The more ambitious hiker can of course continue some 30 km more, using a non-GR path without number, all the way up to Cap de Formentor, passing through Port de Pollença, past the splendid Hotel Formentor, and finally arriving at the Far des Cap de Formentor lighthouse. Of course some would argue that this extension is not really part of the Serra de Tramuntana, nor of the Dry Stone Route, but there you are. Call this extension an appendix, if you want. But it certainly makes for a nice hike with some breathtaking views along the way, criss-crossing the PM 221 main road. And it would give you a full length capture of Mallorca’s entire north west coast, top to bottom.

route_gr221

To make hiking in the Serra de Tramuntana as easy as possible, a very sound new guide book has just been published, the GR 221 Serra de Tramuntana (see below). This book sells for a reasonable 12 € and comes in either one of five languages: Catalàn, Español, English, German or French. It makes good reading, too, for arm chair hikers.

gr_221

The photo (top) was taken in Escorca, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 12th, 2008. The time was 13:11:36. The photo (bottom) was taken in Escorca, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: December 21st, 2008. The time was 13:47:34. The guide book is published by Triangle Postals S. L. in Menorca, of all places.

Route GR 221

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

gavina

Jonathan Livingston Seagull, written by the American author, Richard Bach, is a fable in novella form about a seagull learning about life and flight.

Here in Mallorca we find ten different kinds of seagulls of the Laridae family, at least we do in the Parc Natural de s’Albufera de Mallorca, in the north of the island. The gull species found there are the Larus melanocephalus, the Larus minutus, the Larus ridibundus, the Larus genei, the Larus audouinii, the Larus canus, the Larus fuscus, the Larus michahellis, the Larus argentatus, and the Larus marinus.

The gull in my photo may be of the Larus audouinii species (Audouin’s Gull), but more likely it is a Larus canus (Common Gull). I don’t quite think it is a Larus michahellis (Yellow-legged Gull), but I am not really sure. Help me, should you happen to know.

My brief encounter with this seagull was at the beach in Cala Pí de la Posada; the waters are those in the Badia de Pollença; the mountains in the distance are those on the Península de la Victòria.

The photo was taken on the Península de Formentor, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: February 14th, 2009. The time was 15:33:56.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Sa Rua Carnival Time

sa_rua

The mad season in Mallorca is in full swing. It’s carnival time.

Last Thursday was called Dijous Llarder, meaning the first day of carnival. Sa Rueta is celebrated then in most pueblos of Mallorca, the children’s carnival parades. Palma had their Rueta yesterday. Today, Palma celebrates its Sa Rua carnival parade for grown ups, starting in La Rambla dels Ducs de Palma at 17h00, to continue down Carrer de la Riera, Carrer Unió, Plaça Joan Carles I, and finally Avinguda Jaume III. Don’t expect Samba music nor nudity like one would in Brazil, but instead, you can look forward to some colourful displays of joyous splendour.

sa_rua_2009

Before Quaresma (Lent) starts on Wednesday (Ash Wednesday), Mallorcan tradition has it that Sa Sardina will be buried. Why not participate in the solemn celebrations in Manacor on Tuesday, February 24th at 20h15. After the funeral, you’ll be invited for some grilled sardines with bread and vino tinto, in Manacor’s Plaça sa Torre.

sa_sardina

The photo (top) was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: February 21st, 2009. The time was 17:14:51. The photo (bottom) was taken in Manacor, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: February 21st, 2009. The time was 15:26:34. The poster for Sa Rua was designed by José González Zoyo, who won the design competition. ¡Felicitats!

Sa Rua Carnival Time