Día Mundial Sin Tabaco

smoking

I daresay that the Día Mundial Sin Tabaco (World No Smoking Day) today will not leave much of a mark in Spain, certainly not in Mallorca where I live.

Let’s see what happens today but, if the past 30 months are anything to go by Mallorcans and Spaniards fight the No-Smoking laws introduced two and a half years ago tooth and nail. Yes, you’ll find restaurants displaying a no-smoking sign on their doorways, but don’t be surprised if the people on the table next to you light up just as you are into your mains. And yes, you can find the odd bar here and there with a no-smoking sign on a wall, designating a smoke-free zone but, this area will more likely than not be in the same room with the smokers and the air conditioning will churn up the smoke with the rest of the air and swirl it around everywhere.

The good news is that in Spain (and Mallorca) the smoking ban appears to be upheld in public spaces such as airports and public buildings. Also, most offices and shops here adhere to the new law but exceptions are reported with regularity. The Spanish Ley Antitabaco came into effect in January 2006, with some measures becoming law in January 2007. I have not heard about any court cases in Mallorca since then on smoking offences, but national newspapers report that in Catalunya there were all but three court cases since 2006 on smoking offences. Over that timespan a total of 291 offenders where sanctioned with fines, again in Catalunya.

Much more needs to be done it would seem. The legalities are in place but offences against the law need to be brought to attention more rigorously.

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The photo was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 28th, 2009. The time was 10:43:52.

Día Mundial Sin Tabaco

The Sa Nostra Garden

jardín_Sa_Nostra

We are really quite lucky in having so many beautiful gardens and parks in Palma de Mallorca. It is marvellous that many of these are open to the public.

One of them is the Sa Nostra garden, a peaceful oasis in the middle of Palma’s shopping district, just up from Avinguda Jaume III. The Centre de Cultura Sa Nostra is a centre of cultural activities housed in Can Castelló, a beautiful 18th century townhouse. The centre was converted for its present purpose during the Eighties. If art, music or culture are not your forte, you can visit the delightfully laid out small garden without any further commitment to the arts. But I would urge you to enter the building as well and admire its courtyard with its grand staircase and in particular its first floor Planta Noble with its stunning ceiling frescoes and exquisite doors and door frames and windows. The building makes you realize that gardens are an important integral part of our cultural heritage just the same.

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You can discover some of the stupendous gardens in Palma with the help of a lavishly illustrated book called Jardines de Palma, Historia e Imágenes. The book in its large format is an updated 2008 version of a 1993 edition with stunning photographs by the very able Donald G. Murray, with texts by the competent Aina Pascual and the very informed Jaume Llabrés. The book retails for 80 €. The garden of the Centre de Cultura Sa Nostra is not included in this book, but many others are.

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The photo (top) was chosen from my archive. It was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: April 5th, 2004. The time was 14:30:47. The photo (bottom) was taken from the Alta mar website. Muchas gracias, Fabian.

The Sa Nostra Garden

Kite Surfing

kite_surf

We had an unusual amount of wind in Mallorca yesterday, and cold wind it was too.

But some people were not bothered by yesterday’s wind, quite the opposite. Kite surfers for instance rely on the power of the wind to be pulled through the water on a small kite board. Kite surfing has become rather popular in Mallorca over the last few years. Depending on the direction that the wind comes from, the North of the island is particularly popular with kite surfers, with consistent sea-breeze conditions being prevalent in the Bahía de Pollença and the Bahía de Alcúdia. If the wind comes from the South, kite surfing would be best in the Bahía de Palma and the south coast.

Different styles of this sport have evolved over the last few years to suit different types of riders and conditions, such as wakestyle, wave riding, freestyle, jumping, and cruising. And for onlookers, the sport is fun to watch just the same.

Mallorca Surf Action 09 is a two-day surfing event that is scheduled for later this year in Playa de Palma (August 29th/30th), including not only kite surfing, but wind surfing, skating, Inline, Snake, BMX, Wake Board, Breakdance and Capoeira as well. Let’s hope that there will be the right wind from the right direction at the time. I will also try to be there to take a photo for this blog.

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The photo (top) was taken near Alcúdia, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 27th, 2009. The time was 13:11:45. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet. Credit is due to Hanno76. Apparently, this photo was taken during a kite surfing contest in Alcúdia, Mallorca, in September, 2008. Thank you.

Kite Surfing

A Mallorcan Stonehenge

estelas_del_sol

Mallorca is the proud home of plenty of prehistoric sites, numbering well over one thousand. Many of them have deteriorated into a pretty poor shape with their original form barely recognizable. Others are still in the process of slowly being excavated. If the sites have lasted for 3,000 to 4,000 years, why rush? About 100 sites or so are in a good state of preservation, and well worthy of a visit, such as Ses Païses, S’Hospitalet Vell, Son Fornés or Son Real, to name but a few.

Some of the Mallorcan prehistoric sites may have been places of rituals or worship. A Mallorcan Stonehenge was not amongst them as far as one can gather at this moment in time.

Two artists have created a work of art that is both, a tribute to the prehistoric eminence of this island and also, an homage to the enigmatic stone circle found at Stonehenge (UK). The artists are a married couple with the names of Ben Jakober and Yannick Vu; their stone circle is called Las Estelas del Sol, dating from 2007, and can be seen at the Fundació Yannick y Ben Jakober near Alcúdia. According to the artists, their installation is “inspired by the megaliths or stone circles, also known as cromlech. It is probable that they were astronomic alignments, used to celebrate rituals related to the cult of Mother Earth”. The work of art was assembled out of 12 obelisks that were found on the island, each weighing in excess of 9 tons; the overall dimensions of this magical stone circle are a diameter of 7,500 cm and a height of approx. 350 cm.

Ben Jakober / Yannick Vu, Estelas del Sol, 2007

You can admire this Mallorcan stone circle for free every Tuesday from 09h30 to 12h30 and 14h30 to 17h30, and some admiration would be justified. On other days (Wednesday to Saturday) entrance admission will be charged at 9 €.

The photo (top) was chosen from my archive. It was taken near Alcúdia, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 18th, 2008. The time was 14:20:54. The photo (bottom) was taken from the artists’ website. Thank you.

A Mallorcan Stonehenge

National Health Service

centre_salut

If ever you should have reason to visit a Centre de Salut in Mallorca, as I had the other day in Felanitx, you can simply relax. You’ll be surprised how easy the procedures are, how welcome you will be made to feel and how efficient the service is that is provided.

There are two main options: either you are part of the health system in Spain, i. e. you have made contributions to the Seguridad Social and thus, are associated to the Sistema Nacional de Salud de España (the Spanish National Health System). In this case and when a resident in the Illes Balears, you will have been issued with a Targeta Sanitària Individual and your health concerns are covered.

Or else, you are visiting Mallorca on holiday or otherwise and are registered with the National Health Service in your own country. If you are from a country within the European Union you will be covered for any standard medical service just like at home. You should have obtained an EU medical card before coming to Spain, or what used to be called a Form E1.11. If you are from a non-EU country, things are relatively easy if you should happen to come from Latin America and/or a formerly Spanish governed territory. Should your home country be Brazil, Russia, the Ukraine, Canada, the US, Australia, India, China, Japan or South Africa, however, I must admit that I can’t give you much advice due to a severe lack of information on my part.

The third option would be that you have private health insurance, either on a permanent basis or for the duration of your travels. Again, in normal everyday circumstances the local Centre de Salut or Ambulatorio (health centre) or the Insalud hospital will deal with your insurers back home and arrange for any bill to be settled. For special cases or more complicated matters, please enquire with someone more competent than me.

Don’t get ill. But if you do, in all likelihood you will encounter professional care with a high standard of medical facilities. It would help, however, if you could speak the language, at least Castilian. If not, a very basic English is widely understood and spoken. In larger hospitals such as in Palma there are trained translators available, but only some of the time.

For those of you who might be concerned about my state of health, do not worry. I just had to go to have my eyes checked.

The photo was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 26th, 2009. The time was 19:09:43.

National Health Service

The Great Wall of Palma de Mallorca

Muralla

For many centuries Palma de Mallorca was fortified by a massive great wall, all the way around the city.

It would seem, that historians do not always agree as to which part of which wall in Palma dates from the Roman period (approx. 100 – 465 A. D.) and which one from the Muslim era (approx. 900 – 1230 AD). But sources seem to agree that the all-engulfing murallas (city walls) of Palma were in the main not built until 1562.

History tells us that after the Reconquista in 1229 under Jaume I, the island of Mallorca went through a period of relative peace for some 300 years. But with advanced weaponry of arms and in particular cannons, some mighty cities were taken by enemies, such as Constantinople in 1453, or Rhodes in 1522. These two defeats, amongst others, got the city’s elders thinking about a defensive city wall that could withstand cannon fire from any attacking enemy.

Antoni_Verger_1596

The plan (above) dates from 1596 and is credited to Antoni Verger, showing the extensive city fortifications of Palma. The construction seems to have done the trick, because no major attacks were reported during the ensuing couple of centuries. Yes, there were pirate attacks on Mallorca but they were directed at places like Sóller (1550), Pollença (1561) and Santanyí (repeatedly between the 14th and 17th century), but not at Palma.

Ciudad_de_Palma_1644

The painting (above) is undated but seems to be from around 1644. The artist is unknown. The artwork shows the great wall of Palma de Mallorca during the 17th century in all its splendour. The painting was hanging for over 300 years on the walls of the Salón de Plenos in the Ajuntament de Palma, before it was moved to be exhibited at the Castel de Bellver, where you can see it today.

Gerónimo_Cánobes_1726

The drawing (above) dates from 1726 and shows the walls of Palma in their final shape and form. This amazingly detailed plan is attributed to Gerónimo Cánobes, an engineer who was working for the king of the time. In this drawing one can see clearly the division of Ciudad into its two parts: la vila d’amunt (the upper part) and la vila d’avall (the lower part), still recognizable today.

During the early years of the 19th century, a strong fortification was no longer deemed necessary. Most parts of the great wall of Palma were demolished, making room for what we now know as the Avenidas. Silly people they were, these town planners, if you ask me. Anyway, some very attractive parts of the various city walls can still be seen today as if forgotten leftovers, mainly below La Seu (the cathedral), to the western part of Passeig Sagrera (Baluard de Sant Pere), behind the Parc de la Mar (Baluard del Príncep) and towards the eastern parts of Parc de la Mar.

In the old days, the Mediterranean Sea came right up to these walls and virtually up to the feet of the cathedral. That must have been an amazing impression, don’t you think?

The photo was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: April 1st, 2009. The time was 13:35:34. The 1644 painting as well as the two plans were taken from the Alta Mar website. Muchas gracias, Fabian.

The Great Wall of Palma de Mallorca

La Sínia de s’Hort d’en Pons

sinia_s'hort_d'en_pons

Not far from Felanitx, in the vicinity of Es Carritxó, one can find a marvel of an old Moorish well: La Sínia de s’Hort d’en Pons. The well is called a sínia de cadufos, as it uses ceramic vessels (called “cadufos”) to bring up the water with the tireless help of a donkey or a mule.

The Sínia d’en Pons is thought to date from the Moorish period, i. e. around 1000 to 1200 A. D. like so many other sínies, pous, aljubs or norias on the island. The Moors, Arabs and Berbers, were experts in water conservation and irrigation, who had brought their knowledge with them from the Maghreb. Unfortunately, most Mallorcan ancient wells are now in a deplorable state of disrepair. Only every now and then one can find an historic wheeled well such as this one which has been lovingly repaired and conserved. The restoration work of this sínia in 2008 did not come cheap with a total budget of 46,000 €, but luckily, the Consell de Mallorca contributed two thirds of the investment, or so it is said.

Here you can see the Sínia de s’Hort d’en Pons in full swing (the pun is intended):

The photo was taken near Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: March 22nd, 2009. The time was 15:55:25. The video comes courtesy of the Consell de Mallorca, Departament de Medi Ambient. Moltes gràcies.

La Sínia de s’Hort d’en Pons