Mountain Olympics at the Barranc de Biniaraix

Whilst the couch potatoes amongst us, including yours truly, were busy watching the London 2012 Olympics on the telly last Sunday, a few hundred Mallorcan men and women (and children and dogs) participated in a kind of Mountain Olympics at the Barranc de Biniaraix, near Sóller. The competition was organised by the Secció de Muntanya del Círculo Sollerense and was held for the eleventh year. The contest was held in two categories, one against the clock and the other one just for the excitement of participating. The course had a length of 4.8 kilometres of cobbled Cami de Pedra en Sec.

Young Pere Rullan Estarelles was the overall winner in the male category with a time of 00:28:15, whilst María Eugenia Gallastegui Alemany was the fastest female with a time of 00:38:50.

If you haven’t been to the Barranc de Biniaraix you should make that one of your walks and hikes to do when the Olympics are over and done with. You will find one of the best scenic routes on the island, I promise, and you won’t have to run.

The photo was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of flickr.com, C.C.D.S. and the photographer, Joan Vicens i Vidal.

Thank you very much, and

moltes gràcies.

Mountain Olympics at the Barranc de Biniaraix

A Thousand Roads to Sóller

I reckon that one does not really know Mallorca in all its beauty until one has been to Sóller and Port de Sóller. There are a thousand ways (well, not quite) of getting to that part of the island, a task that not all that long ago proved quite a daunting and challenging one.

Those of us who have children or even grandchildren, have probably already enjoyed the experience of boarding the Palma to Sóller train, leaving from Palma’s Plaça d’Espanya seven times every day and coming back again, five times (see photo centre). Now would seem like a good time to embark on this journey, as the Tren de Sóller has just completed its first centennial. This trip on the old train and its wooden carriages is like a magic journey to the past. There are no longer any excuses for not boarding the train, even though charges have recently gone up, again, to 19.50 €  for adults (14 € for Balearic residents) for the round trip. Up to 1,000,000 tourists take the one hour train ride to Sóller every year, but that should not deter you from enjoying the landscape on the way, especially now when most of the tourists have not arrived on the island yet for this year’s holiday and when temperatures are not hot and scorching.

Of course, you could always take the car to Sóller via the tunnel. The Sóllerics more than welcomed the new Sóller tunnel when it was inaugurated fifteen years ago. This new connection cut their travelling time to Palma down from some 60 minutes to less than twenty; not a mean feat when you are going about your daily business instead of, like most of us, going about our leisurely ways. These days, taking the car to Sóller through the tunnel, which starts not far from the splendid Alfàbia gardens, would cost you a fare of 4.80 € (one way). The Sóllerics are not so enthusiastic at the moment at all as they were promised to have their fares subsidised by the Consell de Mallorca, with tolls being paid in full upfront and subsidies being reimbursed at a later stage. However, these subsidies have not been paid for the last 15 months or so. Thus, the tunnel was recently blocked for hours on end in protest against the high charges and broken promises. Be warned that the Sóller tunnel has one of the worst test results on safety standards, according to the British AA, with 39 points out of 100, even though no accidents have ever occurred.

If you want to see Mallorca and one of its most beautiful landscapes, I would like to suggest that you take the road from Palma to Sóller by car, and up into the mountains along that almost alpine road full of serpentine bends at a length of some 14 km. When I went with some friends up to the Coll de Sóller and down again last week (see photo top), there were plenty of cyclists tackling the challenge. Of course, they wouldn’t be allowed through the tunnel, and the mountain climb is a welcome physical endurance test for them as it is.

You could also get to Sóller from Port de Sóller by tram. Fares have gone up to the ridiculous amount of 5 € (one way) for the ten minute ride, but still worthwhile at least once in a blue moon (see photo bottom).

And you might want to sail from Palma to Port de Sóller, a bit like Junípero Serra in 1749 when he set off from Port de Sóller to Mexico to set up numerous monasteries in Baja California as well as in what is now California, USA.

The photos were taken in Sóller, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 14th, 2012. The time was 14:15:14, 17:08:36 and 18:29:37, respectively.

A Thousand Roads to Sóller

The Centenary Railway to Sóller

April 16th, 1912 was the date of the first ever train journey between Palma and Sóller. Today marks the one hundredth anniversary of that inaugural trip (see photo bottom).

When the railway line was built, the always clever Mallorcans were listo (smart) enough to resort to a trick. The length of the line from Palma to Sóller was only 27.3 kilometers but should have been a minimum of 30 km to qualify for some state subsidies. Hence, the construction of an additional 4.9 kilometer track was begun at the same time, linking Sóller to Port de Sóller.

A trip on the old carriages through beautiful Mallorcan landscape including 13 tunnels is recommended, even if a bit pricey. You could consider a one-way trip to Sóller on the Centenary train and come back on the bus.

A commemorative act will be celebrated tonight at 19h00 in Sóller’s Estació de tren.

The photo (top) was chosen from my archive. It was taken in Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: April 11th, 2008. The time was 16:59:43. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of canprunera.com.

Moltes gràcies.

The Centenary Railway to Sóller

From England to Mallorca by Way of Lisbon (Portugal)

Some of you may have travelled to Sóller by train. The route was unofficially opened 100 years ago this year, on October 7th, 1911 (the official inauguration did not happen until April 16th, 1912). The train ride is an enjoyable experience, enhanced by the fascinating landscape, the wonders of the Cinc Ponts viaduct bridge and the dramatic descent past orange groves into Sóller. If you haven’t had the experience yet I would suggest that one day you do. You will not regret it.

If ever you make it to Sóller, by train or otherwise, you could also experience Mallorca’s only tramway between Sóller and Port de Sóller. That tranvía (tramway) was inaugurated in 1913. In using the tram you could marvel at the engineering achievements of the Maley & Taunton Engineering Co. from Wednesbury in Staffordshire (UK). Five of the tram locomotives were manufactured by Maley & Taunton; they found their way to Sóller from Wednesbury by way of Lisbon (Portugal). Maley & Taunton as an engineering group is long since defunct but, in their days they equipped the Blackpool tramway and exported to the Isle of Man and to Portugal. And they equipped the trams of Ferrocarril de Sóller S. A. here in Mallorca. The amazing fact is that the trams used today between Sóller and Port de Sóller are the very same ones that have been used for the last 98 years; they are still going strong. Reasons to be cheerful.

The photo (top) was chosen from my archive. It was taken near Sóller, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: July 17th, 2008. The time was 12:15:01. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of flickr and chema_santander.

Muchas gracias.

From England to Mallorca by Way of Lisbon (Portugal)

Moorish Attacks in Sóller

450 years ago today, on May 11th 1561, some 2,000 Moorish intruders arrived in the Port de Sóller from Algeria, and their intentions were unfriendly, hostile and violent. The attack of marauding pirates caught the local pagesos (country folks) by some surprise. The aggressors soon had the upper hand, looting houses and occupying the local parish church. The pirates’ wazir (leader) even declared victory in the Sóller plaça. The local farmers and their Valientes Mujeres (brave women), however, regrouped under the helm of Sóller’s Capitán Angelats and finally managed to overpower the intruders.

For the last 120 years, the town of Sóller has been celebrating the legendary battle and its fortunate outcome with an annual reenactment of the historic skirmish of Moros i Cristians (Moors against Christians). It is too late to go to Sóller now for that occasion; the Firó celebration always happens on the Monday after the second weekend in May, i. e. last Monday. You could earmark the date for next year, should you be so inclined.

The photos were borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of diariodemallorca.es and the photographers.

Muchas gracias.

Moorish Attacks in Sóller

We Requested Excuse The Annoyances.

This Pidgin English/German/French apology of a kind was found on the entrance to the Ferrocarril trains to Sóller station in Palma yesterday. In case you don’t get the message: train services from Palma to Sóller are suspended until January 31st, 2011, due to work on the railway tracks.

I find it appalling that a place like Mallorca with close to 12,000,000 visitors per year, half of them of foreign origin, most of whom speak either English or German or French, can’t be addressed in a grammatically correct manner when addressed in their own idiom. I reckon that at least 100,000 tourists use the railway connection to Sóller every year, resulting in an income to Ferrocarril de Sóller S. A. of at least 2,000,000 €. It can’t cost more than 50 € per language to have a proper translation done of a simple sentence such as: We apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused.

Shame on you, Ferrocarril de Sóller S. A.

Dammit. It just makes me very angry to witness incompetence.

The photo was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: December 17th, 2010. The time was 16:27:58.

We Requested Excuse The Annoyances.

Trains To Sóller Will Be Suspended

Just in case you were planning to go to Sóller by train some time in December or January, and perhaps take some friends or visitors there, well, you can’t. Services on the Ferrocarril de Sóller will be suspended between Palma and Sóller from December 9th, 2010, to February 1st, 2011, due to some replacement work on the tracks inside the Túnel Major (the longest train tunnel), as well as maintenance work on the tracks between Bunyola and Palma. A heavy duty track levelling machine (photo below) has just arrived in Mallorca via the Port de Barcelona, in time for the maintenance work. The mammoth tamping machine had been ordered to the tune of 1,500,000 Euros from the Austrian makers, Plasser & Theurer. The equipment had to be tailored to specifications to fit the gauge of the Mallorcan track to Sóller, i. e. 914 mm and thus, well below the international standard of 1,000 mm and above. The yellow beast also had to be manufactured in a slim version to fit the narrow tunnels between Bunyola and Sóller.

The tram between Sóller and Port de Sóller will be suspended between December 14th and 19th. A new track is being built at the moment, as per my photo (top), much to the annoyance of local residents and shopkeepers, and services will be changed from the old tracks to the new route during the dates given.

The photo (top) was taken in Port de Sóller, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 1st, 2010. The time was 16:28:33. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of diariodemallorca.es and the photographer, Joan Morá.

Muchas gracias.

Trains To Sóller Will Be Suspended