“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries” – Aldous Huxley
… and to travel is also to discover that you were wrong about what you’d thought about another country or city. I think that, what I thought about Palma, could not have been more inaccurate. In my mind it all looked something like this: in the back there’s the city, in the front a few ugly high-rise hotels and then there’s a beach with thousands of people who drink themselves silly at “Ballerman” (the beach hut or Balneario no. 6 which the Germans call Ballerman). I am sure anyone who has ever been to Palma will be laughing out loud now. Everyone else: please, please, hit the delete button and erase this image immediately from your memory.
Well, first of all: to think that Palma and “Ballerman” are practically one and the same is about as accurate as if you were to think that Berlin is like the Q-Dorf (a popular mall with clubs and pubs). If a Q-Dorf fan reads this right now, my apologies! Well, to be exact, the latter is rather more correct. After all the Q-Dorf is located in the centre of Berlin whereas “Ballerman” is on the outskirts of Palma and quite far away from the centre. Talking of outskirts, the outskirts of Palma are not overcrowded and dirty and there are no drunken Germans lying around. Actually the outskirts of Palma are quite pretty.
In the background, by the way, you can see the famous Cathedral “La Seu” but that´s about it as far as photos of typical tourist attractions are concerned. Those who want to see them, just google “Palma” and in a split second hundreds of thousands of pictures pop up. But Palma does not deserve to be reduced to a few tourist attractions. There is so much more this city has to offer.
I got to know Palma as an incredibly warm hearted, artistic and versatile city. On every corner you will hear different sounds and in every little alleyway street artists show off their different wares. There are art studios and photo galleries, little bookstores selling antique books and many local bands performing in music bars.
Of course, Palma also has its incredibly touristy places; just like every big city. Berlin has the Ku’Damm, Paris the Eiffel Tower and London, Buckingham Palace. Well, somehow Palma is a special case because it can be a little irritating to hear more German than Spanish around you. (95% of Majorcans, of course, just speak Spanish). However, those who make it their business to really look around or start walking without a map will certainly see the other side of Palma.
Like the trendy areas with little clubs and bars, where the Majorcans drink their San Miguel beer or their gin and tonics. And restaurants without the typical photos of their dishes on the menus, which in reality are a far cry from those colourful pictures, even with a lot of imagination.
And if you walk through the old town with your eyes open and not just follow the signs to the tourist attractions, you can discover a lot. Hidden patios with old carriages and decorated stone columns that make you feel like you have just stepped back in time. Small street cafés with their colourful furniture all jumbled up, with nothing matching, yet somehow it all goes together. Little places truly espousing their “love for detail” and not simply a superficial PR-slogan.
For the most part, the old town is very beautiful. The narrow cobblestone streets, the little old houses in warm brown and terracotta tones, the balconies with their orderly chaos of colourful plants and the winding alleys ensure you don´t feel like you are in a typical big city. Somehow Palma has managed to keep the warm familiarity of a village and at the same time it offers everything a capital needs.
Somebody once told me that Palma is beautiful even in the rain. And somehow that´s true. With its white-capped waves crashing on to the beach and against the rocks, with its plants thirstily drinking in the water and then shining even brighter. With its yellow, blue and green shutters that effortlessly brave the rain and grey skies.
Well, that´s Palma. Te quiero – I love you Palma.