Everyone wants to go to Mallorca and it is getting fuller. It is right next door Menorca – dream beautiful, clear and much less touristy. BRIGITTE author Nicole Schmidt was enthusiastic!
Menorca: small island with a great soul
Alone, I am sitting on the remains of a nearly 3000-year-old Talaiot, a watchtower made of cyclopeanly massive stone blocks. Myrtle and rosemary spring up beside me, birds chatter in wild olive trees. Beneath me, in a sparsely grassy square, two rough-hewn monoliths set in a T-shape. A kind of giant table, more than twice my size. Columns surround him like soldiers.
The rituals performed by the ancestors of the Menorcans in this place are still a mystery. But one thing is clear: you did not choose him by accident – a clear view, miles away, to the sea. And the silence is more intense on me than elsewhere. I would not like to get up at all. I feel so far away from the world.
I just wanted to check off a bit of compulsory program here in the East, thinking that the pre-Talaiot sites were primarily for retired study councils. Menorca, I underestimated you once again.
Not that I think much of the Balearic Islands. On the contrary. I love them, these islands in the Mediterranean off Spain, just two hours flight from Germany. Ibiza . Formentera. And especially Mallorca . But their sister Menorca, which is about five times smaller, 40 kilometers away, like so many others, I have left so far: will be similar, only dwarfish and boring, I thought.
What a mistake! Only one day I am here. And stop making comparisons. Menorca has its own character. No ballerina. Less tourists. More silence. More unspoiled nature. And in many ways unique.
The south is gentle, the north wild, in the middle a green heart
Hardly any cars meet me when I leave my crazy outdoor museum Talatí de Dalt, one of 32 (!) Of this kind, and drive on. On 45 kilometers the only big road crosses the rural heart of the island. And that is surprisingly green: a wide, gently rolling hills, traversed by long dry stone walls. In between Aleppokiefern- and pine groves, cornfields, pastures, flower meadows in the color rush. I have never seen such bright red poppy on the Balearic Islands, so yolk-yellow daisies, so deep blue cornflowers. And so many cows!
I turn to even quieter streets, landing in front of a farm that reminds me of Greece – fresh whitewashed with green shutters, lattice windows and wooden gates made of olive wood. A red shield announces “Quesos de Mahón”. Ah! The famous Menorcan cheese, named after the capital. Whether you can just walk in?
“Nice to have you there,” says a man with a three-day beard and kepi, two cheese loaves under his arm. He goes with me to the shop, cuts generously samples and introduces himself in a friendly way: Pedro Marques, cheese maker and farmer. “Enjoy it, where do you get such a cheese, all made from raw milk, handmade and with natural bark of olive oil, that’s been our tradition for centuries.” Delicious, the creamy spicy “Semi curado” and almost like Parmesan the one year old “Viejo”.
For the special taste of the sea air, the grass and herbs with salt particles wett, says Pedro. But now he has to look for his horse. And I’m allowed to go to the meadow. What kind of animal! Pitch black, with shiny coat and long mane, impetuous, full of life. A separate race. “We Menorquins let them dance on their hind legs,” says Pedro. Once a year, at the village festivals between June and September, they are the stars. Pedro will also be riding in his home village Es Mercadal and at the biggest Fiesta, over in Ciutadella.
Ciutadella on the west coast is great for strolling and shopping
I drive on to the west coast, and when I come to Ciutadella on this May day, there is no sign of hustle and bustle. For a lot of serenity and southern charm. I like Ciutadella better than the capital Maó on the other side of the island. Although it has pretty lanes and the imposing port, but seems much busier on me. And English – the legacy of the British occupation during the 18th century.
In Ciutadella everything moves in slow motion even after the siesta.
Stucco-decorated aristocratic palaces glow in the late afternoon sunshine, town houses with wrought-iron balconies, the cathedral of ocher-colored sandstone. Men with snow-white aprons whet their knives at the old, green-and-white tiled fish market. On café terraces, women’s rounds and business people lean in director chairs under mulberry trees. I sit down and grab a pomada, a mix of Menorca gin, chopped ice and squeezed lemon.
And then stroll in peace through the car-free old town. A paradise for shopping! Hardly any chains, hardly any big department stores, but pretty decorated boutiques and other small shops. And shoe shops on every corner, the shelves full of “Avarcas”: the sandals classic par excellence, formerly made of flat rolled rubber tires with two strips of leather on it, today in countless variations. In bright colors, with glitter and high wedge heel, with tiger pattern, cowhide … And there, in the shop window: the iconic “Pretty Ballerinas”, the Kate Moss, Claudia Schiffer and Letizia, the Spanish queen, so happy to wear, next to noble pumps and Clutches. “In Ferreries are the shoe factories, each has their shop next door,” whispers a shop assistant. I have to go there!
The three hours in the shoe village just under 30 kilometers away in the interior of the island are, I confess it, the only ones in which I fall on Menorca in a hectic rush. So big the selection, so comparatively cheap prices. At the end I buy four pairs at Mascaró alone. The high-heeled with zebra velvet I’ll leave at once, at least until the car. “A little glamor may already be,” says Ursula Mascaró, grinning.
I met them on a tour of the factory, which everyone can visit. She and her sister Lina are the bosses of the 100-year-old family business, employing 500 people. More than half a million pairs of their “Pretty Ballerinas” and the two Mascaró brands are sold worldwide every year.
The well-traveled designer, who always wears the gauntlet glasses of her deceased father, could, she says, never live and produce anywhere else than in Menorca. “I love my island, and it’s fortunate that we have our own economy in addition to tourism, and that’s because it makes us less dependent than Mallorca.”
“We do not want to sell our soul, preserving and protecting the home is more important than big money.”
Very sympathetic, these menorquins. There are nearly 95 000. Most of them speak Minorquin, a Catalan dialect. Consciously, as they maintain their traditions, so that nothing is lost.
Bravo! Menorca is half protected
Today, they find it a blessing that Menorca was later opened up as their Balearic sisters. So they could learn from their mistakes and decided early: half of the island is under conservation, no new hotel may be higher than three floors, and is built at a reasonable distance from the beach. A mission that even the Unesco ennobled. For 25 years, Minorca has been entitled Biosphere Reserve: Exemplary Landscape for Sustainable Development of Man and Nature.
I walk through the mighty Barranc d’Algendar gorge not far from Ferreries, where water flows all year round, and I feel all the luxuriance of Alice in Wonderland. From the lagoon landscape “Es Grau” in the east, I paddle in a canoe over the sea on a mini-island, where black lizards live. And soon, like the locals, I stretch my finger in the air when I want to go to the beach. If the Tramuntana wind blows from the north, it means: rather off to the south. Because as small as the island is – almost 50 kilometers long and at most 20 wide – it has two completely different sides. In the lovely south are sheltered bays, mostly small, but enchanting. I have seen almost all of them. If I had to decide, I would choose the Cala Macarelletta: deep-cut, powdery-white sand, turquoise shimmering water, framed by cliffs and fragrant pine trees.
But today I feel more like the wild, rugged and barren north coast, just because the Tramuntana is blowing mightily. I drive on a gravel road to Cap de Cavalleria with its white lighthouse, the outermost tip of Menorca. A crazy, unreal place. Almost vertically, bare karstic rock walls plunge into the sea. I brace myself against the wind, stand at the very edge of the cliff. Down below, in the depths, high-whipped waves seethe almost black cliffs. And no one here. Menorca, you have completely convinced me.
Nicoles tips for Menorca
HOTELS in Menorca
Zafiro Menorca . Family happiness in the newly renovated apartment hotel on the southwestern tip: It is like a small village, with a pirate ship in the children’s pool, kids’ club and sports facilities. The beach is a 20 minute walk, the bus to Ciutadella (8 miles) stops almost at the door. Apartment from 93 Euro (Cala’n Bosch, C / Levante, Tel. 971/38 78 43, www.zafirohotels.com ).
Petit Maó . In his 6-room city hotel in Maó, Jorge Truyol has harmoniously put together a wide variety of furniture: a wave-patterned sofa on a rhomboid rug, an organic wooden shelf in front of a sober aluminum chair … The courtyard with mini-pool relaxes after a stroll in Mahón. DZ / F from 85 Euro (Maó, C / Infanta 17, Tel. 661/02 02 54, www.hotelpetitmao.com ).
Biniarroca . A dreamy hideaway that used to be a cow farm. The furnishing with vintage furniture is luxuriant, the garden with two pools, nymphs and ivy-covered walls lush, and there is also a good restaurant. DZ / F from 90 Euro (Sant Lluís, Camí Vell 57, Tel. 971/15 00 59, www.biniarroca.com ).
Morvedra Nou . A quiet Finca hotel in old walls ten kilometers north of the enchanting Macarella beach. In the country-style rooms with soft colors, exposed stone walls and wooden beams, in the garden shady spots around the pool. DZ / F from 125 Euro (Ciutadella, Camí Sant Joan de Missa km 7, Tel. 971/35 95 21, www.morvedranou.es ).
RESTAURANTS on Menorca
Pins46. Relaxed gastro-bar in a townhouse with a colonial flair and a beautiful patio. On the menu are modern tapas such as prawn croquettes with wasabi aioli; Daily menu 22 Euro (Ciutadella, Plaça dels Pins 46, www.pins46.com ).
Cafe Balear . In the evening on the terrace at the old fishing port of Ciutadella: romantic! The swordfish carpaccio with avocado (€ 10) is super fresh (Ciutadella, Passeig es Pla de Sant Joan, 15, Tel. 971/38 00 05, www.cafebalear.com ).
Restaurante La Minerva . Surrounded by the sea you can sit on a pontoon terrace, look at the harbor of the capital and for example taste delicious fish and lobster stew (21 euros) (Maó, C /. Moll de Llevant 87, Tel. 971/35 19 95, www.restaurantelaminerva.es ).
Rias Baixas . In this rustic-cozy seafood restaurant I ate for the first time baked Menorca sea anemones (16 Euro). Brilliant! (Ferreries, Plaça Menorca1, Tel. 971/37 45 58, www.riasbaixasmenorca.es )
Cova d’en Xoroi. I also never forget the sundowner in this disco bar in an intricate cave system in the cliffs! 10 Euro incl. Drink until sunset (Cala en Porter, C / de Sa Cova 2, www.covadenxoroi.com ).
S’Engolidor . Sunday lunch in a cozy farmhouse with a cozy courtyard: the tables full of Menorcan families, like me the menu for 20 euros – cheese soufflé, stuffed zucchini with spinach sauce, almond cake (Es Mignorn C / Major 3, Tel. 971/37 01 93, www.sengolidor.es ).
EXPERIENCE in Menorca
Mahón cheese . At the picture-book farm Binillubet (Es Mercadal, www.ncabinillubet.com ) you can buy cheese and watch how it is made. Guided visit from two people for 8 euros with tasting. These and other offers can be booked through the farmers’ cooperative “Farmers Way” (Tel. 649/98 89 10, www.farmersandco.es ).
Shoes . There are several factories to visit in Ferreries, and all have good-value shops, such as B. Mascaró, Di.-Fr. 11 am Free guided tours (please contact Olivia Palermo, Tel. 609/66 15 09, Ferreries, C / Passeig de Filadores 9, www.mascaro.com ); or RIA, where one overlooks the “Avarcas” production from a gallery (Ferreries, C / de Trencadors 25, www.ria.es) .
Cantera de Lithica . A twisted walk through derelict Marès quarries, created as a labyrinthine park. Inside are magical gardens and stone structures like a deserted temple or an ancient burial ground. The most beautiful sunset! Admission 5 euros (Ciutadella, Camí de ses Arenes de Baix km 1, www.lithica.es ).
Glass bottom boat . The round trip through Maó’s natural harbor, the largest in the Mediterranean, is worthwhile: along pink bathhouses, British villas, old forts and quarantine islands. Ticket 12 euros (Maó, Port, www.rutasmaritimasdelacruz.com ).
Kayak tour . Along the rocky coast of the Natural Park S Albufera des Grau. And as a coronation the shore leave on the uninhabited islet Illa d en Colom. No man, no way, only three seagulls here. Guided tour 35 euros (Es Grau, Tel. 669/09 79 77, menorcaenkayak.com ).
Camí de Cavalls . Once around the island and almost always along the coast: on the “Path of the Horses” riders were already on the look out for enemies in the Middle Ages. Today it is revived as a well-marked hiking trail. 185 kilometers in 13 stages, access anywhere, even on horseback or on a mountain bike ( www.camidecavalls360.com ).
BEACHES in Menorca
There are nearly 100 beaches in Menorca, mostly in the south, with fine, golden to white sand and turquoise waters. There is no pavement, but there are three typical bathing resorts: Platja Son Bou , almost three kilometers long, with all the comforts and most hotels. Cala Galdana , despite some large boxes a dream bay. And around the child-friendly beaches Cala’n Bosch and Son Xoriguer with marina, apartments, shops and cafes.
Beaches in the southwest . I sailed aboard the “Liber Mare” to the most beautiful natural bays – for me, the Caribbean of Menorca. On the winner’s podium I put the Cala Trebalúger , the Cala Macarelleta and the Cala Turqueta . There Skipper anchors Danny. Clearest water, great for snorkeling (equipment is provided), tour: 40 euros with drinks (meeting point at the port of Cala Galdana landing nr. 73, in front of the “Alaska bar”, Tel. 636/07 18 07, www.libermare. com ).
Beaches in the north . They are wilder, darker and lonely. Like the Cala Pilar – wide swung, with reddish sand and around it chocolate-brown rock, over which lies velvety green bushes. The sea changes from emerald to azure. No service, therefore bring along provisions (from Maó the main island road to km 34, direction Cala Pilar, from the parking lot on foot 20 minutes through pine forest). Or the Cala Pregonda : even more colorful, with rocks protruding in front of it, curiously shaped by wind and sea, protected by a hill and steep cliffs. And behind it, a deliquescent dune landscape (from the beach car park in Binimel.là half an hour on stone and mud paths on foot).
GOOD TO KNOW
The most beautiful is the island at its peak in early May to late June. Attention: In July and August it will be full on the beaches, especially in the south; this changes in contrast to Mallorca but suddenly in September; You can swim comfortably until the end of October.
Marco Polo . Great insider tips, with tour app and update service (12.99 euros).
The area code of Spain is 00 43.
Bathing pleasure not only at the Cala Alcaufar in Sant Lluis southeast the water is so crystal clear
Tastes! From cow’s milk the spicy Mahon cheese is produced
Relaxed In the streets of Ciutadella is of hectaresik no trace
BRIGITTE author Nicole Schmidt after a kayak tour in Es Grau Nature Park
Very British In the island’s capital, Mao, bay windows and sweeping staircases recall the former Occupiers
Runs! The sandal classics “Avarcas” are the perfect souvenir
Sunbath One of the most beautiful beaches in the Southwest is the Cala Turqueta p>