25 April 2014

A Walk around Ciutadella the ancient capital of Menorca

Menorca in general and Ciutadella in particular show Catalunya at its best. Actually we were in the Catalan countries/ Paisos Catalans rather than Catalunya but does it make a difference?  To me not much.
We were given the use of a flat in Ciutadella and were able to spend the evenings wandering around the old town
Ciutadella is at the western end of the island and we arrived here on the Balnearia ferry. You can also arrive at the other main city of Maó which is where we left from a week later, with Transmediteranea.

Ciutadella was the old capital of the island but the power has since moved east to Maó. A long fairly straight road joins these two towns which are about 45km apart.

Old stones hug you with their warm safe reassuring strength
Arched colonades call you to explore some more
Warm soft colours - everywhere you turn
Walking the narrow streets takes you into another world. I love curved corners
There is a ronda encircling the old town - this square of the two fat ladies is a good orientation point
 On the ronda a lot of the less touristy shops are found. There isn't really much traffic on the road either!
 I bought my new avarcas here. Tried on three pairs and then....
 when you find the right pair they slip on like Cinderella's slipper and you never want to take them off!
  An ancient olive tree in the centre of town - cars are banned from the old streets

The sculpture is by Nuria Roman The Awakening

 The Menorcan food is fabulous. The famous Ensaimada has pork fat in it but we still brought a box home
 I couldn't stop drinking in the colours. Can't wait to get back to art class and try to create them myself

 We did our main exploration of the town on our last day but I need to go back and wander some more
 Perhaps with a paintbox and paper instead of a camera
 Perhaps these stories of Menorca will tempt you to go there yourself - tell me when and I will come too!

24 April 2014

Going deep into the cave and exploring the Talaiotic culture

We had one week on Menorca and saw only a small part of what there is to see.
There are hundreds of prehistoric sites for example and in the end we only visited two or three which we found by chance when driving to or from our daily walks.

Following a sign for Torrellafuda,  we drove down a long sandy lane and ended up in an almost empty car park. The only sounds were of birds singing in the surrounding olive tree groves. There are no restrictions on entry - no tickets or barriers. Passing through a gate, we were in a field full of wild flowers with a group of standing stones peacefully guarding the entrance to a cave
I said before in these tales of Menorca that I was constantly reminded of Cornwall and here yet again I had a strong sense of the connection between these two places. I started to ask myself if it was more than a coincidence. Perhaps it is not Menorca that reminds me of Cornwall but Cornwall that has reminded me of Menorca?
This site is known as Talaiotic which describes the people who lived here in the Bronze Age, taking their name from the emblematic stone built look outs called Talaiots.
They left behind them many other monuments and we can only guess at the meaning and significance of these remnants of this long ago culture.

 Taulas are the stone altars

and there are also dwellings, stone walls and burial chambers

First you arrive at the stones - they are close to the entrance to a cave
 Inside it is dark and damp.  It is high enough to stand upright but only just. Once inside there is another round room with stones along the edge for sitting on, or perhaps for laying things on?
There is a phospherescent green glow all around - bringing back memories of Carn Euny of course.
It looks a bit creepy doesn't it but once inside I didn't want to leave. 

I stood in the centre of the first cave and just as I was thinking 'this is an interesting place' I started to feel an immense powerful emotion build up in my chest. Before I knew what was happening I started to cry. A lot!  Weeping like there would be no end to it.  I stayed there for about half an hour and the feeling subsided, the tears stopped just leaving me peaceful and with a sense of somehow coming home to this place. It wasn't the sort of thing I usually experience. I love ancient sites and can spend hours normally trying to connect with the energies of old. but this was different - it just happened to me without any effort on my part and without any understanding of what it was about.
Here is a photo of someone who has just been plugged in to something mysterious in a cave
Coming out of the cave and turning left there is a path that leads to the original settlement where they built the large stony hill or talaiot for keeping lookout over the surrounding countryside, as far as the sea. A little further on is the settlement and some broken stone altars and the remains of the town walls with small entrance holes
This site is one of the many Talaiot settlements on Menorca.

Talaiots are Bronze Age megaliths, stone built towers,  dating back to 2000 BC.
Climbing up high on the Talaiot you can see for miles, as far as the coast line.
Imagine in the Bronze age how long it would take to walk from here to the coast!

  Thanks to this web site about Menorca for some of the information I found about the Talaiotic culture.

21 April 2014

Menorca - Walking Through Spring Flowers

On Day 4 we drove up to Es Grau stopping on the way to visit the Natural Reserve of S'Albufera D'Es Grau.  Aiguamolls de L'Emporda it is not but it was still a pleasant walk past various wetlands and if there were not many birds around it was probably our fault for arriving in the middle of the day.  They could do better with information about the plants and birds but money has been cut from the funding of these places and it is a blessing that they exist at all
 I learnt that the Menorcan gates that you find all along the Cami are made from olive wood and every year there are fewer people who are skilled at making them

Es Grau is a pretty town on the edge of a wide curving beach

 Much of it is covered in the seaweed that is all around this coast
 It may be a nuisance to the bathers and sunbathers but it is an important part of the ecology of the area. Some people call for it to be removed for the summer but this would seriously disturb the small organisms that live on the edge of the sea.  The weed forms itself into hairy balls that are sometimes as large as tennis balls

Birds singing in the bushes accompanied us on our way
Gorse in flower smelling of coconut reminded me once again of Cornwall
Spring blossoms that I never knew the names for
Wonderful smell of herbs
Perfect walking on wide undulating pathes
Dunes and sea-blanched drift wood
On an almost deserted beach  I had an evening swim before doing some peaceful yoga stretches to calm my aching legs. We have now been walking every day for four days
 Every so often the path winds away from the sea but it is never far from view

There is something so satisfying about a triangle of blue. Reminders always of Cornwall - this time of Penberth, yesterday of Kemyel Crease, another day of the path from Carn Dhu to Mousehold.
Why does the mind so want to find familiar patterns in new places I wonder?

If you are looking for more information about Menorca this site is interesting

In the evening we returned to a pizza restaurant in Ciutadella and had exactly the same as we had two nights before. Not because we are boring but because it was so delicious and the waiter was friendly and the tables were looking out over these beautiful buildings. Dinner followed by a gin and lemon - the pomada that is traditional in Menorca. The gin is made locally on the island

Cala Galdana to Cala Turqueta

There is a long straight road across Menorca linking Ciutadella on the west to Maó on the east. It's a bit like Cornwall in the sense that when it is cloudy on one coast you can go to the other and find hot sunshine and when it is windy on the north you can go south and the sea will be peaceful and calm
On Day 3 we drove along this road on our way to Cala Galdana and the beginning of a walk along the Cami de Cavalls to Cala Turqueta.  There are several prehistoric monuments along this route and on this day we stopped off at Navetta des Tudons which is a large burial chamber 1200-700BC

One of the most beautiful coves is Cala Macarella
There are lots of little viewing places along the route
Above the bay are some caves
 still used in the summer and fenced off with metal gates
They have the best views imaginable but are not so easy to get to
The smaller cove next door is Cala Macarelleta where we stopped for a rest but even though it looks inviting I didn't manage to get in for a swim. Most of the beaches are naturist with a mix of clothed and naked bathers. There were dogs too.  Walkers and cyclists but no horses!
 The wind was blowing cold ripples over the sea and even I couldn't find the courage to go in.
We always had to walk back the same route to find the car but it never seemed to be the same as different things are visible from the other direction
Behind me is a typical Menorcan limestone wall
Back at Cala Turqueta I had the swim I was dreaming of - the water was cold but the wind had dropped and as the sun was going down, birds were singing and the beach was almost empty.
At Cala Galdana you have to face the horror of two huge hotel complexes built without a care for the beauty of the location. Sorry for the poor quality of this photo but the light was going as we arrived.
Even Menorca has these monstrosities although not as many as on the mainland of Catalunya.  Galdana bay is somewhere you would expect extreme care to be taken with building regulations and yet someone somewhere gave permission and others are making money.
Still, it is true that most of the time on Menorca you are looking at this.....