The Other Mallorca
For a German Speaker, Escaping the “Aussteiger” Is An Adventure All By Itself
La Palma greeted us with bright sunshine and a hot 32 degrees Celsius when we arrived in early January, with palm trees gently swaying in a humid breeze. Once out of the climate-controlled airport, a Mediterranean paradise began just across the street.
Strolling along the hot pavement towards the car, the quick climate shift was startling. Two hours ago we had been shivering in Munich, struggling not to fall asleep. Now we were about to dive into crystal clear water and spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the beach slathered in coconut sun cream.
Mallorca feels more like the Caribbean, and as we drove down the island towards the coast, the flair of Spanish cuisine and rural village life was everywhere.
The beautiful Spanish villa located just a 15 minutes drive from the coast sealed my impression, acres of dry land speckled with olive trees stretched out in front of the hammock that I immediately claimed as my own. I was finally in Mallorca, the resort I had heard so much about, a favorite spot for many Europeans, especially Germans. I began to understand the advantages of its geographical proximity to, but emotional distance from home.
Our host took us to his favourite breakfast spot the next morning, a cosy restaurant located close to a small harbour south of Palma run by German émigrés, or Aussteiger.
Aussteiger in fact own and run almost half of the island, I learned. So we were warmly welcomed by a couple who couldn’t have been more German, except for the dark bronze tan that made their teeth shine pearly white. The food was plentiful and delicious and as we ate and chatted, the place gradually filled up.
At around noon "Rudi" entered, a plumber from a nearby town who stopped in every day on his lunch break to eat and drink his two or three beers. He seemed like a nice enough guy. As I let my eyes wander through the buzzing room, I realized that I was solely amongst Germans, the Spanish couple that had ordered coffee half an hour ago seemed to be long gone. I wondered if it had something to do with the weekday or this particular location. Whilst Rudi ordered his third Helles, I held that thought and dug back into my tapas.
As the days passed, we began to adapt, working hard on our tans and adjusting our biological clocks to wake-up at 3:00 in the afternoon. Before hand, I had been delighted with the prospect of a Spanish speaking location. I speak the language, so I expected that mingling with the locals wouldn’t be a problem.
However, there was no need to speak a word of Spanish throughout the entire first week. From supermarket employees to gas station cashiers, everyone spoke enough German that I never had to switch. In fact, I had yet to see a single Spanish person that was either not employed at the local grocery store or driving a cab. The jobs that required a little more than just a license or social security number were taken by Germans.
One day, the sprinkler system broke down, so I skimmed through Mallorca’s yellow pages without coming across a single Spanish language ad for a plumber. I did, however, find Rudi’s ad. It reminded me of Los Angeles and the strong presence of a Latino community there. Here, the Germans had taken it a step further and annexed the place.
We had met a couple of German students at the beach and hung out with them, until one night when we decided to check out two of the most popular nightlife spots, Cala Ratjada and el Arenal, home of the Ballermann 6.
Originally Ballneario 6, this is one of several numbered stretches of beach, yet due to its central location and its proximity to the hottest clubs on the strip, it acquired questionable fame and was renamed to the more German friendly Ballermann 6. The Ballermann 6 makes the news every German holiday season, showing teenagers drinking sangria out of buckets or flashing the camera with various body parts. It’s our European spring break.
Expecting no more than light diversion, we stroll down the Schinkenstrasse, its actual name, meaning "hamstreet." Now I’ve been to many holiday resorts but what followed was more like holiday manufacturing: Every club had employed herds of promoters who were weighed down with flyers, spouting awkward slogans, trying to lure your last living brain cell into their clubs. There was no way to avoid them, as they showered us with promises of discounts.
Every now and then someone would be hurled out onto the street, only to get back up and totter into another pub to the left or right. The stench of sweat and alcohol saturated the air, 90’s pop music accompanied the scene at full blast. I didn’t think it was possible, but this place was more chaotic and appalling than Munich’s yearly "Oktoberfest" on a Saturday afternoon. In short, it was the worst.
We passed one gigantic club after another, all with long waiting lines. We waited almost half an hour to get into the Physical, whose name wasn’t far off; in line, we were approached by three girls asking for the first dance inside. They were clearly drunk out of their minds and no more than 16. We refused politely and witnessed in astonishment as the doors were opened even for these youngsters. As they merged into the crowd, we took in the huge interior that held up to 5,000 people, all drinking and dancing – and the first Mallorcans I had seen in hours, a group of guys out to pick up German girls. I could just see them dressing for the evening fixing to mingle with the alemanes, and laughed at the thought. We all love what’s exotic.
By 3:30 a.m., we were heading home, amused but in no way enticed. We had seen Mallorca’s party machinery live and had had enough.
Thus we happily spent our remaining two weeks in exaggerated states of relaxation eventually finding the perfect restaurant with a charming Spanish chef where we ate almost every night. Now that we knew what we were not missing, we spent the holidays in Mallorca the way we’d initially planned — enjoying the beautiful scenery, the delicious food and the good-hearted people, all features of the island that are often neglected by German news. Although I suppose that’s a good thing.
In the end it was astonishing to realize how the Mallorcans have withdrawn yet have managed to preserve their traditions and habits in their own enclosed spaces. And although the island has profited enormously from its tourism, the lack of these "untouched" spaces is obvious. The Germans were more or less accepted, but far from liked. If more of them sat down at one of the rustic wooden tables, to chat and argue with the locals over a glass of vino tinto, maybe Mallorca would open up to the average tourist the sides that otherwise remain undiscovered.