With great anticipation, we approached an island we had never before visited – Mallorca. Its capital and largest city, Palma, is dominated from the sea with a view of its great Gothic cathedral, Santa Maria of Palma. While the exterior is very imposing, set up on a hill and surrounded by old city walls, the inside is dizzying and dazzling. Your eyes desperately try to look everywhere at once and grasp what you are seeing. But here, s-ll-ooooo-www observation is the prescription, and then it makes sense. The altar area has lights everywhere, along with a baldachin (canopy) meant to resemble the crown of thorns over the altar itself, adding to the majesty. The giant window behind the altar reflects its bright colors all along the side walls, even over the organ pipes. There seems to be one wild view after another. The side altar has an overlay, installed in 2004, depicting the loaves and fishes miracle, but includes serpents and a pile of skulls. Skulls appear a lot on the floor, likely tombs of local bishops or wealthy patrons. What a place!
It is fun to walk along the top of the city walls, stretching out to either side of the cathedral. The trick is knowing when to exit, as there are very long stretches where you are simply stuck – to walk ahead, not knowing how far you will have to go, OR to go back to the exit you passed 10 minutes ago? We did have to return to the ship by 4:30…….
The island’s history is a series of conquests and reconquests – the Romans, the Muslims, the Christians, the Moors, the Byzantines, the Vikings, then pirates – all claimed Mallorca at various times. With all this history and the fact that in the 16th century the pirate problem was so bad that the King of Spain considered abandoning Mallorca and the rest of the Balearic Islands, it is easy to understand why their cathedral looks like a combination of church and fortress.
Today the visitors are much friendlier. Mallorca is a major tourist destination. Although the island is occupied by fewer than one million residents, the airport is one of the largest in Spain, serving more than 28 million passengers per year. It is easy to see why, as it is so beautiful and so warm. In the summer, it can reach up to 100 degrees F, and the low average in the winter is about 60 degrees F. Just a delightful place.
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