Sunday, 4 March 2018

Soller, Mallorca, Spain - free walking tour.

I had seen on Sollerweb that  there was a free walking tour on Saturday at 10:30 so I actually set an alarm (no workmen on Saturday) and took the 9:30 tram into Soller. Some of the market stalls were just getting set up, its a pretty laid back market in Soller. The walk was supposed to start at the train station and gradually a group of us formed and were met by Anna. There was a couple from England and myself and the rest were from Germany. Anna spoke English and German and explained that it would sound as if she was telling the German contingent more but it is just because of the structure of German sentences, she could be more succinct in English.

She pointed out the date on the train station. That was the date it was renovated into a station

Prior to that it had been a finca, a farmhouse and she pointed out that a 3rd floor had been added to house the administrative offices and to the left had been the watch tower. Most large fincas had watchtowers due to the invasions and pirates. It was also a place for the family to retreat to if attacked.

Next we moved down to the side of the church. The original, small church can be seen in the dark stone outline and the section of wall to the right was a part of the defensive courtyard. The church had very small windows and some arrow slits as the village people would hide within the walls and in the church when under attack.
On the other side we could see the original small church in the lower section of the wall, above it and to the left, the gothic church was added on to it and top right was the later addition of the art nouveau facade.

The facade took 40 years to complete and was designed by a student of Gaudi's. Anna gave us all the dates but I can't remember any of them.
 Her best quote when asked whether the style was called Modernismo in Mallorca, "Yes, but it is Art Nouveau in English".
Beside the church, the bank was renovated by the same architect, also in an art nouveau style.
Anna told us that the plan was to then build the new city hall in the same style but there was so much corruption that they ran out of money and had to settle for a plainer building. I have heard this again and again, that corruption is rampant and that huge plans do not ever have the desired results because of this. The building of the new city hall did result in the doubling of the size of the main square.,
We then walked down the pedestrian shopping street and Anna pointed out this house as an example of a "town house". She said that wealthier families would have a finca in the country and a house in the town. The large doors on the ground floor were where the carriages would enter and the family would live on the first floor. There was also usually a pretty courtyard behind with a small garden.

The moon above the entrance to the next house she talked about.

It was an example of a smaller town house. It still had a carriage entrance, first floor accommodation and on the top floor it was roofed but open at the sides for drying vegetables (garlic, peppers etc) and sausages.

Down a narrow street to a little church.

Dedicated to "Mary of the Victory" in thanks from the people of Soller  for being able to repel the last invaders, in 1561. There is a great celebration, in the first week of May, every year, re-enacting that final battle.
 We crossed the Torrente Major and Anna explained that there are no actual rivers in Mallorca, they are all called Torrentes because they are dry most of the year, only running during the winter rains and with run off from the snow.
She went on to explain that although the town was never walled the narrow streets had large gates at the ends that were closed at night and when attack was imminent. She talked about the naming of the streets and the tiles used to display those names. As we walked she pointed out more examples of the old townhouses and how their old watchtowers had been renovated but you could clearly see their outlines. On one street she said there was documentation to indicate that there were Arab baths there but that there didn't seem to be any remains.
She pointed out dates on some of the buildings
On one street, that ended at the church, she pointed out the niches that held tiles depicting the stations of the cross. At one time the only lighting for the street would have been candles set in those niches, then there were gas lights and finally electric.
At this point she told us a very surprising thing; individual solar power is not encouraged in Mallorca. Why? She said that many politicians "retire" to sit on the electric company board. Because there is so much sun they are afraid that people would put in solar power and no longer need the company's electricity. I said that I had seen some solar panels, but not many, she said those people could generate their own power but would have to pay taxes to the power company!
Anna was excellent she was close to fluent, encouraged questions and seemed to enjoy doing the tour. It was free but donations were welcomed and we all contributed. I did some shopping in the market and then met one of the German women, who was traveling alone, for lunch. Soon we were joined by the English couple who were here shopping for a house they could turn into a Bed and Breakfast. They said that the choices were either very run down and the renovations needed were overwhelming or they had been renovated and therefor were expensive and would still need more renovations for their needs.
I took the tram home, carrying my purchases carefully - 6 lettuce plants and an oregano as Liz had told me I could plant them, and perhaps have fresh lettuce before I leave. It just feels nice to "garden".

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