The International Writers Magazine: Balerics
m so pleased! Tomorrow it will be different! We will be seeing
a real handiwork of nature the greatest of all artists",
I remarked to a colleague as we departed from yet another art gallery
in the city of Palma capital of Mallorca and also of the
We had examined
dozens of mostly modern paintings in a number of galleries in the old
city and although some of our group, including our guide, were enthusiastic
about modern art, I had my reservations.
Now as we made our way on a four-lane highway driving toward the Artá
Caves, I felt elated. The warm autumn sun, the green countryside filled
with vineyards and orchards and the thought of exploring the handiwork
of nature made my world serene. I was dreaming when the voice of our
guide announced we were now in Manacor 50 km (31 mi) from Palma.
The city with a population of 30,000 is the second largest town on the
island of Mallorca. It is famous for manufacturing furniture but, above
all, as the centre of the artificial pearl industry -the main reason
for tourists to visit the Island. Visitors usually stop here to buy
pearls even though better prices are found in Palmas shops.
Past Manacor the road narrowed to two lanes and soon we were travelling
through tree-covered hills until we reached the Artá Caves located
near Capdepera in the Cap Vermell region. Spectacular caves, they are
surrounded by mountains that tower above the edging waters. Located
46 m (151 ft) above the sea, the Caves, (Cuevas de Artá) is a
fascinating network of caverns. A daring work of nature formed by rain
seeping through the rocks, they draw travellers from all over the world
to admire their imposing grandeur. The caves majesty is so overwhelming
to some visitors that they want them to be declared the ninth
wonder of the world.
The first mention of the caves was recorded in 1229 when Jaime I during
the Christian conquest of Mallorca, found 2,000 Arabs hiding in the
caves. During the ensuing centuries, hermits, pirates and smugglers
employed the caves as hideaways. In 1876, Edouard Martel, a renowned
French geologist was the first to thoroughly study them and it is believed
that Jules Vernes Journey to the Centre of the Earth was inspired
by his visit to the caves.
paying the entrance fee we entered the partially lighted Entrance
Hall where many shapes of stalactites hang from the high roof while
tall stalagmites rise up from the floor. It was a stunning sight.
I was moving in the semi-darkness when I stepped on a rock and just
about fell on my face. Steps have been built and pathways have been
marked all through the caves, yet one has to be careful.
Next we entered
a Chamber where a very short light and sound spectacle gave us an overview
of the caves. On and on we continued. The scenic aura was fantastic
and I was so engrossed with natures handiwork that numerous times
I just about fell on the often wet and slippery floors. Pushing 83 years,
I found that the staircases, many quite high, were hard to manage but
I struggled on trying to keep up with our group.
Like most visitors, the famous Queen of Pillars stalagmite
held my attention for quite a while. A stalagmite, 22 m (72 ft) high
tall, it resembles a Gothic column. Growing upwards at the rate of 2cm
every 100 years, it is estimated that in 5,000 years it will be joined
to the ceiling.
we moved along, I found intriguing the names of the various chambers
that we traversed such as Hell, Purgatory, Paradise, Theatre, Organ
and the Chamber of Flags. After about a half hour we stopped for
some time to view an astonishing formation in the shape of an elephant
then stopped again at the so-called Diamond Stones that resemble
gemstones formed as a result of their carbon composition.
After walking the
one and a half km (1 mi) length of the caves, I felt tired as we arrived
at the exit. Back in the bright sunlight we were greeted with a spectacular
and beautiful view of the waters of Canyamel Bay. For me it was a tiring
yet fulfilling journey through a well-organized series of caves; for
the young an adventure in natures underworld. We left the caves
with the words of the guide ringing in our ears, "It is said that
for one who is stressed the caves emit serenity to a hectic world."
Some 15-minute drive
on the way back to Palma we stopped in the medieval village of Artá
a town of some 8,000 63 km (39 mi) from Palma. From the highway
our first view of the town was stunning and impressive. The Santuari
Sant Salvador and below it the Parish Church of the Transfiguration
sat atop the village dominating the town, spreading down on the hillside
their spires and walls seemed like guardian angels watching over
We parked by steps leading up to the churches. I looked up! The steps
seemed to reach upward to a great distance. "There must be 300
steps to the top. I dont think that I can make it!" I remarked
to a young colleague walking up by my side. She smiled, "Dont
worry! I will help you if you cant make it."
I was totally exhausted when I reached the top. Thinking that my ordeal
was over, I turned to see that there were more steps to the churches.
Discouraged, I sat down on the bench to rest and gaze at the churches
above me. The lower Parish Church of the Transfiguration looked huge
with vaulted gaps up on the roof.
From the Parish Church, one struggles 180 steps to the Santuario de
Sant Salvador, built on the site of a Moorish fortress. The highest
point in Artá with great views across the town and the surrounding
landscape, it is the symbol of the town and the goal of every visitor.
As we walked down for lunch, I thought of these two holy structures
that were really what Artá is all about.
Enjoying our meal of the day costing only 11 euros at the
Hotel Sant Salvador Can Epifania Restaurant, I reminisced about
our days exploration of the Artá Caves and the town of
Artá, still retaining its medieval charm. It was a journey from
natures wonder, to a town set in a postcard setting, capped by
fine food. "What more can a traveller seek?" I thought to
1) The Artá Caves opening hours in May to October are 10am-6pm,
and November to April they're 10am-5pm. The visit to the caves lasts
between 25 and 40 minutes. Only one group can enter at a time, approximately
every half an hour. Guided visits are conducted in Spanish, French,
English and German.
2) The time to come to Artá is on Tuesdays when the weekly market
3) The main foreign language spoken in Artá is German. There
are a good number of German ex-pats who call the town home.
4) Pearls are the gifts to buy while visiting the Balearics. Mallorquin
artificial pearls, manufactured in the town of Manacor, are world famous.
5) The favourite Mallorquin sweet is ensaimada a spiral-shaped
bun and sobrassada is the islands most famous sausage.
6) Leaving a small tip is customary - in bars, restaurants and hotels,
from 5-10% of the cost of food or drink.
Where to Stay:
Hotel Sant Salvador, a small cosy hotel with 8 rooms and a fine restaurant
located just below the churches, its the place to stay when exploring
the region. Calle Castellet, 7 o 07570 ArtB o Islas Baleares.
Tel. 0034 971 829 555. Fax 0034 971 829 598. E-mail: email@example.com
In Palma, one of the top hotels to stay is Castillo Son Vida, situated
in a castle of medieval origin, surrounded by 500 hectares of subtropical
parkland and with magnificent views of the bay of Palma, the hotel is
a 5-star top luxury abode. 07013 Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Tel: 34 971
790 000. Fax: 34 971 790 017. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For Further Information Contact:
Check Website: http://www.illesbalears.es
or e-mail: email@example.com
Tourist Office of Spain, 2 Bloor St. W., 34th Floor, Toronto, Ontario,
Canada M4W 3E2. Tel: 416/961-3131. Fax: 416/961-1992. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Spanish Tourist Office, 666 Fifth Ave. 35th, New York, N.Y. 10103,
U.S.A. Tel: 212/265-8822. Fax: 265-8864. E-mail: email@example.com.
© Habeeb Salloum
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