Our travels have just brought us to Mallorca. With a population of almost 900,000, this large Mediterranean island struggles with its image. Tarnished by four decades of mass tourism, Mallorca has long been regarded as the vacation choice for those who simply cannot afford anything better.
For 25 years, Brits went to Mallorca to party (in time shifting their allegiance to neighboring Ibiza). For Germans, it remains a top holiday spot, much favored by those who can recognize Z-List celebs. Sun, sea, schnitzel and sangria are the essentials for German visitors to the island who irritate their Spanish hosts by provocatively calling Mallorca “Germany’s seventeenth federal state.” Europeans generally take exception when Germans talk about annexing their territory, even in jest.
For those German visitors, most of whom jet in on all-inclusive packages, the poolside chat is about football, what’s going on back home and the tacky scene that German media companies have shaped around Mallorca. Minor stars like Daniela Katzenberger brighten the seaside circus, fueling speculation as to whether she really is as “naturally blond” as she claims and quite how much silicone is tucked away in her extravagant curves. True devotees of Katzenberger flock to her café in Santa Ponça, just along the road from the Kultbistro run by Jürgen Drews — a German singer, now way beyond pension age, whose hits apparently still command affection. Drews styles himself “The King of Mallorca” while Katzenberger is evidently “Top Model of the World Mallorca”.
This parallel world of Teutonic fantasy goes unnoticed by most inhabitants of Mallorca. Even the Brits who visit Santa Ponça are bemused by these German antics on the holiday island. “Who is Katzenberger?” they ask. The Jürgen Drews phenomenon is even harder to unpack for non-Germans who stumble into the Kultbistro.
Clinging to the coast
German visitors have colonized parts of the Mallorcan coast, with the greatest concentration of hotels aimed at those visitors in Cala Millor on the east coast. Elsewhere there are other resorts favored by Germans. The platja de Palma has acquired a particular notoriety with the local authorities this year imposing a night-time drinking ban (curbing the excesses of Germans who party till late in venues like the Oberbayern and the Bierkönig).
Stick to those resorts, and you might be forgiven for thinking that Germany really has annexed Mallorca. The reality is rather different. The German imprint is only modest on a large island. There is a very small year-round German population (Katzenberger and Drews perhaps among them). Quite what those residents do in the wet winter months when the resorts are deserted is a mystery.
Visitors to Mallorca who venture inland, whether to the hills of the north-west, the vineyards of Binissalem or the market at Sineu will find landscapes of delicate beauty. Some day we’ll tell you about them, but now we’re off to the beach with a beer and a bratwurst.