Saturday, June 23, 2007

Fest des Sant Joan

Saturday 23 June 2007
We went to a crowded dance club, Jazzbah in the harbor area, and worked our way through the crowd to the balcony. I met Luis, an attorney from Madrid. He studied accounting and economics at the University of California at Berkeley in 1987 and was there during the earthquake. I told him how I met Angel and came to be in Menorca, and introduced him to Angel, Carmen, and Luisa. He and Carmen visited for a while before he left with his friends about 0330. David informed me that we were going to leave as well. Angel stayed as there was not room for all of us in the car. David or Ana returned for him later. I was probably asleep by 0400.

I slept until 0830. I unzipped my sleeping bag and covered my head with my shirt, but could not go back to sleep, so I got up at 0900 and wrote. It is sunny and windy this morning. Insects, doves, and other birds are calling. Caryn and Boris were up and greeted me at 0930. Our conversation woke one of our hostesses, Malena. She asked us to come inside for croissants with chocolate, coffee, and milk.

There is some new construction going on behind the stone wall at the back of Malena and Laura’s house. The soil and rock has been excavated to a depth of about 80 cm for the construction of a new road. The soil is quite shallow, 20 cm of soil on top of limestone. It does not look like great soil for farming.

Malena and Laura have quite a large house, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, a large kitchen, a living room with fireplace, a one car garage, access to the flat roof via a staircase on the east side of the house, and a large covered porch across the front of the house. All floors are ceramic tile. I went inside about 1000. Ana and Caryn were making coffee and getting food out of the boats. We had bread, jamon Serrano, queso Mahon, Guindilla peppers, chocolate croissants, and cookies on the front porch. The covered porch is on the North West side of the house, and shady and cool in the morning. There is an orchard between the street and the front of the house with an almond, a loquat, a pear, and several pine trees. Boris picked some small pears. They are good, but not very juicy. The southwestern half of the lot is unused.

Malena and the other residents of the house were up before 1100. Laura and Boris were hand feeding a falcon chick while Angel and I studied one of Laura’s bird identification books. Laura offered to take us to the wildlife rehabilitation center where she works. We left about 1200. Ana and I rode with Laura while the others rode with David. We stopped several places en route, and went shopping for groceries at a supermarket in Poligon Industrial Park. We finally went to the rehab center which is built into a former quarry. The quarry provides some walls, shade, and a more constant temperature for the animals. Other walls are created with chicken wire and mats of brush. There are numerous birds; gulls, owls, and hawks. There are native tortoises, which are protected, and exotic turtles from Florida, which they are trying to eradicate from the island. Laura gave two of of the Florida turtles, probably the Florida Red-bellied Turtle, to David to his great delight. I mentioned that they make excellent soup and joked about trying to find a recipe for them. We left Laura at the rehab center, and took the groceries back to the house.

David said we had reservations for 27 at a Ciutadella restaurant this afternoon. We went to Grill Las Brasas at about 1430. A large table was set for 30 people. We were among the last to arrive. I had already met many of those present, Rosa, Elena, Carmen, and Luisa among them. We ordered beer, wine, water, apetizers, and each of us selected an entrecote, or main course. I selected leg of cabrito. Other choices were lechona, and cordero. Lechona is the Mallorquin word for cochinillo or suckling pig. Cordero is a leg of lamb, and cabrito is goat kid. While waiting for the entrecote to be roasted over a hard wood fire, we feasted on calamar frito marinero, champinones, pambtumaquet (bread with tomato), and salad. After eating an enormous portion of meat served with baked potatoes, grilled tomato, and sweet red pepper, we were served small cream puffs drizzled with chocolate syrup and ice cream layered with chocolate. We finished with café solo or a cortado poured over ice. Elena gave me a souvenir book mark and pen from the restaurant.

We drove to a lighthouse, Far de Punta Nati. On the way we looked at ses barraques, the conical stone structures used to house livestock. Some are recently built, but some were first constructed thousands of years ago. Near the lighthouse there were bunkers, probably built during the Spanish civil war, built to look like the ses barraques. Even though the structures were not ancient, the stark, rocky landscape and view of the sea gave me a strong feeling that Angel calls telurico.

We returned to Malena and Laura’s house at 1700 for a siesta. I awoke at 1900 and wrote for half an hour while the others: Angel, Boris, Caryn, Ana, and David slept. I may have gone back to sleep for a while. Angel woke me again at 1950 by dropping snails from the roof onto the tile floor near my head. He said the hazelnut wars had begun in reference to the throwing of hazelnuts that I am looking forward to experiencing tonight.

It was 2130 or later when we piled into the car with David at the helm. Being the largest and oldest, I got the shotgun seat. Angel graciously lay on the floor in the hatchback while Boris, Ana, and Caryn occupied the back seat. Angel had made 5 L of pomade which he brought with us. David parked, probably on Velazquez near Rda de les Baleares, as soon as we got into town as many of the streets are closed for the fiesta. We walked to the center of the city. The hazelnut wars were well underway when we got there. Hazelnuts popped under our feet as we walked. We had been walking on hazelnuts for many blocks before we found some to buy. Angel and I each bought a kilo of hazelnuts, and soon began throwing them at one another, other members of our party, and anyone who threw hazelnuts at us. The noise from hazelnuts popping under people’s feet and the noise of people talking, yelling, and singing was getting quite loud. After walking a few more blocks we saw people throwing hazelnuts from balconies and staircases. Others were putting hazelnuts down one another’s pants and shirts, sometimes wrestling one another to the ground.

We met Carmen and Luisa in Plaça Nava, and they made good use of the hazelnuts Angel and I had brought. I jumped into the fray and knocked the drink out of a young woman’s hand. Her boyfriend scowled at me, and Luisa poured her another drink from the bottle Angel had given me. Luisa broke the strap on her sandal and was standing on the shoes of others while David ran to the car to get a pair of flip flops he had brought in anticipation of such an accident. There were a few armed policemen and police women walking through the crowd. They were being pelted with hazelnuts just as everyone else. Some of them even smiled. I saw one police woman kiss a partier. Maybe they knew one another. It was probably about midnight when the hazelnut wars died out from exhaustion and the lack of whole hazelnuts. The only ones left were those on the streets, and most of those were crushed.

We found the street, Josep Maria Quadrado, on which 6 inches of sand had been spread in preparation for the horsemen that will ride through the crowd. It is hard to imagine where the horses will fit between the people standing shoulder to shoulder. I saw the life guard from Cala Blanes, greeted her in the traditional Spanish manner, but I couldn’t hear much that she said over the noise of the crowd. Ana visited with her for a while. We lost track of Angel, Caryn, and David. I could see Boris only 10 or 20 m from me. The horsemen, Caxiers, were now running through the streets and the horses occasionally stood on their hind legs and pawed the air over our heads with their front legs. The horses are black, decorated with ribbons and flowers. The Caxiers are dressed in black. The horses are quite large, their withers at my chin height. I was frequently touching horses and occasionally knocked off my feet, but could not fall because the crowd was too dense.

The batteries in my camera were too dead to use the flash, but Boris was taking lots of pictures. Eventually Caryn came looking for Boris, probably fearing that he had been trampled under the feet of a horse. She led us to a square, Plaça de la Catedral, where the horses gathered and milled through the crowd. Angel said he could tell I had been touching the horses by the smell of my hands.

I was pushed into a lady by one of the horses. We introduced ourselves. She is a doctor from Barcelona specializing in orthopedics. We visited for a long time; her friend’s occasionally coming by to try to take her away. She and all of her friends spoke English. She had driven Highway 1 from LA to San Francisco and visited Hearst Castle. The horses nearly knocked us over several times, and we were eventually driven against a store window protected by an iron grate. After an hour or so her friends were successful in spiriting her away and I rejoined Angel who had been watching me.

Sunday 24 July 2007
We found a restaurant near Plau Vivó and the corner of Major des Born and Plaça d’es Born to have dinner at about 0200. We shared many good dishes including mushrooms stuffed with chorizo, razor clams, aioli with bread, and red wine (rioja de 100% tempranillo grapes). After dinner we went to the harbor at about 0300.

We were very lucky to be able to see a rizzaga, a magical marine phenomenon that occurs only here in Ciutadella, and only once every few years. No one knows how to predict it. The normal tidal variation here is about a meter and there is normally one tide a day. During this rizzaga the sea level fell more than one meter during a 7 to 10 minute period and rose again in the same amount of time, flooding the entire launch ramp, and the streets right up to the thresholds of the businesses on either side of the narrow harbor. This rapid fluctuation of the sea level continued for the two hours that I watched it from near the launch ramp at the head of the harbor. Not all rizzagas are as tame as this one. One several years ago smashed the boats into the buildings lining the harbor destroying many boats and doing a lot of damage to the buildings. The city is looking into ways to control it to minimize damage. It is wonderful that this rare event happened this night as the first quarter moon set on the summer solstice during the Fest de Sant Joan, and most of all while I was watching.

We went onto Jazzbah, the same dance club we visited last night. This time we stayed on the first floor near the entrance. I danced alone next to the wall, guarding the T shirts I had bought for my grandkids, and
Women’s purses while they danced. Eventually, Rosa asked me to dance. I moved to the center of the narrow dance floor and the crowd parted to give us room to dance swing style. IA am a bit rusty and was not the smooth dance partner I like to be, but we both had fun anyway, and many people watched us doing this strange, old fashioned dance for a while.

Just before 0430 Caryn and Boris went outside for some air and space. Ana retrieved her purse and followed them to see if they wanted to go home. She soon returned to dance some more. We all went outside about 0500, watched the rizzaga for a while longer before walking back to the car and driving to Malena and Laura’s house to sleep. I went to sleep on the northeast side of the house under a shower so the sun would not hit me when it came up.

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