That’s it then: I’m back on the mainland again, in the little train from Denia to Benidorm. I went in search of what remained of a lost world of rural and maritime Ibiza, as I remembered it from the 1960s. The above farmhouse was one that I used to pass every day, cycling down to the beach from home. What you see in the photo is a museum piece. Imagine it surrounded by goats, chickens, and sitting by the door in the shade, old women in long black dresses, wide brimmed hats and shawls.
I didn’t see a single donkey in four days of cycling around the country roads of Ibiza. I imagine there must be a few still out there, but you don’t go into the tourist office in the Vara de Rey in Ibiza town and ask, “Can you direct me to the donkeys?” They remained mysteriously hidden.
The old fruit and vegetable market in the centre of the town, by the ramp up to the old walled town, used to be the point where the rural and the urban Ibiza met. Produce came in from the fields daily and, just like the fish market in the neighbouring street, was a sign of an integrated life of local produce consumed by local people. In the photograph above, taken yesterday, we see a dead space surrounded by cafes and bars for the tourists and the smart set. A few poorly arranged jewellery stalls attract occasional customeres. Most of the shops in the centre of Ibiza town are foreign owned. It has become a “globalised” town. A place in which any semblance of a local culture long disappeared. so it should be no surprise that the Mass in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Ibiza, on the feast of her Assumption last Thursday, was so poorly attended (see Thursday’s post)
As far as maritime Ibiza goes, the once flourishing fishing industry is dead. The main catch of the day does not arrive in Ibiza harbour any more, but arrives in refrigerated eight-axle trucks on the freight ferries. A few small traditional fishing boats like the one above still ply the shallows and bring home small fish for the local restaurants and beach bars, but the great gathering of men on the port side of Ibiza, spreading out the nets and chatting while they worked is now just a memory for one who used to bunk off school and watch the process. Along with the disappearance of that way of life, like the disappearance of the vegetable market, and the gentrification of the town, what I noticed more than anything else was the loss of the smells of the town. Yes, the smells. On one occasion i caught a brief whiff of the oily water in a corner of the port, but apart from that everything is sanitised and olorifically characterless.
Above is an information board, found at the roadside on a very minor cycling route between Sant Miquel and Sant Rafel, and is a typical example of the great efforts of the local community to preserve its history. The sign marks a very ancient route and a well. (The sign was very informative, but unfortunately funds seem to have run out for the upkeep of the route, which was overgrown and impassable.)
The Balearia superfast ferry looks very sleek. It hardly goes much faster thatn the standard ferry I took on the outward route. As the boat crawled around the south of the island, I mused that some things remain much the same in Spain: superfast means three hours instead of four. I looked back on Ibiza and wondered if there would be much point in ever returning again? We shall see. In the meantime, I have brought back enough memories and sketches to paint scenes from the Ibiza that once was. The time when 1930s taxis still lined up on the port to welcome passengers off the steamer, just fifty years ago, in 1963.
The book review I mentioned earlier in this blog series, my review of Augustine Thompson’s new biography of Saint Francis of Assisi, will be published as a blog post on this blog – not elsewhere, as earlier suggested – and will be ready in a few days’ time for any who are interested. It is a great read and gives a whole new perspective on St Francis.