Finding My Sea Legs in Menorca, Spain
NOTE: This is an excerpt from my travelogue, along with accompanying images from my recent photo workshop "The Ancient Lost Cities of the Mediterranean". During this journey, we visited eight countries, met fascinating people, and photographed amazing sites. Here are some of those stories.
Woke up groggy, but quickly sprung to my feet after a glimpse of the beautiful sunrise just outside my cabin window. I grabbed my gear, threw on my Tilley hat and went out to the fourth deck and started making pictures with a 4 stop soft edge neutral density filter to balance the bright sun with the deep blue waters in the foreground. As we neared a cliff, I continued to take photos, one of which was quite interesting with the sun peaking out from alongside the shadowy bluff.
As we approached the port of Menorca (also spelled Minorca), the light was beautiful and golden. Colorful houses speckled the landscape along with an ancient looking steeple. In the foreground rested a bright red tugboat which I added to a few frames.
We passed an old military prison while sailing in slowly with the Captain on the side of the deck carefully navigating us in. This particular Captain has what's called an "open bridge policy" which means you can actually go in to the main control room and ask about the various dials and radars. Apparently in today's world of tight security, this is a rarity, and something I should take advantage of. I watched as the crew threw thick ropes from our boat to men who were waiting on land. They gently pulled us in and secured the ropes to the dock. From there, the local officials board the ship and do some kind of officious check before granting the passengers access to land. This was done rather quickly, and we boarded a coach bus for a very interesting tour.
As we drove to our first stop, the guide pointed out many unique aspects of Menorcan life. Only 23% of the island is inhabited with the remainder completely undeveloped. There is a different rhythm of life and he joked about a t-shirt that read "Menorcans are not slow, you are just stressed". In fact, as recently as 2004, Menorca had the oldest living man at 114 years old. Every house has heavy wooden shutters and doors made from olive wood. If cared for, these can last over 100 years.
Since they are surrounded by salt water, it's not a productive climate for growing fruits and vegetables. This heavy presence of salt is ingested by the cows while feeding on grasses, and actually flavors their cheese with a saltier taste unique to this area. Dairy cheese is their number one export, shipped worldwide to Europe and the United States. They do grow vermouth, and the guide picked some to show us.
After this informative lecture we shuffled off the bus and took a short stroll to a prehistoric site called the "Torralba d'en Salort". This looks like a giant table, almost like Stonehenge, but completely unique to Menorca with 13 standing throughout the island. The local term is Taulas which is translated as "tables". It's unclear if they were used for rituals or animal sacrifice. I used my wide angle lens and photographed it from all angles, working hard to find vantage points that were unique and did not have people cluttering the scene. Amazingly, we were the only tour group at the location.
Our next stop was Fort Marlborogh which was quite dark inside, and not the best spot for photography. Still, from a historical aspect, I did feel it provided important context as to Menorca's past. It used to fall under British rule as the port of Menorca was found to be located very strategically for their needs. Eventually, it was won back by Spain and remains so to this day. We walked up a long steep hill past many beautiful waterfront properties and boarded the bus and eventually the ship. We had to set sail immediately for the island of Corsica, just off the coast of France.