It was a long ride from Porto Petro, leaving the arid yellow land of our part of the island to enter the lush green mountains of the west, where terraces of olive trees and forests of pine trees stood tall amid the mist of lingering clouds hundreds of meters above the sea.
As we approached the Sierras of Tramuntana, I noticed how a few dark clouds seemed stuck between two cliffs, not very willing to move on. I hoped that wasn't the spot we were headed, since the rest of the sky was magnificently cerulean.
We drove higher and higher into the mountains on the serpentine road; turning and curving so that you'd have to look straight ahead to fight motion sickness. The higher we climbed the mountain, the more we had to decompress our ears. Valldemossa lay 1300 meters above sea level and I was already thinking a town this high up must
be worth visiting.
Just as I had dreaded, the spot we were heading into was right in the center of the stuck cloud, right in a valley, right where Valldemossa lies. Even though the sunlight was gone, we looked upon Valldemossa as we approached the clouded valley. Its little stone houses with its different colored doors and windows clustered around the church tower which was the highest peak of the town. All around leafy trees popped up as if protecting the town, making it seem as if it were floating on the valley. It looked like a picture from a fairy tale book.
The mountain road circled the village until the entry to Valldemossa was inevitable. We quickly parked the car to begin the excursion. As soon as I stepped out, I noticed a difference in the air. The oxygen was purer, and the air smelled of dampened pine cones.
Although the rebellious cloud was no more than a few meters above our heads, we bought a map and walked down the main street where the most adorable cafes and bistros were lined. Its outdoor tables were adorned with olive branches on pretty glass bottles.
People sat down for hot chocolate and coffee on the wooden tables upon the cobblestone streets, while eating the renowned Valldemossan pastry "coques de patatas". We treated ourselves to some from the pastry shop in a corner while we admired the traditional Majorcan architecture framed by the cascading tree branches, creating a sage green tunnel.
Moving past the souvenir shops selling puppets, ceramics, postcards and hats we came across the Charterhouse (or a Carthusian monastery) famous for having lodged Frederic Chopin in the winter of 1838 and where concerts are held every August to commemorate his visit. We didn't go inside but we strolled around in its small but idyllic gardens, where we could get a glimpse of the turquoise tiled steeple of the monastery tower.
Ed's parents went their way so Ed and I walked off on our own to explore the quiet residential streets of Valldemossa, with the breathtaking pastoral scenery in the background. The downhill narrow streets were aligned with stone houses, one or two stories high, some with balconies others with small windows. But practically all the houses were decorated on the exterior with flower and plant pots hanging on the walls at different levels. Each pot had a different plant with different hues of green, all beautifully taken care of. So when you looked down a street, all you could see were the old stones of the houses and the different shades of leafy green glistening in the mountain sun.
Each street and corner had something special about it, almost magical. For starters, there was a peaceful silence I hadn't heard in a while. The kind of still quiet you definitely don't hear in a city or a town; it was the kind of calm that one can only get from the mountains. When you're this high up, there's nothing but the rustling of leaves and the froufrou of birds feathers.
Next to every door of every house there were little ceramic tiles, all with the same words: "Santa Catalina Thomŗs pregau per nostaltres" (Saint Catalina Thomas pray for us). The colorful tiles depict different instances from the life of this Majorcan saint ever so present in the village, who was witness to her youth.
As we continued to walk, we realized how there wasn't one corner which didn't deserve a picture, or a contemplative look. We found, for example, a small entrance to a house which had the most violet colored grapes hanging in perfect clusters from autumn colored vines. Next to that, a small front yard filled with tiny lemon trees which filled the air with a fresh citric scent. Further down, an iron sun roof where, this time, green grapes were dangling ready to be plucked. Around the corner, the old public washhouse where the women would gather for a chat while doing their families' laundry.
It was soon time to go, so we bid farewell to this magical place in the mountains, now knowing what triggered Chopin to boldly declare this the most beautiful place on earth. I think he was right.
Next stop was the even smaller mountain village of DeiŠ. I had heard it was even prettier than Valldemossa, but after what I had seen I was skeptical. After a few minutes of enjoying breathtaking sea and mountain views on our drive, we arrived in Deža. The landscape was similar to that of Valldemossa, with austere stone houses situated as in an ascending spiral around the green valley, filled with olive trees. Nonetheless there was a different hint to it.
We parked the car and looked around the main street for a place to eat. All the bistros and bars had staggering mountain views but none accepted American Express. So we ended up buying ingredients for tuna and cheese sandwiches in the tiny supermarket. The next challenge was finding a private enough spot for our picnic. Everything seemed so out in the open, if only we would find a nice quiet bench or a park. As we walked with our supermarket bags, I instinctively turned a corner down some old cobblestone stairs, only to find the cutest square with benches and a large tree for shade, and a kids' jungle gym with sand and all. Couldn't have found anything better. And the view was much better than any restaurant we could have sat in.
After lunch we walked uphill to get to know the little town. We found a small cemetery at the peak of the village. We all instantly grew quiet and I thought to myself what a privilege to be buried in this place. There was a tiny chapel in the center of the cemetery whose path was adorned with small cypress and pine trees. But the killer was the 360 degrees of mountain view with the occasional hint of deep blue ocean in between. I had never thought about where I would want my remains to stay after I'm gone, but I decided there and then it would have to be a place like this.
We didn't have much time to keep wandering on, so we headed back to the car, passing a few cozy B&B. Ed and I decided we would have to come back next year and spend a night in this little town, maybe hike the mountainside.
Next stop was a place I'd seen in endless postcards and posters of Mallorca. It seemed like the kind of place you can only dream of seeing, the kind of place that didn't even seem real, like out of this world. We embarked on the long ride to Sa Calobra through the mountainous ride. After a while the scenery changed from pine-filled slopes to grey rocky ranges where the afternoon yellow glow of the sun tinted the mounts.
After what seemed like forever, through the dangerous winding roads, we arrived in Sa Calobra. We only had a few moments of daylight left so we hurried along to see the beach I so wanted to see. We couldn't get there with the car so we had to park and walk. It wasn't a short walk, that was for sure. The walk circled the mountainside overlooking the emerald water and, from time to time, we entered a few cavernous dimly lit tunnels. The last and longest tunnel gave way to the surprise. It was a huge gorge in between two mountains, the only opening to the sea was a small passage way in between the grey mountain slopes which allowed sea water to enter. This allowed the formation of jade colored lagoons and tiny streams. The tall walls of stone all around created an acoustic environment, where you could hear the whisper of the man halfway across the ravine.
Mesmerized doesn't even begin to describe the sensations I had in that amazing site. Too bad we quickly had to go since daylight was fading and the ride back into the mountains was dangerous without light. But Ed and I promised each other we would be back next year to explore it further, camp out and hike through the caverns, paths and ranges. This place deserved our complete and undivided attention.
All in all, on the way back I pondered on the sights we had seen today. Some were like none I'd seen before and I experienced new sensations which had left me dazzled. Someone here once told me that Mallorca is known as the island of a thousand faces. After 5 months of living here, I didn't know that to be true until today.
Deep within the Tramuntana mountain range of Northwest Majorca, lies the romantic village of Valldemossa, deemed the most beautiful place on earth by Frederic Chopin. Having heard so much about it, we were all eager to visit the place, and find out just how much truth there was in Chopin's words.