Ibiza History & Culture


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Commentary
by Gary Hardy

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Commentary

This week I'm going to acquaint our readers with a few statistics of this plot of gold and first you will most probably want to know something about the lay-out of the island of Ibiza, which is the third largest of the sixteen inhabited Balearic islands.

The island of Ibiza is often referred to as the Isla Pityusa (the island of pines). It's roughly oval in shape, running from north-east to south-west, it is at its maximum about 25 miles long and 12 miles wide and has an area of approximately 230 square miles. The island is volcanic in origin and the greatest attraction, especially from an aeroplane, is its pine clad hills that are studded with white-washed houses and farmsteads which contrast so brilliantly in the bright sunlight with the azure blue of the Mediterranean.

The island is divided into five separate local government councils: San José is the largest geographically followed by Sant Antoni de Portmany, Santa Eulalía de Rio, San Joan de Labritja and Ibiza town, although it's the island's capital, has the smallest area to govern. However, Ibiza town council accounts for 35.000 of the island's population of 89.000 and the only other town councils with any size of population are Sant Antoni de Portmany, which has a population of 15.000 and Santa Eulalía del Rio with a population of 18.000. Both of these areas have grown into favourite holiday resorts and attract thousands of visitors each year. The remainder of the island's population is divided as follows: Sant Josep 10.000, San Rafael 4.000, San Joan de Labritja 4.000 and San Miguel has a population of 3.000.

The airport lies to the south-west of the island, bordering the sea and flanked on its east-side by the salt pans, which use to provide one of the more important industries of the island. Five miles to the north of the airport is Ibiza town, the ancient walled city and this with its picturesque, natural harbour which is capable of berthing vessels of several thousand tons is the capital of the island. This is the main port of the island which handles not only the passenger boats that ply to and from Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante, Palma de Mallorca and the neighbouring island of Formentera, but also the many and varied types of freight and cargo ships which bring supplies to Ibiza. The Ibiza Yachting Club, bordered by the boat building and repair yards, lies to the in land end of the mile-long harbour.

Ibiza Town

The old citadel dominated by its fine aged cathedral is known as Dalt Villa and it is separated from the new town by a massive stone wall built in the 16th and 17th centuries, which is still in a remarkable good state of preservation. There are three gateways that lead out from the Dalt Villa to the surrounding new town. The main gate, Portal de les Taules, accessible to traffic, is approached by the long ramp, once a draw-bridge, leading up from the square of Lluís Tur. On either side of this fine gateway you will see a Roman statue, one is of the goddess Juno, the other of a Roman emperor, both of which have been decapitated. On a plaque above the archway, crested by the arms of Spain, is a Latin inscription recording the completion of the gateway in 1585 during the reign of King Philip 11. The main approach to the cathedral is through the L-shaped gateway, turning sharp left immediately after leaving its courtyard and climbing up a widening roadway flanked on the left-hand side by a high wall covered in bougainvillaea and on the right-hand side is the seated statue of Isidoro Macabich. Just beyond the church of St. Domingo on the left-hand side is the town hall square and from here you have a magnificent view out over the harbour beyond the promontory of Talamanca and across the a host of rocky isles to the close island of Formentera. In this area of the town there are a number of characteristic old houses which date back through the centuries, some of which still bear their original coats of arms. At the top of the hill in the Cathedral Square are the Bishop's Palace and the Archaeological Museum. The new town, in contrast to the serenity of Dalt Villa, is the commercial area with its many shops, restaurants, hotels, pensions and bars.

Sant Antoni de Portmany

San Antonio is twelve miles across to the north-western side of the island from Ibiza town and it lies on the inland extremity of what must naturally be one of the most beautiful bays in the Mediterranean, which was appropriately named by the Romans as Portus Magnus. Being protected seaward by the island of Conejera and further inland by a high mole, ideal conditions exist for boating, sailing and water-skiing. A large expanse of water is encompassed by the inner mole so that calm conditions prevail here even when sailing outside would be dangerous for small craft. During summer the harbour of San Antonio is a favourite anchorage for private yachts, motor cruisers and is alive with craft of all types ferrying people across the harbour and also to some of the island's most attractive beaches which border the bay. Port d'es Turrent, Cala Bassa, Cala Conta, Cala Tarida and the twin bays of Cala Grassio are all within easy reach from the town. San Antonio is also the spiritual home for Café del Mar, Es Paradis Terrenal and the asylum for the crazy nightlife scene of the notorious West End.

Santa Eulalía del Rio

Santa Eulalía, is ten miles to the north-west of Ibiza town and it stands at the mouth of the only river on the island; hence its suffix. Its old white church built on top of a hill can be seen from miles around and contrasts vividly with the luxuriant green vegetation which covers the hills and fields beyond. Although its coast is mainly flat and rocky there are a number of good beaches within a few miles radius. In addition Santa Eulalía is a well renowned eating place being endowed with a number of very good restaurants - patronised by the Spaniards as much as by tourists - always a good testimonial.

Mountains

The highest mountain on the island is the Atalaya which is 1550 feet high and this is found to the west of San José. It was used by the islanders as an observation post during the Spanish Civil War. There are three other mountains in the north and one in the south of the island that are over 1000 feet in altitude.

Climate

Ibiza has the good fortune to enjoy a wonderful temperate climate, reputably the finest of the Balearic group of islands. In the summer, temperatures in excess of 86°F. are rare. Even then the heat is usually nullified by the soft sea breezes. For months on end there is little or no rain whilst the skies are almost perpetually blue throughout the day and crystal clear and full of stars by night. Swimming in the sea can be enjoyed from May until late October. During the winter temperatures rarely fall much below 40° F. because there are few days when the sun does not shine at some time, whilst on occasions in any of the winter months there can be strong gales with periodic heavy rain and excessive dampness during the night. This, however, is of short duration but when it's cold outdoors at night during the winter open wood fires are the principal method of heating in the homes.

Wind-up time, the deceased, lifelong dedicated bachelor and poet, Philip Larkin wrote: "The pram in the hall `is the deadliest enemy of literary promise". I read a story yesterday in a British daily newspapers with the headlines: "Women who shared the love of Larkin". "One of the poet's three lovers has broken her silence about her relationship with another of his companions." In 1955, he dedicated a poem - "The Less Deceived" - to her, which encapsulated the qualified nature of his love.

Gary Hardy

garyhardy@liveibiza.com