Friday, May 20, 2011

Entry 62 5.9.11

Entry 62, May 9th, 2011, 10:27pm (ship time GMT +2)

Today we visited Ibiza, Spain, the party capital of Europe (and perhaps the world). We were there through only the early afternoon, although on later cruises this will change and the crew will have a chance to partake of the nightlife. I took the chance today to go visit the wall city and fortress in the old part of the city.

The island itself has been settled since ancient times, and buried beneath Ibiza are the ruins of both Phoenician and Roman habitation. The walled city is an excellent example of both medieval and renaissance fortification. The oldest sections line a cliff overlooking the ocean, and were rebuilt several times throughout history. The outer wall is relatively haphazard in design, although it is quite thick and tall. Standing on the wall next to the old barracks (which is now the Ibiza museum of modern art), one can see across the rooftops of the rest of the city – a beautifully chaotic patchwork of tile, clotheslines, and rooftop gardens. Passing through the twisting neighborhoods protected by this wall, you finally reach the fortress proper. This most recent version of this wall was designed all at one time during the 1600s, although much of it was built over preexisting foundations (the small , heavily fortified gate dates to the original medieval fortifications). It consists of a thick curtain wall, punctuated by eight or nine large pentagonal protrusions (casements, I think?) that are all named after various saints. Cannons and soldiers were stationed on the wall, and then additional cannons and soldiers were hidden near ground level in the small angle where the casements and wall meet. Here, protected from direct fire, they could fire on anyone drawing near the base of the wall, and with the adjacent casement they could form a devastating crossfire. The fortress is laid out with scientific precision, and even as it follows the contours of the hill there is not a single square foot of ground at the wall's perimeter that isn't covered by at least two different weapon emplacements.

If it gives you any idea of the size of the city, inside of this wall is another fortress formed by the most important civic and military buildings. The old city would have required a garrison of thousands, and an army of tens of thousands to conquer.

After exploring the fortress, we stopped at a little cafe to eat lunch. I ordered a ham and cheese sandwich (un sandwiche con jamon y queso, although I think the owners of the cafe were really French instead of Spanish because she said fromage instead of queso (that or my command of spanish is still highly suspect)). Expecting a few slices of lunch meat on square bread, imagine my surprise when I instead receive a sliced baguette laden with prosciutto, mild Spanish cheese, lettuce, and the sweetest tomatoes I have ever tasted. It was delicious!

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