The draw of big city lights.

Any gate. As long as it’s spindly and wooden.

25th May 2021

Cala Teulera, Mahon, Menorca

Some cities draw people to them by offering shopping, history, culture and museums. Our needs are much simpler we seek protection and shelter and anything else being a bonus. Mahon has not only given us shelter and protection, but also shopping, history, culture and museums.

After days rocking at anchor the flat water of Mahon silenced Ruffian’s squeaks and knocks and gave us the greatest of sleeping conditions. The wind however had different ideas as it blew relentlessly across the anchorage, dislodging boats who’d not anchored properly and punishing boats who’d anchored too close.

As time went on the dramas in the anchorage diminished and we could finally sample the first draw of Mahon; shopping. We weren’t interested in the designer clothes or expensive jewellery, we sought out the king of supermarkets; Lidl’s.

Armed with Brompton cycles, shopping bags, rucksacks and paniers we readied ourselves for a day of restocking. Thankfully we found that Lidl was at the top of a very big hill and once we’d loaded up with months’ worth of provisions it was just a question of rolling downhill. This simple ‘roll downhill’ felt as sketchy as anything Iain had ever done on a mountain bike, as the brakes were woefully ineffective, steering significantly limited and weight distribution was wrong in every way. Thankfully cars behind didn’t dare pass, those at junctions seemed to sense the danger and finally with a creaking bike we reached Brock and safety.

Everywhere we looked in Mahon we found not just history, but prehistory. On top of every small hillock stone age man had erected some form of monument. Huge monoliths, with other monoliths balanced on top had been erected in the shadows of huge piles of stones and if this wasn’t enough others had been built surrounded by rooms complete with stone ceiling, stone lintels and stone hearths.

The march of history as relentless and once the Romans arrived, they decorated everything with intricate mosaics. Sweeping away the dirt these mosaics are just waiting to be discovered and once they are, the colours are as vibrant and bright as they were 2000 years ago.

As the Roman culture died out it left a void which was filled by the Arabs and with them, they bought their stallions. These stallions have been bred into a distinct breed now unique to Menorca, but with everything being shut due to the pandemic we never thought we’d have the opportunity to witness them. How wrong were we.

Cycling along a non-descript road, past an overgrown field we were greeted by shining majesty. One of these young stallions was being put through his paces and we able just to stop and stare. With his head bowed low, his front legs danced in the dirt flicking up clouds of dust which settled on his coat that was so shiny it looked like it had been painted. Both horse and trainer were loving the attention we gave and with every moment they became more exuberant, more artful and showed more of their ancient culture.

The anchorage where Ruffian was sitting not only felt like it was in a museum, it was in a museum. On every side we were surround by forts from every era and the biggest of these forts was open for us to explore.

The scale of the fort was simply incomprehensible. The underground tunnels from where the soldiers could arm the guns above and shoot unsuspecting invaders below went on forever. The walls bristled with places to put armed men with perfect views of those who would be approaching and if the invaders got past this first line of impenetrable defence there was line after line after it where the killing could continue.

Away from the defence’s barracks stretched off into the distance, parade grounds laid the land flat and support buildings littered the hillsides. This fort would have proven to be impossible to overrun, if only it had been finished on time. With time come advances in technology and technology had rendered this huge testament to war obsolete.

In awe of the shopping, history, culture and museums that Mahon has given us we have also revelled in the protection and shelter it has afforded us. The only problem with the draw of this awe and revelry is that it attracts others and this might prove to be disastrous for Ruffian.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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