Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Mediterranean Cruise Day III.

5-10-16 SHORT HILLS: Everything in the yard is leafing out. Yesterday afternoon was hot and last night cool.

New blooms: ajuga, Siebold viburnum, double file viburnum, first rhododendron, chestnut, bridal wreath spirea, columbine.

5-3-16 MAHÓN, MENORCA, SPAIN: While Judy went on a hike labeled as moderate that turned out to be hard, I stayed on the ship dealing with a gastroenteritis that cleared up almost as soon as the ship emptied out. All the other explorers went on various activities. I had the morning to catch up on crossword puzzles, help the captain steer the ship when I was on the bridge, and take some pix of the journey from Ciutadella on the western end of Menorca to Mahón on the eastern end. Mahón is about a mile up an estuary from the coast through heavily settled newish neighborhoods. We motored to the dock at the base of the old town.

The whole southern half of Menorca is limestone [and possibly some dolomite] uplifted when the African plate collided with and subducted under the European plate, thereby lifting it upwards. This tectonic interaction created the Betic Cordillera, mountains of southern Spain, of which the Balearic Islands are the eastern extension. Limestone is the stuff of coral reefs, and so is formed in the ocean and dissolves, very slowly, when raised up out of the water. In the air, rain and waves eat away at the limestone and create caves and ultimately canyons.

Mahón is located atop large limestone deposits, guesstimate 100 feet high. The center of the old city is reached by successive flights of stone steps from the water’s edge to the city streets, going up a canyon in the limestone. There are somewhere between 107 and 150 steps depending on which way you go. After the ship docked at the base of the steps, I climbed to the town.

Mahón, old city, is a sleepy, sun-drenched town of pastel buildings with shuttered windows at mid-day. All the ground floors are shops selling all the stuff tourists buy, like the T-shirt I bought. There are Romanesque churches, crumbling fortifications, an opera house, narrow, cobblestone streets, an old town hall, plaças, museums and lots of outdoor bodegas. After a couple hours of wandering and watching the birds from the heights, I went back to the ship and found and joined Judy and part of her hiking group heading off for an archeological visit to Talaiòtic sites a short bus ride away.

The site is up country in the midst of farms and olive groves and many limestone walls. Fallow fields are full of wild flowers. The Talaiòtic Culture existed during the Iron Age and left limestone mounds built of boulders, twenty or so feet high and fifty feet wide of unknown function. There are standing stones capped with horizontal slabs and remains of circular houses. The site we were at held perhaps 500 people.

Finally we were back at the ship for dinner and set sail on to Sardinia. There was a nice sunset. Judy and I and Australian friends Melanie and Dale dined with Craig, the ship’s Hotel Manager. During dessert, we revealed our porn-star names, which are derived from the name of one’s first or favorite pet and the name of a street lived on in childhood. I became Jolly Parkway, which caused extreme hysteria at the table and Craig got me a new nametag for my new alias.

Mahón waterfront and town atop the limestone cliffs on both sides of the picture. The gap in the cliffs, erosional in origin, allows the stairs and road to climb up to the town.

From the top of the climb, the Orion in the harbor.

Back-lit organ.

Theatre muse draws some attention.

One of several little plazas amid the pastel buildings.

Another plaza paved with limestone.

A different church interior.

From Judy's hike - limestone  and clear water, lots of little caves at the water level.

A beach on the hike with native fauna.

Menorca Talaiòtica, entrance to the site with limestone wall and great gate.

Talaiòtica stone mound of unknown function, perhaps watch tower or storehouse?

Talaiòtica standing stones and cap, all of considerable mass.

Wall, reconstructed, and olive tree, probably as old as the site.

Limestone erosion along the coast. Remember: all the limestone in these pix was formed under water and later uplifted.

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