At the end of last term, and to coincide with the beginning of summer, the Institut Ramon Llull funded a group of 20 students from the universities of Liverpool, Durham and Newcastle to travel to Majorca for five days on a cultural exchange to explore the island and its history and culture. A total of 11 students from the University of Liverpool took part in the second edition of the cultural trip, co-organised by Joan Mas Font from Modern Languages and Cultures. Over the next couple of weeks, Catalan student Alice Hammonds will share her experience of the five-day long trip on the MLC blog.
After arriving in Palma the night before, we had a prompt start on Thursday morning, leaving the hostel at 10am to explore the city of Palma with historian Gaspar Valero as our guide. Gaspar was incredibly knowledgeable about the island and encouraged us to participate in the tour and ask as many questions as we liked. For many of us, this was our first time in Majorca and so it was interesting to hear about the island’s history. Gaspar showed us the sculpture of Majorcan priest Junípero Serra, who founded the state of California and gave his name to the city of San Francisco.
That evening, we were invited to a reception held by the Government of the Balearic Islands and the Institut Ramon Llull to hear more about the organisations and the importance of their role in promoting the Catalan language. The event took place in the auditorium of the Majorca Museum, in Palma, and we met the general director of Language Policy for the Balearic Islands, Marta Fuxà, and the director of the Institut Ramon Llull Language and Universities Department, Josep-Anton Fernàndez.
We then walked across the street to Can Alcover, once home to the poet Joan Alcover. This was the perfect location for a workshop with two glosadors, Maribel Servera and Mateu Xurí. Gloses are a type of spontaneous spoken word poetry native to Majorca.
It was exciting to discover something new and get involved in a part of the island’s culture.
On Friday, we left the hostel by minibus in the direction of Miramar. Tomàs Vibot, who was quick to impart his knowledge of olive pressing, guided us through the Serra de Tramuntana, which was awarded World Heritage Status by UNESCO as an area of great physical and cultural significance. The Serra was once home to Ramon Llull, prolific writer of the Middle Ages and creator of literary Catalan. We then travelled to the town of Deià and visited Robert Graves’s house, having the pleasure of meeting his son while enjoying the beauty of our surroundings. We also stopped to explore Valldemossa, another picturesque town where international figures such as Frederic Chopin and Jorge Luís Borges lived. Valldemossa provided us with coffee and beautiful blue skies before we returned to the minibus to travel to our next workshop.
Following the tour, we arrived at the University of the Balearic Islands for a cooking workshop. Charismatic professor of Catalan popular culture, Felip Munar, lifted our spirits considerably more than the coffee we had just drank. He spoke to us about the island’s traditional cuisine and before long we were in the kitchen ourselves, cooking dishes such as coca de trempó, truita and albergínies farcides (stuffed aubergines) with chef Cati Aguiló. Felip produced bottle after bottle of wine and we sat together and ate the dishes we had made. I think most would agree that this evening was one of the best moments of the trip, as both Felip and Cati were incredibly warm and welcoming, and sharing time with them was extremely interesting.
Join the MLC blog next week to find out how the rest of Alice’s trip to Majorca went.