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Alaior visitFollowing the inclement weather of the previous days, Saturday 13th. December dawns bright and sunny but cold. Lucky, we are again then, with the weather, for our walking tour of Alaior.

33 of our members gather in the Plaça de Constitución for 10.30 to be met by Miguel Marquès Sintes from the Centre d’Estudis Locals d’Alaior who is acting as our guide on this occasion. Miguel, a local man and historian, is justly proud of “his” town and this, together with his infinite knowledge of the history of Alaior, is much in evidence during our almost 3 hour tour.  Although many of us understand Spanish in varying degrees, Miguel’s’ English is somewhat basic and as he is more “at home” speaking Menorquin it was our President Juan Torres who takes on the role of translator for the morning.

Underground tunnlesMiguel starts by giving an historic overview of the town since it’s pre-historic origins as a settlement during the Talyotic period of the Bronze Age, the later Roman era and the Arab domination when the town was called Al Yor from where the present name is derived.

The tour starts at the tiny chapel that is now used during the summer months as the Tourist Information Office. Here we view the wonderful Christmas Belén, a miniature diorama of the town beautifully executed each year by the Nuns.

It is then on to the newly refurbished Parish Church of Sta. Eulalia. With Its fascinating history, and the views from the top of the bell tower are, well, something else.  It is easy to see why this site was chosen, with commanding views over the surrounding countryside from the north coast to the south any marauding group would be easily spotted giving time for the local population to seek refuge within its fortress like walls. A highlight of the visit was to walk the full length above the nave and below the roof. This was an opportunity for Miguel to describe the methods used in the construction of the church.

It takes at least an hour at the church before we move on to western edge of the old town and here the various and numerous windmills that abounded during the 18th and 19 centuries were described and the Plaza Nueva that adjoins the road linking the old town to the cemetery. Here we have the 18th century buildings flanking the square constructed to house the British officers and together with the old barracks behind, the quarters for the British garrison working on and guarding the Cami d’en Kane. Here Miguel describes how the British domination of the 18th, century changed the town. With the building of the first main road under the orders of Governor Richard Kane the town was no longer isolated. Many paid workers were required for the construction work and new markets were opened up for the dairy and farm products especially cheese. Purses of silver thread became popular along with brooches and buckles and so the originally cottage industry of costume jewellery was born.

ABOVE THE NAVE OF THE CHURCH OF STA. EULALIAMoving on to the Town Hall we see the restoration work carried out some 10 years ago to this 17th.century building during which the remains of a Roman olive oil producing grinding wheel was found. This is preserved and on view to the public.
He then takes us to one of the entrances to see just a small part of the underground tunnels that were excavated during the Spanish Civil War as Air Raid Shelters for the population during the frequent bombing raids that were suffered over the whole of Menorca. An amazing quantity of propaganda posters can still be viewed mainly, of course, Republican.

Following this we end our visit at the basement offices of the Centre d’Estudis Locals d’Alaior where we are very pleasantly surprised by a selection of wine and typical pastries, crespels, patisets etc. etc. laid out for our enjoyment. This,a wonderful end to an enjoyable and informative morning. Even those members whose local town Alaior is and who regularly visit for shopping etc. and perhaps, thought they know the town well, are impressed by just this short historic tour giving encouragement for further future investigation.

Miguel Marquès will be sending us a schedule of the regular guided tours for 2009 and when these are available we will be forwarding them to all members so that visiting families and friends can take advantage of these next summer.

We sincerely thank Miguel and the Centre d’Estudis Locals d’Alaior for the time and effort afforded to the Asociación Menorca Britannia during this visit.

Asociación Menorca Britannia
December 2008

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