Geography is not a strong suit among my countrymen and women. Before moving to Costa Rica, some asked if it was an island. Though I may have thumbed my nose at comments like that, I’ll admit I knew little of the geography of Central America before moving there. (But for God’s sake, I knew Costa Rica wasn’t an island.) Now that I’m living in Germany, my geographic skills are once again laughable. Like, did you know Ibiza is an island off the coast of Spain?
I honestly can’t say I knew a thing about Ibiza before someone at work told me I was going there. I suppose I knew it was a place, probably Spanish. That’s about it. Then my memory was jogged to remember having heard of it described as “the Vegas of Europe.”
The bright lights of Vegas aren’t my jam, but bully for you if it is. Needless to say I was a tad disillusioned about this Spanish weekend. I’ve wanted to go to Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, and hike the Camino de Santiago. But, Ibiza?
I started reading Stephen Armstrong’s The White Island to get an idea of what I was in for. To my great surprise, Ibiza has been a crucial stopping ground in world history. Even more interesting are the orgies once led by priests in honor of the Phoenician goddess Tanit. Then again, perhaps that’s the root of the partying culture?
The fresh, warm October air brought back memories of Central America. Sure, there’s a shared language, but it didn’t necessary make sense that there would be a similar feel. Yet for me it was palpable. Even the billboards (Busta Rhymes, coming soon!), sidewalks, and yellow traffic paint gave me a sense of Costa Rica.
My greatest education, however, came in the form of a scavenger hunt through the city of Ibiza. See, this trip was a work function. Our first objective after setting down our bags was to grab an iPad preloaded with a markers on Google Maps. Walk to the markers and a trivia question popped up about Ibiza. Along the way we got to see Ibiza, and it was unlike any city I had ever seen before.
Narrow cobblestone streets wound upwards toward sweeping, panoramic views of the Balearic Sea. Cafés, restaurants, and bars were sprinkled around the city. Plazas appeared around tight corners I thought were leading to a deadend. I couldn’t even fathom how this was all constructed.
An aerial map of Ibiza’s streets looks like a toddler threw a bunch of spaghetti on a blank sheet of paper. Ibiza, it became clear, is a city easy to get lost in, but one in which you’ll experience much more by allowing yourself to lose sight of where you came from. Unfortunately my time in Ibiza town was brief, but I saw very little of the stereotype I had heard about save the occasional advertisement or sign, though I certainly saw enough to know I’d be back.
On the other side of the island is some hiking. Early the next morning, I set off with my colleagues to Sant Jona de Labritja for a winding 6.5-mile hike through the Ibiza countryside to Mercadillo Las Dalias in Sant Carles de Peralta. The Mercadillo is “Ibiza’s original hippy market.” A handful of stands selling everything from jewelry picked up in India to locally made stuff animals lined the entrance walkway. Beyond there was the truly good stuff — food. Different stands offering a variety of cuisines setup shop around the Mercadillo compound. Live music came in the form of classical Spanish guitar mixed with the DJ stylings so popular in Ibiza nightlife.
Sipping a bottle of Estrella to wash down my chicken and spicy curry, I decided then and there, “I can get used to this Ibiza thing.”
While my time on Ibiza was regrettably short, it was pointedly yet another lesson in that age-old saying not to judge a book by its cover, or rather, its carefully crafted tourism mantra.
Until next time, Ibiza.