Do you know how many Federal States Germany has? If you Google it, use Wikipedia or check a book (in case anyone still does that these days), you’ll find the official answer stands at 16. I found out last week that this number is wrong. Germany actually has 16 Federal States within its borders and one overseas territory: Mallotze.
You may think you’ve never heard of Mallotze, and I wouldn’t blame you; I never liked the geography questions in Trivial Pursuit either. Is it one of those pretty little islands in the Caribbean that people only hear of during Hurricane season? A lesser-known African nation perhaps, swallowed up by all those other central African nations you’ve hardly heard of (did you know there are TWO Congos, for example?) Or is it a tiny enclave like Campione d’Italia (a pocket of Italy in Swiss territory, which you’ve probably never heard of but I’ve actually been to – just to be smug.) Well, let me enlighten you, because none of these are correct. Here’s a map pinpointing the whereabouts of Mallotze:
Yep, that’s right. Mallorca, or Majorca as the Brits call it because we can’t deal with anything remotely foreign, is now a German colony. Ok, perhaps not in the official sense, but it may as well be. Picture the scene: I landed at Palma airport last week, and as I walked through to baggage claim, I heard nothing but German spoken around me. Admittedly, I’d just flown in from Hamburg, but the airport was packed and we were only an average sized plane. That’s odd, I thought, I’d expect to hear other languages in a European airport, at least a bit of English from my kinsmen, or a smattering of Spanish. But looking at the arrivals to Palma airport between 06:00-09:00, a whopping 32 out of 50 flights come from Germany. A further four are from the German parts of Switzerland or from Austria, which is basically the same thing (although don’t tell them I said that.) That means that 72% of the flights landing before 9am in Mallorca are carrying German speakers. In fact, four million Germans visit the island each year while around 36,000 permanently call it home. This in a place where the total population is only 860,000. It’s no wonder I thought I’d landed in a German territory. Mallorca has been invaded.
Historically, Malle, as it’s affectionately known in Germany, has had a long relationship with German tourists, especially those looking to party. Forget Shagaluf, it’s the areas of S’Arenal and Platja de Palma where the real party is at, and the Germans there make the half-naked Brits passed out on the beach at 2am look like amateurs. One of the 15 beach bars along this stretch of sand was the famous Ballermann 6 (and if you only know a tiny bit of German, you probably know how the number 6 is pronounced). This name has become synonymous in Germany with excessive drinking and party culture – there was even a 90s movie about it. Ballermann is a colloquial word that means to get absolutely shitfaced – which is exactly what the Germans visiting this particular part of Mallotze have enjoyed doing for the past forty years. That’s an impressive record and it makes Magaluf look like a kindergarten. The bar was famous for serving plastic buckets of Sangria with long straws to encourage people get as drunk as possible in a communal setting – the epitome of class. I must say, I find the idea of serving sangria in a bucket wholly representative of German efficiency; it gave people a convenient and clean place to puke. In Magaluf the Brits just puke on themselves, or each other.
So bad a reputation has the cult of Ballermann gained in Germany that the bar was eventually renamed ‘Beach Club Six’ earlier this year; the plastic buckets were swapped for proper glasses, and they’ve stopped the ‘Schlagermusik’ parties (I’ll save an explanation on Schlagermusik for a later post, it deserves its own.) The bar itself has been revamped and looks practically civilised. But the long legacy of Ballermann lives on in the hearts of many, and whilst the Germans have now spread from this area to take over the rest of the island, they do still come here to party and reminisce about the good old days – as demonstrated by the bar full of sixty year olds that I saw last Sunday afternoon, all of them three sheets to the wind.
My impression of Mallorca as the 17th Federal State only continued as my week there progressed. One evening, in a typically Mallorquin restaurant far outside of the usual tourist haunts, we asked what would be suitable for our three-year-old niece to eat. Imagine my surprise when the waiter responded, in perfect German, that they could give her ‘Schnitzel und Pommes’. He drew the line at giving her an Apfelschorle, but still, I was impressed (and a little dismayed) at how far Germany has infiltrated the traditional Spanish cuisine. Every bar we walked past, no matter where on the island we were, served Hefeweizen as well as San Miguel. You can get Currywurst and Doner Kebabs in every town. There are four branches of Hamburg-born steakhouse chain, Blockhouse. There is even a German fast-food chain, Wurstmeister, that was set up a decade ago in Palma by a couple of Germans who didn’t want to go home. The only Spanish I heard the entire week was spoken by employees in the supermarket. Most of the natives have either swapped to a German passport or they’re huddled in caves, trying to avoid the onslaught. Mallorca is now a German island.
Just to demonstrate how ingrained love for Mallotze is, type ‘Malle’ into YouTube. You’ll be greeted by countless music videos about Mallorca by German popstars. The first, an awful dance hit by Mia Julia, shows people partying on a beach as a blonde in tiny hotpants sings ‘You’re the coolest place in the world, you are our life and everything that counts…here on the beach we’re never alone, in Mallorca I am at home.’ (Mia Julia is a former porn star who has tried to revamp her career as a singer and appeared a few years ago on Big Brother. Perhaps everything that represents Ballermann?) It’s not only the dance hits that show the passion Germany has for its overseas Bundesland. One of my favourite trash TV programmes here is called Goodbye Deutschland, an amazing car-crash-telly show about people leaving Germany to pursue a life abroad, often with a disastrous ‘I don’t want to watch their misery but its strangely compelling’ outcome. So many people leave the mainland for Mallotze that Goodbye Deutschland even has ‘Viva Mallorca’ specials (which I LOVE.) . If you speak German and haven’t ever seen it, here you go and you’re welcome.
So the next time you head to Mallorca, be prepared. You don’t need your Spanish phrasebook, and I believe there is even now a Christmas market complete with Glühwein. If you’re lucky, you might still be able to find tapas somewhere.
Auf Wiedersehen, Majorca. Willkommen in Deutschland.