The hair, still blond from the sun, is woven into tiny braids, with pearls dangling from their ends. They tell of exotic places, the Canary Islands, or even the Caribbean, of huge hotel complexes, with pools and nice entertainers. In front of my eyes paint pictures of flawless powdered sugar beaches, I see myself swimming with colorful fish and dancing with the cool kids in the disco. I wanted that, too. My parents were not very receptive to holiday proposals of this kind. Summer after summer we spent as self-sufficient on Swedish and Italian lakes, or wandered through the Alpine foothills. The yearning remained diffuse.
Then for the time being last family vacation as a nuclear family. The parents now want to "relax" and do not bend a finger on holiday. It goes into a club, all-in, 5 stars, Turkey . I hate it. Everything. The imprisonment in the area, the over-excited entertainers, the club dance, the gluttony at the buffet, the land excursions that drag us from the jeweler to the carpet seller, this artificiality. The intensity of the aversion may well be due to the peak of my puberty, however, my longing is healed. I'm not supposed to enter a club complex for more than 20 years. From now on, I'll be backpacking around the world, spending the night in tents and hostels, later in chic design hotels, and vacation rentals, just like my entire environment, which brings study and work with it. No one books travel here in the package, certainly not through a tour operator. Sturdy, petty-bourgeois, if not even proletarian, this kind of holiday seems to me sweeping.
Now I'm sitting in a Eurowings full charter, booked by the tour operator ITS on the way from Dusseldorf to Puerto Plata, Caribbean, Dominican Republic. One week vacation package in a 4 star all inclusive, adults only club, is waiting for me.
Why I'm here? It is December, the German Schmuddelwinter leaves me hungry for sunshine and drives me to a certain sensationalism. I want to experience it now. The flight is a disaster. Too narrow, too loud, no unnecessary "luxury", not even a blanket on a night flight. The ridiculously low travel price has its reasons. At some point, these ten hours are over. Felt twenty minutes between leaving the plane and passing the security control we are on our own, then we are welcomed by the friendly drivers and tour operators and who likes can now completely drop, head off, from now on we look after. After half an hour's drive, we arrive at our new home, the COOEE at Grand Paradise Playa Dorada, a mid-range hotel located directly on the sandy beach of Playa Dorada, in a gated community with armed securities. Immediately everyone has a colorful drink in his hand and a red ribbon on his arm, which gives us access to the exclusive all-inclusive area. In the spacious room a nicely draped fruit arrangement and towels folded to swans wait. First of all a cola rum at the bar. Here you can drink Brugal, a wonderful rum that is distilled right next door in Puerto Plata. So far, all good. The rum, the summery pinch and the airy dress in late December make you happy. I'm looking forward to the week.
And that starts directly with a blast. Pure Caribbean feeling, as the catalog promises. After a one-and-a-half hour drive to the small fishing village of Punta Rucia, we take a catamaran to the Cayo Arena sandbar, also known as Isla Paradiso. Here you can snorkel wonderfully in - cliché or not - crystal clear water over colorful coral reefs. On board bikini and swimming trunks worn, no shoes, please, the precious sand should not be dragged. Loud Dancemusik with Latin hints resounds from the boxes, unreasonable alcohol consumption is presupposed. At the beginning a glass of sparkling wine and then in the water Rum-Cola, at 32 degrees noon sun, from the floating bar. Our group is a little tentative, which irritates the crew a little. The all-in thought is also binding. The neighbor boat demonstrates how to do it right. A group of young Americans celebrate their birthday. In sexy beachwear is wild romp and a bottle of champus after the other beheaded. It's funny. On the way back we sail past dense mangrove forests to the coast. First a Piña Colada. Just around the corner is the Estero Hondo National Park, where you can see manatees with good luck. Have a good-humored dinner at the La Carihuela Beach Restaurant on the seafront of Puerto Plata and let it all end in a perfect Caribbean-decadent day. The group is getting more and more relaxed. So far, everything was really good.
The breakfast I take almost on the beach. The outermost tables of the club restaurant adjoin directly to a, yes, perfect, white powdered sugar sand beach with coconut palms. The buffet professionals secure the seats in the immediate vicinity of the station. So everyone has different priorities. Here are all my prejudices in a variety of ways. Many redburned, too fleshy bodies in unfavorable bathing suits, the women with those silly little pigtails spiked on the beach and who really, if ever, worked on the young Christina Aguilera, the tablets bend under mountains of food, most of them greasy, the main thing a lot. On the beach chairs the towels already spread. The pool bar in the morning full of beer drinking, beer-bellied BILD readers. But of course there are the others, the enamored, beautiful couple on honeymoon, sympathetic groups of friends, the retirees, who spend the winter here every year and all know by name and many Otto normal vacationers. Only they do not stop that way.
Nevertheless, I am happy to leave the club area right after breakfast. By bus from the beach into the interior, high in the mountains, after Jarabacoa on the ecology Rancho Baiguate, with a short pit stop in the cigar factory Victor Sinclair, where a box of fat cigars is purchased as a compulsory gift. For me surprisingly the hinterland is very mountainous. There are three 3,000 riders to climb. And how green and juicy everything is. As the only Caribbean island, the Dominican Republic is self-sufficient. Only wheat for beer and corn are imported from Canada . At 500 meters above sea level, the Rancho Baiguate is located in the midst of 200-year-old mango trees, varied flowers and picturesque waterfalls. Mini-horses and donkeys graze between the bungalows. Jarabacaoa is also called the city of eternal spring, due to the pleasant year-round climate. The region lives from agriculture. Strawberries, coffee and pepper grow here. Slowly outdoor activities attract tourists from the beach to the mountains. With its sustainability concept and simple but comfortable standard, the eco lodge is the ideal starting point for hikes, mountain bike tours, canyoning, climbing or river rafting. And this is exactly what is on the next morning in the morning, rafting on the Yaque de Norte, the longest river in the Caribbean. The program promises some rapids and fantastic views of otherwise inaccessible mountain ravines. After a brief introduction to the rafting commands - Forward, Backward, Stop, Down - the good-humored guide, we are equipped, equipped with neoprene, helmet and paddle, without a big runmgetaddel down the river. And he has it in him. Wild whirlpools, rocks, the full program. In the boat teamwork is required and full concentration. The commands must be immediately implemented by everyone at the same time, otherwise chaos reigns. I barely dodge the paddle of my forefather, an inmate goes overboard, a single adrenaline rush. Absolutely recommended. On a panoramic road overlooking the fertile Cibao Valley, we return to the beach at the COEE at Grand Paradise Playa Dorada.
Another outdoor program highlight is the 27 waterfalls of Damajagua, about 40 minutes from Puerto Plata. After a short hike uphill through tropical rainforest, we reach the river. Now it goes downhill, over natural water slides, which were formed millions of years in the limestone cliffs. Jumps from up to 10 meters into the cool river basin bring my pulse to full speed. Floating, meandering, jumping, crawling we work our way along the river. A great pleasure.
After this excitement, it's time for a little Caribbean relaxation. At Surfer Hot Spot Cabarete we spend a lazy afternoon with daydrinking, kite surfer watching, bodyboarding and an incredible seafood paella. Wherever the eyes fall, everywhere beautiful, trained people. The mood on the beach is flirty. If you bring more time you can surf here, or learn this. The bay of Cabarete is protected by a coral reef. The calm water in combination with the windy conditions is ideal for water sports. The Encuentro beach, north of the coast, is popular with surfers for surfing.
The kitchen of the island is simple. Rice and beans, plantains, stews, a mild cuisine, with a Mediterranean impact. The local variety of fruits and vegetables is best viewed and tasted at the weekly market in Puerto Plata. The cooking is done by a friendly Dominican, Maria Vasquez, where we spend the Sunday afternoon. She lives with her large family in a simple house with corrugated iron, a popular gift from the parties when elections are due again. The clan system is still widespread here, there is an open door policy, constant visits, celebrations and eating together are commonplace. Most families do not have a high income, they help each other through the rounds. Cooked is a stew of plantains, yams, pumpkin, taro, manioc, raw banana, avocado and spiced paprika, with meat. The women of the family snip and clap together, while the men play beer drinking and football, loud salsa beats drumming from the speakers. The stew is delicious, as is ice-cold Presidente from the kiosk next door. But I can not really relax. The family is used to visits of this kind, they do not seem particularly interested in us. It is just not a real invitation, but a paid tourist program. The idea that conversely a troop of Dominicans invades a German petty-bourgeois kitchen and peels potatoes together seems absurd.
The afternoon program is more to my taste. At the secluded Playa Bergantin we relax until the evening with swimming and reading. No tourists, far and wide, just a few locals, listening to music and cola rum drinking. As night falls, a warming campfire is lit and a feast of beachfront dinners, fresh fish and lobster are served. A dream.
One of the attractions of Puerto Plata is the funicular to Monte Isabel de Torres, which overlooks a 16-meter high Christ statue, the exact, albeit smaller, copy of the statue of Rio. Otherwise, there is a well preserved Führerbunker from times of dictatorship. The steep ride in the small, rocking cabin is exciting. The view of the rainforest, the city and the coast is awesome. The mountain as such is a national park with a great variety of birds and plants. Some of them, like the palm babbler, are only found here on the island.
At the end of the journey we will visit the colonial old town of Puerto Plata. It is Advent time and the whole city is brightly decorated for Christmas. Nutcrackers and Christmas trees at 32 degrees are already funny to look at. The city is extremely picturesque with its magnificent Victorian buildings and the sea-fronted promenade. Who likes to visit the Fort of San Felipe built by the Portuguese for pirate defense or the Amber Museum. Amber was once an important commodity and established the wealth of the city. The blockbuster Jurassic Park gets a lot of attention in the museum because parts of the film were filmed here.
Before visiting the old town you should check, if just one or more cruise ships have created. Then hordes of tourists flood the streets, a total of about 1.7 million per year, in search of souvenirs and photo opportunities, gratefully received by an army of sellers who want to bring Caribbean Nippes to the man or woman. After seven hours, the haunting is over, then disappear the day tourists in the bellies of the Meeresungetürmer and peace returns in the old town. Here we take our last drink together, an excellent mojito in the chic restaurant Bergantin and let the week pass by.
To be honest, this trip totally surprised me. Positive. The north of the Dominican Republic is a diverse, beautiful holiday destination. Outstanding the travel guide of ITS, Wolfgang, a walking insular encyclopedia that shakes exciting facts about history, flora, fauna, politics, society and culture. The realization that package holidays can be designed very individually. I do not have to sit in the club all day, but I can, if that's what I want.
Maybe club tourists are more honest with themselves and just accept what they are - tourists, foreign exchange, sometimes just cattle. When I think back to many a trip where I crowded with a horde of individual tourists through temples in Angkor Wat, or cheap canned beer in the same same backpacker bars, in the same talks drank, then the question arises where the big Profit is. For compatriots tourists are usually tourists, whether they come in busloads or backpacks changes little. Real encounters are the exception in both cases. Even individual tourists are in sum only mass that can be managed. And is it reprehensible, if some people simply want to relax while on holiday, do not think about it, feel safe in a foreign country, be cared for?
What remains is, in times of the climate debate even more, the question of the moral of such trips per se. How can such a tiny price be possible? What is Overtourism doing with the destinations? Can that be sustainable and fair? I can not and do not want to answer these questions. I have learned that vacation packages are not flat rate and that each and every one has to decide for themselves how they or he keeps traveling. I will continue to book more individually, but without dogmatism. And if the offer suits me, then maybe I'll hit it too.
Many thanks to ITS for the invitation.
A current price example
Dominican Republic, Hotel COOEE at Grand Paradise Playa Dorada
14 nights in a double room, all inclusive, incl. Transfer, incl. Flight from Frankfurt, per person from 1.518 Euro. (ITS, for example, on 1.1.2020)