Already in Menorca's capital Maó, conquered by the British in the 18th century and appointed capital instead of Ciutadella on the west coast, they catch the eye: red and white stripes on street lights or on signs. They point the way over 185 kilometers around the island, mostly along the coast, to secluded bays and over cliffs, but also through the two cities Maó and Ciutadella and through the S'Albufera des Grau nature park. Like so much that was created by the sea in past centuries, the Camí de Cavalls is said to have served as an island defense. Thanks to him, the military and political leaders were able to monitor all parts of the coast, and he was ideally suited for communication with army units, watchtowers and other fortifications. All of this no longer matters today - which is why the route opened in 2010 as a hiking trail and was added to the European long-distance hiking trails with the designation GR 223. There are 20 stages to choose from, if you are good on foot you can do two in one day, but there is a problem: There are no public transport or accommodation near many stages, wild camping is prohibited, so that you can circumnavigate Menorca without strangers Help is impossible. But that shouldn't stop me on my trip to Menorca, which in Catalan means 'the smaller', in contrast to Mallorca, 'the larger' - I'm looking for a few stages, sniffing in the south and in the north in, and will be surprised.
The sweet baby south
According to official maps, the Camí in Maó begins with the second largest natural harbor in the world - after Sydney, Australia - but basically it is up to you where you start or how you go.
"The north is the oldest part of Menorca, the stones were formed when plates of earth shifted about 200 or 300 million years ago," explains city guide Carol in Maó. The south, on the other hand, is young, only 25 million years old. Books often compare the southern beaches to the Caribbean, and where white sand and turquoise water are on the program, most tourists usually bask in the sun. The north, on the other hand, is said to be rugged and often impassable, not every swimming opportunity is swept clean and full of loungers that need to be reserved with towels. So I leave the north to the end, because if possible, my motto when traveling is "Save the best for last".
The main road that crosses the island once divides Menorca almost exactly in the north - with its colorful tramuntana made of sandstone, conglomerate, clay and limestone - and south, geologically called Migjorn, whose rock is mostly pure white thanks to the Marès limestone , Countless gorges have dug into this landscape. One of the most beautiful bays is Cala Mitjana not far from Cala Galdana. After a short walk through the forest, it lies in front of me - a light sandy, almost deserted bay, the water shimmering turquoise when the sun rises behind the clouds. She is of a beauty that hits the eye like a perfectly white-toothed and lipstick-red smiling model on a magazine cover. But like the model, the bay is soon forgotten when I turn my back on her. Something is missing. Something that distinguishes her from the perfect beauty of other bays, makes her a characterful self rather than a blurry one.
The path leads for a good eight kilometers past some of the so-called pearls of the south to Cala en Turqueta, sometimes directly along the coast, then a bit further inland, always following the red and white stripes that mark the path every few meters and make it impossible to get lost.
With the also highly praised Cala Macarella, I feel similar to Mitjana - although in November it is pleasantly calm and pretty postcard, it does not invite me to stay.
Unlike the tiny Cala Macarelleta, which nestles into the cliffs a few kilometers away. Perhaps because it is not on the way, is hiding, and a tree trunk has dug deep into the light sand right in the middle of the bay, two thick branches stretched out towards the sea, as if he wanted to go back soon.
A bumpy path that even experienced mountain bikers tackle continues to the bay, which I choose as my personal favorite on the south coast: Cala en Turqueta. Turqueta for turquoise, where the sea lives up to the name. Limestone cliffs divide the bay in two, and the pine forests dare to get very close to the sea, as if to show the waves that they can defy them. On low rocks, the trees hug Cala en Turqueta and create a feeling of being far away. A seagull watches a few swimmers from a stone in the water and the water is so clear that you can see a few jellyfish from afar that glide relaxed in the water.
Off to the countryside
In 1993, UNESCO declared all of Menorca a biosphere reserve, and the heart of this reserve is the S'Albufera des Grau Natural Park, through which the Camí de Cavalls leads north of Maó. The largest wetland on the island is home or a resting place for around 100 species of birds, including mallards, coots and stilt. Commonly overwintering migratory birds include cormorants, gray herons and pochards.
I make a detour into the interior of the park, enjoying the silence that only breaks twittering or some wing beats. The view of the lagoon. The light breeze on a November day that is still 20 degrees warm.
Back on the coastal path you will pass dunes and tamarinds at Cala de Sa Torreta and Cala Morella, but the closer the Cap de Favàtrix comes, the more the wind has chased away all vegetation and left only rough, dark rocks. The black and white striped lighthouse is reflected in a lagoon behind the rocks, in which a few hikers climb around and look for the best photo spot.
It is, so the cap would be the only gathering point for the few visitors. No sooner have I left it than the path swallows people up again and I'm alone. With the scent of pine and the moist air that lies over my face like a beauty mask. And I rinse off for now when I plunge naked into the still warm water in the abandoned and covered with Neptungras Cala Presili.
I remember how an environmentalist in Mallorca explained to me a few months earlier that the sea grass accumulating on the beach was considered dirt by most tourists and was therefore often removed, and it was so important to protect the sand, which would be less worn away , Obviously, the grass lets all visitors move on quickly instead of doing pirouettes in the clear water with happiness.
The north, the scar face
When I think of Menorca, I first think of this last day, which I start in the northernmost fishing village on the island - Fornells with its white houses and a bakery, where the queue winds around the next houses because the seller likes to come Chat with customers. It is here that I am learning to understand and love Menorca, which Carol summarized in one sentence: "We islanders always ask ourselves why tourists are so stressed out than we are because we take everything calmly."
With a cappuccino in hand, I look over the calm water of the Bay of Fornells, leave the time and the cell phone aside, arrive. A feeling that intensifies when I reach the Far de Cavalleria in the car, the northernmost point of Menorca, marked by a snow-white lighthouse. I am not bothered by the fact that it was already closed at the end of October, because the surroundings of thick green scrub and light rocks are too beautiful, and the storm and the sea gnaw at it with great appetite.
The higher I climb, the further the view extends over the steppe-like landscape of the headland, which reminds me of Kazakhstan , to the highest mountain in Menorca, the Toro at 361 meters. So this is the oldest part of Menorca, the Uropa or the Uroma with all the folds and scars on the surface and countless stories hidden behind it.
A little further down the coast, near the Platja Binimel-là, the car comes to rest, I fill my backpack with a picnic and swimming gear. It is too late to cover the entire 8.9 km stretch to Els Alocs and back, but I will take part of it. The stage is the highlight of the 20 sections, along the wildest stretch of coast, with the highest point of the Camí. And with the beach that all the locals tell me they think is the most beautiful - Cala Pregonda. In contrast to the south, with its light, solid colors, the earth is red here, and the closer the Cala Pregonda comes, the more striking the volcanic, white-yellow rocks rise. Small islands are in front of the beach and the sun looks out just enough to tickle the most beautiful shades of blue and turquoise out of the water.
Cala Pregonda is a place where I could stay far beyond my picnic and a first swim in the sea. But the road is calling, I want to find out what is behind the next headland. And so it goes steep red paths up and down, the sea on one side, wide green landscapes on the other.
A turtle makes its way into the undergrowth without hurry, few hikers come towards it. At Cala Barril a couple is immersed in a kiss, and soon a lonely donkey looks at me curiously behind a wall.
Sometimes the stones turn dark red, then yellowish or brown again, they do not have to conform. She paints the already low sun with all her might and accompanies me to Cala en Calderer, where she says goodbye behind clouds while I wash the effort of the way in the sea. So that I am not surprised by the darkness, the way back begins, where the donkey now has a few buddies to visit.
It is a pleasant feeling when the sun strengthens my back again and accompanies me back to Cala Pregonda. In the meantime, the surrounding hills cast their shadows over the sand, but a last bath is necessary. Everyone else is already gone, maybe somewhere where you can watch the sun go down. This is not possible here, the sun has disappeared behind the heights. But on this lonely beach, in front of the silent sea, I understand that it is sometimes worthwhile not to stare after a setting fireball. That it can be even more fulfilling to watch what soft hues the last rays give the cliffs in front of me and how the Far de Cavalleria stretches high in the distance as if someone were pointing at it with the spotlight. I sit and marvel. Feel how this beauty does not cushion my eyes, but reaches deeper, nestles and becomes a memory from which stories emerge.
The trip took place with the support of Turismo Menorca .