On the picturesque drive from Soller to Valldemossa
one finds the village of Deia in the lee of the Tramuntana Mountains. Set on terraced slopes the village sits atop a hill
Santiago Rusinol a century ago described Deya as a little model Bethlehem, with the church standing up on the summit, a row of cypresses in front, and a handful of houses scattered round it as if thrown there by accident. Below, others and yet others, like the steps of a stair-case, one on top of another; and all looking at us with their sunburnt faces and wide open eyes which are the windows. Giotto or any of the primitiveshaving to depict a village, would surely have created one like Deia.
At the foot of this picture, the fruit trees spread themselves . . . the tones of green are so varied . . . Everything grows, blossoms and fructifies as if to relive its heart of some burden, and to bestow homage and gifts on the little houses of Bethlehem.
He commented in particular: you will notice how the olive-trees you pass by the way creep along the ground in the most extraordinary manner; twist themselves into such intricate knots and roll about in such hysterical convulsions that they can hardly be called trees; they are more epileptics.
You want to say to them (the olive trees): "Enough! If you must suffer so much to bring forth fruit we will not trouble you, but will turn to something else. If there is no oil to cook with, then we will eat bread soaked in wine, which brings some warmth to the brain and is nourishing too."
One sees flocks of birds catching insects or catching the updraught for migration over the mountains
It's worth climbing the hill to the Church and the graveyard
from where there are wonderful views
where old cats sleep
and look at the view
It's a rugged place where roof tiles are held down by stones against the winds and lost sheep roam the roads
and is the epitome of St Paul de Vence in the French Riviera before it was ruined by tourist shops.
Loved by artists, musicians (the Deia International Music Festival at Son Marriog is a must) and writers, perhaps the most famous is Robert Graves, whose house, Ca N'Alluny is open to the public.
It's worth finding his grave in the graveyard . . . over at the far end on the left, a row or two towards the middle. An Old Carthusian and first World War veteran and friend of Siegfried Sassoon , still remembered with a wreath from the Royal Welch Fusiliers, Robert Graves made his name as a poet, historical novelist and foremost an authority on the Greek Gods. His house Ca N'Alluny is open to the public.
His surroundings in Mallorca linked him to nature and influenced his interests in the Greek Gods and mother Earth, epitomised by his view of women expressed in the glorious poem, Dew Drop and Diamond:
The difference between you and her
(Whom I to you did once prefer)
Is clear enough to settle:
She like a diamond shone, but you
Shine like an early drop of dew
Poised on a red rose-petal.
The dew drop carries in its eye
Mountain and forest, sea and sky
With every change of weather;
Contrariwise, a diamond splits
The prospect into idle bits
That none can piece together.
"I had already decided against living permanently in England when it suddenly dawned on me that the country was rossly overcrowded . . . Particularly the new fashion of ribbon building which extended even small towns a mile or so into the country, warned me to be off; so did the growing mechanisation of agriculture. I wanted to go where town was still town; and country, country; and where the horse plough was not yet an anachronism. . . . The first person who recommended Majorca to me was Gertrude Stein. Gertrude, who always talked sense, assured me that the Majorcans were a cheerful, clean and friendly people, culturally Southern French, and agriculturally still in the eighteenth century. She added that there would be no catch at all - if I liked Paradise, Majorca was paradise. I saw that Majorca lay . . . in the centre of the most consistent fair-weather area in Europe . . . So off I went, and Gertrude proved to be right: there was no catch, unless for people who carried their own hell with them."
Perhaps in writing this, Robert Graves had in mind George Sand's account of a Winter in Majorca with Frederik Chopin at Valldemossa a hundred years before.
The preservation of Miramar in the Deia region
Near to Deya is a place called Miramar. In his book "The Island of Calm", Santiago Rusinol describes Mallorca nearly a century ago, and much of this northern area of Mallorca has not changed. He describes Miramar as
one of the most beautiful spots on earth. The Corniche, Capri, Corsica and Sardinia cannot compare with it. The may boast about their coasts but they are not so versant, steep or well-wooded. All that in Valldemossa in intensive here is panoramic. The highest mountains draw so near that it looks as though the island were going to take a bath . . . you will see all the mountains; and, in the remoteness of the background, what looks like others; but these are no more than clouds, similating them . . . there are few places on this earth where one could find such complete repose, when tired out by this busy world.
Loved by the holy man Ramon Llull, who founded a hermitage here, the area was purchased, indeed rescued, by the Archduke Luis Salvador. Rusinol writes: When we see a place full of natural beauty but uncared-for we usually say:
"If that only belonged to the English!"
It would be better to say:
"If that only belonged to the Archduke!"
A beautiful spot belonging to the English usually means the construction of funiculars, hotels and places of entertainment which destroy all its natural beauty; but belonging to the Archduke meant caring for the works of nature with all the love of culture and civilisation.