Focus on plastic buckets

Quelle: Plastic bucket - not allowed on the Playa de Palma. GDeußing


Majorca has plenty to offer that makes life worth living: beautiful beaches along the turquoise water of the Mediterranean; delightful, unspoiled countryside, bathed in the warm light of the Mediterranean sun; mountains that are ideal for hiking and simply enjoying nature; art, culture and charming people as well as – last but not least – sheer relaxation all year round. Strangely enough, however, these features of the biggest Balearic island are rarely what come to mind first when thinking about holidays on Majorca. Tourists drinking hard liquor out of plastic buckets through metre-long straws on the Playa de Palma are what occur to us more quickly instead. This is supposed to be a thing of the past soon now, however. Posters around the famous Ballermann pub are drawing attention to the fact that plastic buckets designed for heavy drinking sessions using straws are not allowed on the beach. There is a danger of large fines if this rule is ignored. It will be intriguing to see whether fans of this peculiar drinking ritual will comply with the ban.

From advertising: “You can reach the Balearic Islands from any country in Europe in just a few hours. You get in a plane and leave everyday life behind you as if you are taking off your shoes on entering the house. And, when the time comes again, you can return to your day-to-day life just as quickly as you reach your home on the island. Only to do the same thing again the next weekend when you come back to the captivating island of Majorca.”

There are a lot of places of interest. But many Majorca visitors rarely bother to get to know the island and its people. They are interested in something else. Their destination is only a few minutes’ drive away from the airport in Palma, the capital, on the Playa de Palma, around the (in)famous Ballermann pub – the hotspot for partying on the island that is popular with many young people from all over Europe.

July 2012, holiday season, high season. The green flag is flapping in the wind above awnings and air mattresses in a clear sky, indicating to beach visitors that it is perfectly safe to go in the water. The port of the island capital of Palma del Mallorca can be seen in the distance off to the right and the waves are crashing powerfully and loudly on the beach while another airplane with hundreds of tourists on board is starting its descent to the island; the German radio station on the island reports that about 145,000 passengers go through Palma Airport every day.

Off to the left, not far from the part of the city known as S’Arenal, a large dark cloud of smoke can be seen; arson is suspected. The police have their work cut out for them to keep the traffic moving past the section of the city where the fire is burning. A fire-fighting aircraft is flying over the beach to collect water off the coast. The aims are to limit the damage done to the burning vegetation - that is obviously suffering from a lack of water – from the air and to stop the flames from moving into the city itself. Many of the visitors to the beach with their hands on their hips or shielding their eyes from the sun find the spectacular flights of the airborne fire brigade a welcome diversion, with plenty of spray to admire on the slightly choppy sea.

 
 

Take a bucket and alcohol

A group of 18- to 20-year-olds, who are gathered around a plastic bucket on the sandy beach like druids around a pan of magic potion, are thoroughly unimpressed by this sight. A bunch of colourful, metre-long drinking straws project out of the bucket, like flowers in a vase. There is no reason to believe that cleaning water is what the bucket contains. (Although the plastic container is a reminder of the early days of mass tourism, when Majorca was still being decried as an island for cleaning ladies on holiday. But that is another story entirely.) From a distance, it is only possible in most cases to speculate what the bucket contains. Anyone who looks around while strolling along the promenade can work it out pretty easily, however:

A shop on the other side of the road sells buckets and straws, including appropriate recipes for what to put in the bucket – all of them involving mixtures of sangria or even more alcoholic beverages, juice and/or fruit, that do not have any thirst-quenching properties. What the in almost every case young people down there on the beach in their swimming shorts and bikinis are drinking through red, yellow, blue and green plastic straws is meant in their eyes to be a cocktail that gets them in the right mood for the party that is held in the popular tourist area around the Ballermann pub from early in the morning till late at night.

Policemen patrol along the promenade on motor scooters or in cars, while they go on horseback or foot elsewhere. They keep a close eye on dubious, well-organised watch salesmen by the side of the road, most of whom have already run off by the time the policemen arrive, warned by special acoustic signals given by informers positioned at strategic locations. It is perfectly obvious that the groups of tourists sucking on plastic straws around the plastic buckets have no intention of trying to run away or hide. They can see the police and the police can see them. The policemen take a quick look at what is going on and then almost immediately go back to checking what else is happening in the crowds on the promenade. It is 3 o’clock in the afternoon and the day is still young. Routine on the Playa de Palma.

Just a minute. There are rules about what is and is not allowed! Let us play the film back a bit. What did it say on the numerous posters stuck in highly visible places at eye height on posts along the promenade? A yellow plastic bucket, filled with a red liquid and with straws in it, on which the statement in Spanish “No en la playa” in bold type can be read. Underneath this, in somewhat smaller letters “Nicht am Strand”, “Not on the beach” and “Pas sur la plage”. One would think that this is an easily understood message. But neither the visitors to the beach nor the police pay any attention to it. Even though there would be a definite reason for the police to take action and stop excessive drinking out of plastic buckets: a municipal regulation came into force in Palma in March 2011 that bans boozing in public. Fines can be imposed if this regulation is not observed.

The obvious lack of interest on the part of the police – which, by the way, is misinterpreted as tacit approval by many of those who make a habit of drinking out of buckets – can be attributed to the story behind the story. The regulation is in actual fact directed primarily against the “Botellones” that are popular among Spanish young people, who meet in parks or at other public places for collective drinking sessions; this means that the regulation applies on the Playa del Palma as well. The police does not intervene, however, as long as the group of drinkers are not a public nuisance and no indecency is involved.

In the final analysis, it is questionable whether a poster is any help in avoiding boozing as outlined above. And whether bans are a suitable way to reach this objective anyway. Two young men found a creative way to observe the rule without sacrificing any of their pleasure: instead of sitting on the beach with their bucket, the two of them chose to sit on the wall next to the beach; they simply put the plastic bucket on the pavement by the wall and had no trouble in reaching it without any complicated gymnastic exercises with the help of the flexible, metre-long plastic straws.

Copyright: GDeußing