Singularities in the archduke’s footsteps itineraries

With reference to singularities in Menorca, we must talk about some aspects to which Lluís Salvador paid attention and that somehow are singular so we consider as characteristic of the Island.

Avarques (leather sandals) are really ugly, and during winter, with dampness, are very uncomfortable; people are, though, so used to them that in the inland areas of the island, Mercadal and Ferreries, they are the exclusive footwear of people. The traditional Menorcan sandal has been related to peasants, even to Republic, but currently its versatile nature makes them worn by all kinds of people. Nowadays, there is a brand to certify this footwear is genuine.

Menorcan architecture also deserves our attention, and the Archduke refers to it when he states the extraordinary austerity of the exterior of Menorcan houses save for some wealthy homes in Ciutadella, amongst which there are some really extraordinary, and others in Maó, which still keep some reminiscences of the English period, although very rarely the monotone whitewashed is interrupted by a profile. It was very usual -and still is- to use slide windows introduced by English, while shutters in Maó and around the countryside are usually painted in dark green and on the contrary, in Ciutadella, in a wooden yellowish colour. Mostly in the two main towns many bow windows can be observed, which in Maó (and in Menorca in general) are called boinder, a word coming from the English bow window that has been distorted throughout the years.

A very characteristic custom of Menorca is to whitewash houses once and again. Lluís Salvador even said that this custom became an obsession since not only do they whitewash their walls but also their ceilings and the sides of the tanca walls (used to divide the property into smaller plots to shelter the crops from the north wind). It seems that this tendency for white colour is a legacy of Arabs; anyway, the whitewashing can be also a consequence of the immaculate appearance of Menorcan people. This becomes evident in a particular way when you go into their homes, both in towns or villages, even in the country, since every now and then they have the sweep in their hands. However, it must be observed that this obsession with whitewashing is not only due to cleanliness but also it is necessary for the maintenance of marès (limestone), which is a fine, easy to erode and very absorbent o dampness.

If you can go into a house by chance or can see the interior of old houses, in some way you will be able to guess whither it is a poor or wealthy house thanks to their staircase: built with stone on the exterior and a handrail made of iron more or less worked as for wealthy ones, whilst the poor ones are built for the most part in a very simple way, square-shapes, with a wooden handrail of square strips and sometimes steps made of cement.

The Menorcan doorknob is also a curious thing and even you may not know how to use it. The device is very simple and practical and it can be even irritating, since years ago, children used to play with them, making noise as if someone were about to get into the house and running before anyone could see them!