Ibiza History Culture

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I Remember Ibiza
by Harold Liebow

Part One
Arrival on the Island


I Remember Ibiza

It all began in Paris, in 1964. Six months earlier I had begun working on a kids' photo-book and I had just finished it. My next job was to be in Spain - another kids' photo-book - so before I left, some friends I had made while working on the book, had organized a going-away gathering for me. We met in the very old, very cold, very French apartment of a friend-of-a-friend. My hostess turned out to be one of the most important people in my life. That was because she invited me to an upcoming Christmas party she was going to give...in a place called Ibiza. I had never heard of a place called Ibiza. Not even the Hippies had got the word about it in 1964. I had heard of Palma, of course. Everybody had heard of Palma. But only in-people had ever heard of Ibiza in those days. I had the feeling it was a very well kept French secret. And, when I finally got there, I knew I was right. It was a jewel of a secret.

It started badly enough. I found myself befuddled - and more and more anxious about missing the ship. I was moving very slowly in a dense dockside maze of the Barcelona port area. I was searching for the ship to Ibiza. It was a pitch black night. Rain was crashing down. Thunder and lightning were everywhere. The street lights were hopeless; few and far between, blinding but failing to illuminate. Like other prowling cars, I was lost, swallowed up by the storm. In my headlights I saw only gleaming, rain-drenched asphalt and endless dead ends. I was driving a small black car with the motor in the rear, a Renault 8. In my front boot and in the back seat were all my worldly possessions. Most important of these was my little grey Schnauser, Flipper. He kept nuzzling me, and whining, looking for reassurance. I told him again and again that everything was OK, but he didn't believe me. Just when things looked worse than impossible, just when I was sure I was going to miss the sailing, help arrived. A bulky figure in dripping black storm-gear suddenly appeared at my window like an apparition. He guided me to, and then up, a broad, clanging gangplank. That was how Flipper and I found ourselves in the cavernous hold of a huge Trasmediterranea Ferry. We were on our way to that island called Ibiza.

Of the overnight passage, the less said the better. But that awful time had a hidden virtue, notwithstanding its burden of misery. That ugliest and blackest of nights gave way to the breathless, ethereal, morning beauty of a lovely island, a contrast so volcanic that it is etched forever in my memory. Ibiza: green hills, white villas nestled randomly in their folds, the sea lapping on powder-white sandy beaches, Ibiza glowing in blue-green water, with so limpid, smiling sunlight falling on it, the light seemed alive. Ibiza levitated out of the mist as any heavenly apparition might slowly announce itself. It was without pretence, without flamboyance, without sound. It was pure. Pure, pure, pure. It was an unspoiled, genuine, visionary appearance. I shall never forget that moment.

Ah, in the perfumed air the flowers bloom,
And blooming thus, there is everywhere
A song so sweet, so loving and so fair,
It sings to all of us, outlawing any gloom!

Oh, the harbour, oh the docking! There among the white hillside houses crowding down to the Port itself, there in that beautiful natural harbour with lovely rolling green hills all 'round - except to the east, where the sea remained in charge - there with the Old Town rising majestically to its Cathedral crown, there with a great man-made mole jutting two hundred meters into the entrance, there our great ship just barely managed to edge safely alongside Ibiza's only wharf. It took almost a full hour to skilfully and patiently manoeuvre the vessel into its appointed place. The dockside was crowded with cheering people waving greetings, shouting greetings, jumping greetings, calling out endearing names, throwing kisses. The passengers were crowded to the ship's rails doing the same. There was a furious hubbub of excitement, an atmosphere of delight, good natured impatience, and of happiness. But most of all there was a communal feeling of public welcome to private arrivals. There was, in short, a grand homecoming shout to all. Including Flipper who couldn't contain himself, barking his head off, just like everybody else. But somehow, in the general confusion, Flipper disappeared. I didn't notice, because I was so busy with something else.

Since there was no roll-on, roll-off facility in the port, my small car, with all its precious personal and photo cargo still inside, was hoisted slowly and precariously from the hold. Suspended in a sturdy cargo net, it was swung high offside, and then gently, safely, lowered to the dock. While this breath holding scenario was in progress the seamen on the winches controlling the operation, smilingly cooperated with my frantic effort to get photos from underneath the car. Standing on the dock and shooting straight up from beneath it, I photographed my car as it hung helplessly in its spider's web of heavy nautical rope. I shot ten, perhaps twenty frames from this spectacular perspective while the men held the car as still as they could. A crowd had gathered around me, but not near me. Everyone stood clear. But everyone was fascinated by the photographic goings on. Only I was directly underneath the slowly rotating car. Suddenly Flipper's head and shoulders appeared in the driver's window. Slowly he looked down - and barked. Swiftly, I got the shot! There was Flipper and car, high above, shot from under the car. The crowd went mad. They shouted, they applauded, and the whole town knew that Flipper had arrived. That I had, too, they learned later.

And so it was that I came to Ibiza.

Harold Liebow