By Lisa on Feb 02, 2015 with Comments 0
A few weeks ago I took a walking tour of Palma’s Jewish Quarter with a group of friends.
We did the walking tour of Palma’s Jewish Quarter with a company that we’d never used before: Rutas de Palma. It does what it says on the tin: Routes of Palma.
The people that took us on the walking tour of Palma’s Jewish Quarter
This company, Rutas de Palma, is made up of two men: radio presenter, Borja Rigo Martinez (who was to be our guide) and history student, Sergio Rigo Martinez: brothers who, interestingly enough, had their business idea in Toledo.
Borja and Sergio decided to offer something to the people of Palma that they didn’t already have: walking tours with a difference. They wanted to bring to life the legends and tales of the city as well as devising routes based on different themes.
The one we opted for was: Walking Tour of Palma’s Jewish Quarter.
Other routes on offer by Rutas de Palma include:
- Mysteries, Legends and Extraordinary Events in Palma
- Apparitions, Miracles and Other Curiosities in Palma
- City of Amazing Tales
- The Awakening of a Legendary City
At the moment all these tours are offered only in Spanish, but Borja did say to us that they intended to employ a guide that speaks different languages in the summer.
Something that makes this company different to others offering guided walks in Palma is that they do their tours in the evening after dark, which adds a spooky atmosphere to the route. That brings me on to a doubt that I have about this company:
How above board is Rutas de Palma?
In Mallorca, unlike in other European cities, not just any person can decide to start offering guided walks around a historical area. The guide has to be a qualified official guide of Mallorca with credentials to prove it.
It’s true that this antiquated law is slowly beginning to change, allowing guides that have qualified elsewhere to work in Mallorca too, but that’s another story for another day…
There is currently a blurry area in the law, which some people interpret as: if you’re offering a guided walk in Mallorca for free (with the hope of making tips, presumably) you don’t need to be an official guide.
Rutas de Palma are not offering free guided walks; they are charging 7€ per person for groups of under five people, and 5€ per person for groups of over five people, which they collect in cash on the day of the tour, issuing no receipt, which also puts into question how the tax on what they are earning is paid.
Neither Borja nor Sergio have the required Official Guide of Mallorca title as far as I know, and I don’t know if they are aware that if they don’t have these credentials they are breaking the law by leading a guided tour in Mallorca that they are charging for.
The reason I think they have been able to operate for so long without being reported to the authorities by other, qualified official guides is because they do their tours at night time when there are no other groups to bump into. This means that they won’t draw much attention from qualified official guides and even if they did, the official guides might not be bothered about challenging them, as Rutas de Palma doesn’t pose much competition.
As it happens, there were a few qualified official guides of Mallorca in our group, who had been curious to see what this company offers – not that they had any intention of turning them in or in any way trying to sabotage their project. As it happens, the official guides that we had with us on the tour were impressed with the route and by the presentation of information by Borja.
Walking Tour of Palma’s Jewish Quarter by Rutas de Palma
Our tour commenced on the night of the San Sebastian celebrations, in Plaza Santa Eulalia Square in the centre of the old town of Palma.
After collecting our cash, Borja and Sergio led the group down one of the eerie side streets heading toward the Call (meaning ghetto – local word for the old Jewish Quarter), transporting us away from the San Sebastian celebrations and at the same time transporting us into another world and another time…
We spent a good two hours learning about the Call itself and about the plight of the Jewish people in Mallorca throughout history, starting in the Arab Epoch (901-1229) when the Moors pushed the Jews out of the main part of the city and forced them into a ghetto in poor living conditions.
After the Christian conquest in 1229, the Jews of Palma were given a new quarter with more space and better living conditions to reward them for their help in overthrowing the Moors.
Learning about the Jewish Quarter in Palma
We learnt about the symbol (left) which is still found today on the ground, indicating the ghetto’s limits.
We learnt about the horrific attack in 1391 when angry Christians who couldn’t pay their debts decided to torch the entire Call to the ground, sack the houses and massacre over 300 Jews.
We learnt about the typical Jewish wedding, which lasts for 10 days during which there is a lot of eating and a lot of partying. Typically the groom is the one who foots the bill for the wedding. If the groom couldn’t pay, the wedding was paid for by a general fund in the Jewish community.
We learnt plenty more and were well entertained by Borja, a great public speaker, for two hours. Looking around the group I could see that everyone was hanging on his every word. And there were nearly thirty of us in the group; not an easy bunch to handle.
There was plenty more that we were told about the history of the Jewish Quarter in Palma, such as:
- The Escuela de la Crianza; a school founded so that rich girls could be educated as well as boys.
- The end of the Call in Palma in the 1600s when many Jews tried to flee the island.
- The Calle del Viento (the street of the wind), so named when Christ fooled the devil and the devil vowed to blow down the street every day forever. You can find out more about the Calle del Viento in Palma in a blogpost written by my good friend Txema here: MallorcaMola.com (Spanish).
- What the stunning Church of San Francisco in Palma has to do with a Jewish legend.
And much much more…
For the rest you are going to have to go on the guided walk – and perhaps I should go again too as there was just so much to take in.
Perhaps you would like to know more about the Jewish community in Mallorca. Click here for a fascinating visit to Mallorca’s only Jewish Cemetery.
About the Author: Lisa, born and grew up in England, live in Mallorca, Spain... Have visited more than 20 countries, have twice as many to yet visit, love sharing experiences....