The smallest and least developed of the Balearic Islands, Menorca may seem like the shy, quiet cousin of its larger and more popular neighbours. However, natives and visitors alike know that this is in many ways a blessing: away from the intensely manicured golf courses and sprawling hotel complexes of Mallorca, as well as the throbbing nightclubs of Ibiza, Menorca is quiet, pristine, and unspoiled by mass tourism. |
Oddly enough, many believe that the island owes its untouched beauty and well-preserved cultural traditions to an unlikely person: General Francisco Franco.
The Spanish Civil War
Menorca’s fate began to diverge from its Balearic neighbours in the 1930s, with the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. Between 1936 and 1939, the left-leaning Republicans and the Nationalist faction (headed by General Francisco Franco) battled each other for the control of Spain.
During the war, Menorca was the only Balearic Island to stay loyal to the Spanish Republican government – Mallorca and Ibiza were both aligned with the Nationalists. Though the island did not see combat, Menorca surrendered to Franco and the Nationalists in February of 1939. Britain, which maintained a position of neutrality during the war, helped to transfer power peacefully, and also evacuated some political refugees on the island aboard a British Navy ship.
A New Regime
Over the next 36 years, Spain was under General Franco’s iron grip. The Nationalists’ reprisals against their former enemies were harsh and swift. The atrocities of the war and its aftermath are still being investigated today.
Franco did not forget the Republican stance during the Spanish Civil War. Over the next three and a half decades, Franco’s consistently denied the island access to public building funds. While Mallorca and Ibiza boomed with hotel and resort construction in the 1960s and 1970s, Menorca lay quiet.
A Pristine Island Getaway
Some people believe that Franco’s Menorcan grudge was indeed a blessing in disguise for the island. The high-rise concrete blocks that clutter the coasts of Mallorca and Ibiza are absent here – meaning that Menorca has retained much of its original architecture. For example, in the capital, Mahón, a variety of buildings reflect its chequered past of influences and invasions: Turkish, British and French all blend together in this port city.
The fact that Menorca escaped the overdevelopment of its Balearic neighbours is also a boon to its vibrant natural landscape. In 1993, it was declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve – meaning that it is internationally recognised as an area dedicated to preserving exceptional terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems. Because of its years of being left out in the cold by General Franco, the flora and fauna – and not its high-rises or nightclubs – have become one of its greatest attractions for visitors.
The island is an unspoiled gem – made by nature and preserved by a historical ‘accident’. A perfect island getaway for individuals and families looking to experience the quiet and serenity of a Mediterranean paradise, Menorca remains pristine and without blemish.
Brenda Jaaback, Managing Director of Bartle Holidays, is a renowned Menorca expert. From its history to its people and from its wildlife to its cuisine - no secret of the island remains hidden to her. Personally selecting the finest properties for her clients, Brenda is the go-to person for anyone planning a relaxing holiday to Menorca.
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