El Tren de Soller, Mallorca.
Looking more used to carrying Butch Cassidy and his Sundance sidekick, the wooden-panelled carriages of the historic Tren de Soller have been transporting travellers over, and through, the Serra de Tramuntana mountains in western Mallorca for over a century.
The journey between Palma, Mallorca’s principle city, and Soller takes about an hour and commences in a slightly bizarre fashion – the clickety-clack of the train competing with the horns of neighbouring road traffic for the right to be heard as it winds its way through the streets of Palma, in tram-like fashion, as it seeks out the surrounding countryside.
Within 10 minutes though, the traffic jams and concrete jungles of the city are replaced by wide open fields dotted with olive and fig trees; as the diesel engine hauls its passenger-laden carriages across the Mallorcan plain, before steadily, almost breathlessly, climbing up and over the Sierra de Alfabia mountain range.
Perhaps it is the train itself, with its immaculately varnished woodwork and gleaming brass fittings, but as you exit the last of the 13 tunnels, which were blasted through the living rock of the mountains where it was impossible to climb over them, you are transported back in time. To a bygone era where life is less hurried; more relaxed.
Gone are the tacky tourist-trappings of beachside Mallorca; the ubiquitous fast food joints and bars promising cheap beer to thirsty sunworshipers. In their place you find stunning mountain and valley landscapes; orchards crammed with lemon and orange trees so close to the train that the urge is to reach out and pluck the plump fruit from the branches.
Finally, after effortlessly descending to the valley floor, the train reaches its final destination: Soller.
Don’t, as most of your fellow passengers will do, rush from the train and cram yourself on to the waiting tram (which carries you the last few kilometres to the harbour at Port de Soller). Instead, stroll down to the cafe-surrounded main square, and soak up the soothing atmosphere while enjoying a cooling drink, as you wait for the tourist horde to dissipate before catching a later tram.
The Mallorcan drum beats to a slower rhythm.
Web resources for El Tren de Soller:
Official Tren de Soller Website (English version)
Tren de Sóller – the historic railway of Mallorca (www.mallorca.com)
10 incredible things to do in Majorca, from museums to mountain train rides (www.telegraph.co.uk)
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[photo credit: www.aigo.it]