On the Spanish island of Mallorca, there’s a four-mile-long beach full of Germans and a TV host who looks like a cross between the young Donny Osmond and Tony Soprano. The host is carrying a blackboard with white chalk letters asking Macht urlaub blöd? (Does vacation make you stupid?). A film crew trails him as he passes howling groups of partiers slurping sangria through three-foot-long straws from red plastic buckets. The groups are partitioned from each other with yellow police tape, and some of the revelers recline on enormous rubber ducks. It’s mid-afternoon, and no one but the TV host seems sober.
This is the Playa de Palma, known in Germany as Ballermann, a six-month-long spring break-like bacchanal in the Mediterranean sand.
Across the street from the beach, bars decorated with Bavarian flags and Spaten beer signs line the sidewalk. My German friend Mark and I enter a place called Mega Park, a beer garden the size of a football field surrounded by a turreted, faux castle. On each castle wall, a winking, red-bearded king holds a soft pretzel in one hand and an overflowing stein of beer in the other. Beneath him, the word BIERKAISER is stenciled in white. The air reeks of French fries and last night’s spilled beer.
We order glasses of sangria from an unnaturally tan, bleach-blonde German waitress. Twenty-something German guys in matching purple sport-club jerseys surround us. They’re singing hits about sun, sex, and sangria from the musical genre also called Ballermann, named after the German bastardization of the Spanish word balneario (seaside resort).
More than three-quarters of the people in Mega Park are men, even those handing out fliers for “Super Lesbian Porn Night” in the Paradies Beach Disco. I ask Mark why he thinks this is.