food / travel

Hippy Haven Ibiza Makes Its Peace With Jet Set

People at the beach in San Antonio, Ibiza.
People at the beach in San Antonio, Ibiza.
Ralf Niemczyk

SAN ANTONIO — It's a mild evening on Passeig de Joan Carlos I, opposite Ibiza's historic Old Town. The setting sun bathes Life Marina Ibiza, an apartment development designed by renown Paris architect Jean Nouvel, in a surreal sea of color. At the Madrigal Bar, Champagne cocktails are being prepared. At the roundabout by the Botafoch Marina, the B.E.Y.S. beauty salon beckons with tempting treatments for hair, skin and nails.

And just as it might in a presentation video, the sonorous hum of a Ferrari Testarossa emanates as the car pulls into a driveway. The slim, well-tanned legs of a woman emerge from the vehicle, and the unmistakable red soles of Christian Louboutin shoes confirm the impression that this part of Ibiza is not for package tourists.

The 2014 summer season is still in full swing, but there's already a preliminary winner in the ongoing competition to define the island, or "former hippy island," as some glossy magazines now characterize it. Paparazzi have their work cut out for them shooting pictures of the flashy crème de la crème — P. Diddy, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, Kate Moss, Justin Bieber or hotel heiress Paris Hilton.

But of course the Balearic isle still has many different sides to it. The town of Sant Antoni de Portmany with its cheap hotels (which are increasingly being razed or renovated) continues to be the noisy bastion of red-faced British ravers in West Ham United soccer jerseys. The legendary Café del Mar with its chilled-out vibe is something of an exception.

Once upon a time

It's no surprise that Café del Mar pioneer José Padilla once described Ibiza as an "English aircraft carrier." But it's a fast-disappearing image. In Platja de Ses Salines, bird watching is popular, as are guided walks through the rough landscape. In the quiet north around the beach resort of Portinatx, there is scarcely a trace of frenetic partying. International investment is concentrated around Ciudad de Ibiza and adjacent beach areas.

"The first sector to bounce back even after the massive economic crisis such as we've experienced in Spain is the luxury sector," says Gran Hotel director Raúl Sierra, noting that American guests select their hotels in large part based on broadband Internet availability. He says that on weekends in particular, Ibiza's airport doesn't have enough parking places for all the private planes, so they have to be parked temporarily on the Spanish mainland — usually Valencia, where guests use a helicopter service to fly them directly to dance clubs such as Pacha and Amnesia.

Ibiza's superclubs have long been a kind of "conveyor belt" for a new international elite born of electronic dance music. Probably nowhere else in the world is the commercial conversion of a leisure resort so narrowly tied to electronic forms of popular music. House and techno provide a soundtrack for the boom of vanities.

At the Ushuaia Closing Party in Ibiza, in October 2010 — Photo: Federico Capoano

The key players are the club owners and party organizers, strident entrepreneurs who run decentralized pilgrimage venues such as Kilometro 5 on the country road to Sant Josep. And of course, record industry folks such as London-based Sven Väth, who, with his Cocoon Club, is basically running a traditional residency with a seasonal program of concerts. Väth will be joining the over-50s club this fall, but he has no intention of giving up his hedonistic role as head shaman for the party crowd.

Instead, as an Ibiza icon and old-school businessman, he criticizes the massive business interests of the new players, starting with the newly opened beachfront Hard Rock Hotel ("Ibiza, Love & Rock "n" Roll"). It's Europe's first, and the Rock Café group's profit-making is affecting the island's once free-floating vibe.

The old and the new

Ibiza war horses like Väth view appearances by American rap heavyweight Pitbull (Sept. 1) and British rock band Placebo (Sept. 12) with mixed feelings. It could be that the old Balearic Beats spirit feels foiled by the new Las Vegas-style showbiz strategies, but the fact is that in the summer of 2014 both posh ravers and new rockers can live — and dance — beside each other, no problem.

The stories about the old youth centers with their tea kitchens and billiard tables are still told. They are a part of Ibiza's trade-up tale, too.

Pacha, the disco with the cherry logo that opened in 1973, has undergone several different incarnations — from the psychedelic flower-power nights with DJ Piti to the "F*** ME (I'm Famous)" shows by French turntable multimillionaire David Guetta. Today the club is part of the Pacha Group that has franchises of the posh venue around the world as well as a designer hotel, boutiques, restaurants and event management.

At the club Pacha in Ibiza, in 2013 — Photo: Bombman

Then and now

In the entrance area of Pacha, there's a black-and-white photograph dating back to the 1970s of a lonely white cube. It's an iconic photo that evokes Ibiza then and now. Into the 1990s, the local casino was a low-key neighbor located in the marshy reed terrain across from the Old Town. Today the rather unspectacular gambling mecca belongs to the multi-complex of the Gran Hotel Ibiza, opened in 2008, a mighty terraced concrete block that played a decisive role in getting construction of the marina land strip underway.

Inside, the retro-nuevo design looks like a Mad Men set. Vintage is in any case big — the soft-rock songs of the 1970s have been repackaged as "yacht rock" CD compilations and are perfect when played here, with the high heels of "Oh my dear" Englishwomen in fluttering dresses click-clacking along with the rhythm.

The yacht harbor across the way is the largest in the western Mediterranean. A spectacular boat painted anthracite gray is bobbing up and down gently in its moorings. The strawberry-red fender hanging down from the deck turns the luxury scene into an art exhibit. A small reception hosted by Sotheby's Realty will soon get underway at Puerto Deportivo.

A Düsseldorf broker is talking agitatedly on her rhinestone-covered smartphone. The ice cubes are rattling in her fig mojito, which, by the way, is this summer's hottest drink along the marina. Today on Ibiza. Tomorrow in the hipster metropolises of the world.

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food / travel

The True Horrors Behind 7 Haunted Locations Around The World

With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.

Inside Poveglia Island's abandoned asylum

Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson

When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.

And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.

Shahr-e Gholghola, City of Screams - Afghanistan

photo of  ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola,

The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan

Dai He/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

According to locals, ghosts from this ancient royal citadel located in the Valley of Bamyan, 150 miles northwest of Kabul, have been screaming for 800 years. You can hear them from miles away, at twilight, when they relive their massacre.

In the spring 1221, the fortress built by Buddhist Ghorids in the 6th century became the theater of the final battle between Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire, and the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan. It is said that Khan's beloved grandson, Mutakhan, had been killed on his mission to sack Bamyan. To avenge him, the Mongol leader went himself and ordered to kill every living creature in the city, children included.

The ruins today bear the name of Shahr-e Gholghola, meaning City of Screams or City of Sorrows. The archeological site, rich in Afghan history, is open to the public and though its remaining walls stay quiet during the day, locals say that the night brings the echoes of fear and agony. Others claim the place comes back to life eight centuries ago, and one can hear the bustle of the city and people calling each other.

Gettysburg, Civil War battlefield - U.S.

photo of rocks and trees in Gettysburg

View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA


Even ghosts non-believers agree there is something eerie about Gettysbury. The city in the state of Pennsylvania is now one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for spirits and paranormal activities sight-seeing; and many visitors report they witness exactly what they came for: sounds of drums and gunshots, spooky encounters and camera malfunctions in one specific spot… just to name a few!

The Battle of Gettysburg, for which President Abraham Lincoln wrote his best known public address, is considered a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union's victory. It lasted three days, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, but it accounts for the worst casualties of the entire conflict, with 23,000 on the Union side (3,100 men killed) and 28,000 for the Confederates (including 3,900 deaths). Thousands of soldiers were buried on the battlefield in mass graves - without proper rites, legend says - before being relocated to the National Military Park Cemetery for the Unionists.

Since then, legend has it, their restless souls wander, unaware the war has ended. You can find them everywhere, on the battlefield or in the town's preserved Inns and hotels turned into field hospitals back then.

Belchite, Civil War massacre - Spain

photo of sunset of old Belchite

Old Belchite, Spain

Belchite Town Council

Shy lost souls wandering and briefly appearing in front of visitors, unexplainable forces attracting some to specific places of the town, recorded noises of planes, gunshots and bombs, like forever echoes of a drama which left an open wound in Spanish history…

That wound, still unhealed, is the Spanish Civil War; and at its height in 1937, Belchite village, located in the Zaragoza Province in the northeast of Spain, represented a strategic objective of the Republican forces to take over the nearby capital city of Zaragoza.

Instead of being a simple step in their operation, it became the field of an intense battle opposing the loyalist army and that of General Francisco Franco's. Between August 24 and September 6, more than 5,000 people were killed, including half of Belchite's population. The town was left in rubble. As a way to illustrate the Republicans' violence, Franco decided to leave the old town in ruins and build a new Belchite nearby. All the survivors were relocated there, but they had to wait 15 years for it to be complete.

If nothing particular happens in new Belchite, home to around 1,500 residents, the remains of old Belchite offer their share of chilling ghost stories. Some visitors say they felt a presence, someone watching them, sudden change of temperatures and strange sounds. The ruins of the old village have been used as a film set for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - with the crew reporting the apparition of two women dressed in period costumes - and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. And in October 1986, members of the television program "Cuarta Dimensión" (the 4th dimension) spent a night in Belchite and came back with some spooky recordings of war sounds.

Gur Emir, a conquerer’s mausoleum - Uzbekistan

photo of Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) i

Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Chris Bradley/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire

The news echoed through the streets and bazaars of Samarkand: "The Russian expedition will open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. It will be our curse!" It was June 1941, and a small team of Soviet researchers began excavations in the Gur-Emir mausoleum in southeastern Uzbekistan.

The aim was to prove that the remains in the tomb did in fact belong to Tamerlane — the infamous 14th-century conqueror and first ruler of the Timurid dynasty who some historians say massacred 1% of the world's population in 1360.

Still, on June 20, despite protests from local residents and Muslim clergy, Tamerlame's tomb was cracked open — marked with the inscription: "When I Rise From the Dead, The World Shall Tremble."

Only two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with the people of Samarkand linking it to the disturbing of Tamerlane's peace. Amid local protests, the excavation was immediately wrapped up and the remains of the Turkish/Mongol conqueror were sent to Moscow. The turning point in the war came with the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad — only a month after a superstitious Stalin ordered the return of Tamerlane's remains to Samarkand where the former emperor was re-buried with full honors.

Gamla Stan, a royal massacre - Sweden

a photo of The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden


After Danish King Kristian II successfully invaded Sweden and was anointed King in November 1520, the new ruler called Swedish leaders to join for festivities at the royal palace in Stockholm. At dusk, after three days of wine, beer and spectacles, Danish soldiers carrying lanterns and torches entered the great hall and imprisoned the gathered nobles who were considered potential opponents of the Danish king. In the days that followed, 92 people were swiftly sentenced to death, and either hanged or beheaded on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town).

Until this day, the Stockholm Bloodbath is considered one of the most brutal events in Scandinavian history, and some people have reported visions of blood flowing across the cobblestoned square in early November. A little over a century later, a red house on the square was rebuilt as a monument for the executed — fitted with 92 white stones for each slain man. Legend has it that should one of the stones be removed, the ghost of the represented will rise from the dead and haunt the streets of Stockholm for all eternity.

Port Arthur, gruesome prison - Australia

a photo of ort Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Flickr/Eli Duke

During its 47-year history as a penal settlement, Port Arthur in southern Tasmania earned a reputation as one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. The institution — known for a brutal slavery system and punishment of the most hardened criminals sent from the motherland— claimed the lives of more than 1,000 inmates until its closure in 1877.

Since then, documented stories have spanned the paranormal gamut: poltergeist prisoners terrorizing visitors, weeping children roaming the port and tourists running into a weeping 'lady in blue' (apparently the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth). The museum even has an 'incidence form' ready for anyone wanting to report an otherworldly event.

Poveglia Island, plague victims - Italy

a photo of Poveglia Island, Italy

Poveglia Island, Italy

Mirco Toniolo/ROPI via ZUMA Press

Located off the coast of Venice and Lido, Poveglia sadly reunites all the classical elements of a horror movie: plagues, mass burial ground and mental institute (from the 1920's).

During the bubonic plague and other subsequent pandemics, the island served as a quarantine station for the sick and anyone showing any signs of what could be Black Death contamination. Some 160,000 victims are thought to have died there and the seven acres of land became a mass burial ground so full that it is said that human ash makes up more than 50% of Poveglia's soil.

In 1922 a retirement home for the elderly — used as a clandestine mental institution— opened on the island and with it a fair amount of rumors involving torture of patients. The hospital and consequently the whole island was closed in 1968, leaving all the dead trapped off-land.

Poveglia's terrifying past earned it the nickname of 'Island of Ghosts'. Despite being strictly off-limits to visitors, the site has been attracting paranormal activity hunters looking for the apparition of lost and angry souls. The island would be so evil that some locals say that when an evil person dies, he wakes up in Poveglia, another kind of hell.

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