Thorn Around the World

"My Oche in Mallorca"
in Palma de Mallorca were beyond relaxing. My friend Manuela and I lounged around the pool and beaches, going for walks to shops or restaurants. High season had just ended, and the island was relatively quiet compared to the raucous summer season, when thousands of European party animals, young and old, filled the streets with mayhem. Manuela told me about her previous visits and some of the drunken insanity that goes on. Her tales made Spring Break in Florida sound like child's play.

When we weren't strolling the streets and beaches or trying a new restaurant, I found plenty of chances to wander down to JJ's Sports Lounge, the bar near my hotel that had a great dartboard. I became fast friends with the owner, Jason, and, thanks to the slow stream of tourists, he had plenty of time to play some legs with me. The owner of the next door restaurant was equally bored, and, being a crack shot on the oche, he too made time to come over and challenge me, and he won most. I also befriended plenty of customers. I met a family, whose father figure was a one-armed Irishman who loved the darts, and we too played several legs one afternoon.I love the way that darts is a game that anyone can enjoy.

That night, walking the hip district of lounges and dance clubs, I stumbled across another dartboard, in a bar called Three Lions. The few patrons on hand were busy drinking and dancing on the main floor, but downstairs, in an alcove all to itself, was a nice sisal board. Without anyone to play, I tossed a few until I hit a bullseye or two and took a picture: another hidden dartboard of the world discovered.

Time flies when you're having fun, spreading the love of darts around the world, and finally, after five weeks stretching from Iceland to Spain, my last full day in Europe arrived. Tomorrow I would board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship for a fifteen day float through the Strait of Gibraltar and across the Atlantic Ocean to Panama, where my adventure would continue.

Manuela decided to show me some of her favorite parts of the island before I left. We bussed into the city of Palma de Mallorca. She loves to shop but I was just as happy walking the bustling streets and alleys, a maze of old world architecture. We sampled food from street vendors and marched all around the cobblestone labyrinth, people watching and window shopping-a wonderful afternoon well spent.
By evening, Manuela had other plans. Being German, she explained how the small towns outside of the city were unofficially divided into British and German sectors. Our hotel, the TRH Terranova, was in an area favored by the English. Tonight, she was taking me to Arenal, a town that is practically a part of Germany.
Arenal is on the opposite side of Palma City from Terranova, along an uninterrupted stretch of pristine beach, lined with palm trees, bars, and restaurants. Every sign was in at least three languages-German, Spanish, and English-and German was always at the top. most pedestrians were also speaking German, and if you didn't know better, you'd think you were in Germany. Manuela and I walked the waterfront esplanade, people watching, trying to guess who was German, English or Spanish. We sat for a drink at a beach front bar and watched the sunset.

With a nice little buzz building, Manuela smiled and said, "Now we go eat and then we go to the Bier Koenig." Little did I know that she had a full blown plan to show me how the Germans have a good time in Palma. The Bier Koenig, or "beer king" is a massive beer hall, one of many on the island, but easily the biggest and most famous. First, we ate at a nearby restaurant, having a huge plate of German brats, schnitzels, breads and salad. Several tables were filled with Germans, all enjoying the food and culture of their Fatherland, on this faraway piece of Mediterranean paradise. After dinner, Manuela announced with a clever smile, "Now we got to the Bier Koening."

Now, I've been to Germany before, and drank from the giant steins in the infamous Hofbräuhaus in Munich. I was young, but still, I have never seen a beer hall its equal.until now.

The Bier Koenig stands a few blocks from the beach, under enormous neon signs pointing the way. It's a massive open hall-it must be the size of four football fields at least-filled with tables, chairs, and dozens of circular keg kiosks. Despite being low season, the place was stilled packed with at least a thousand people-even so, the hall had room for another three or four thousand people. People were singing German drinking songs, raising huge mugs of brew and drinking sangria from gigantic five gallon vases, so tall that they required three foot bendable straws! Manuela and I tucked in our stools at one of countless tables, and she quickly made friends with the other German revelers at our table. Apparently, at the Bier Koenig, beers are always two-for-one and the waiters are offering you more before you even finish the first. We sat and drank and sang and laughed for hours, enjoying all of the good-natured drunken behavior surrounding us everywhere. It truly felt like I was back in Germany. And, I had a hard time imagining how insane this place would be if it were peak season on Palma de Mallorca.

I think we took a cab back to the hotel that night. I'm not really sure.

But, morning arrived eventually. I was hungover, but excited, because in a few hours I would board a gleaming cruise ship and sail across the world.

I would miss Manuela; who knows when we'd have the chance to see each other again. But, we had a wonderful buffet breakfast and one last walk on the beach, before we boarded the bus for the cruise port. After hugs, smiles, thank yous and goodbyes, I bid Manuela "aufwiedersehen" and me and my bags rolled into the terminal, got my boarding pass and cruise card, and embarked on the Grandeur of the Seas with a "bing!" from the x-ray machine and a "Welcome aboard!" from the crew.

I still wasn't sure if there was a dartboard on this ship, but I was about to find out.

Over and double out.

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