Lufthansa Highlights Majorca: The salt flower of Majorca
"It’s the absolute peacefulness, the regular, swinging motion that I love," she says with a smile. She’s talking about how she harvests the salt with a long-handled sieve. Standing upright on the salt-flats of Llevant, white trousers rolled up to the knee, Katja Wöhr skims off the salt crystals just below the water’s surface. There’s not a soul far and wide, just now and then the call of a bird and white herons searching for food at the edge of the pink salt basin. The scene is surreal, magical almost.
Born of German parents and raised in the quiet provinciality of the Swiss canton Tessin, Katja Wöhr traveled widely in Europe, Asia and Australia in search of "her real purpose." She spent 20 years trying her hand at tourism, the restaurant business, banking and marketing before finally witnessing the Fleur de Sel harvest in the south of France and suddenly realizing that this was it! So she finally set out for Majorca and had barely reached the Platja de Palma when her old rattletrap of a car gave up the ghost. She had only 350 euros in her pocket but in her head, a fantastic idea.
"I’m not a fighter, I’m not tenacious," she insists, "I was given a shove from behind and didn’t have to do anything..." She speaks modestly about her good fortune in meeting Jaime Pujol, the manager of Salinas de Levante S.A., which has been extracting table salt from the salt flats for about 160 years.
Unlike so many of the old-established islanders, he took the young woman’s passion for salt seriously, handed her the key to the gate of the salt gardens and signed a lease agreement letting her use them. Since then, Katja Wöhr has even been permitted to create lots of additional small salt basins in the salt marhes – from which she now harvests her salt.
Today, there’s barely any free space in the storeroom at Gusto Mundial Balearides S.L., the company where Katja Wöhr and her team work in the sleepy seaside village of Ses Salines (pop. 4800). The pastel-colored cans are stacked right up to the ceiling, and contain four different flavors of Flor de Sal d’Es Trenc. The company now owns two delicatessen stores, one in Ses Salines and one in Santanyí, a small neighboring town, but cans of Flor de Sal d’es Trenc are distributed to well-stocked delicatessens all over the island – and exported around the world, as far as Japan.
"I couldn’t manage without your salt," is the type of comment Katja Wöhr gets from customers, which makes her very happy. Few customers are actually Majorcans, but this may be due to the island mentality, which favors the old and familiar over anything new and different.
Marc Fosh, the gifted British star chef of Read’s, a gourmet restaurant near Santa Maria, is very different. He collaborated with Katja Wöhr to create the new salt blends – salt with hibiscus blossoms, black olives, Mediterranean herbs and exotic spices – and then included them in his recipes.
When she wants to relax and regenerate after what she calls the “really tough work” involved in running the business, Katja Wöhr goes in search of a secluded place. Alone. “My places of refuge” she calls them: lonely beaches accessible only on foot, steep cliffs, small, sleepy coves, a tiny church high on a hill... and all located to the southeast, not far from the salt flats where she works.
Katja Wöhr skips over the rocks as nimbly as a mountain goat, climbs a bluff to reach a plateau and sits down on the smooth, sun-warmed stone to gaze at the roaring sea below. "Isn’t it beautiful? It really makes you want to jump in." A little later, she starts humming to herself, squints at the sun, lets out a guttural laugh, then murmurs: "I’d love to spend the night here sometime." Perhaps Katja Wöhr hasn’t quite lost her thirst for adventure after all.