Valldemossa und Chopin
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Valldemossa and Chopin: a big lie?

Valldemossa and Chopin – quasi inseparably interwoven and irreplaceable. That’s how the legend has it. But what about it is true at all?

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How Poles become French

Valldemossa and Chopin are like inseparable. The famous “son” of the town of Valldemossa is actually a Pole. Who was not even full two months in Valldemossa. Nevertheless, the short guest appearance in the winter of 1938/39 turns into what feels like a long and intimate stay of a fan rooted to the island.

The small town in the mountains has even built a museum for the famous Pole. This tries to tell as much as possible about what is in reality a very short period of time. And also strives for historical authenticity.

Valldemossa and Chopin
View of the courtyard of the Chopin Museum in Valldemosssa

But let’s start from the beginning. Surely when you hear Valldemossa you think of Chopin. And those who are a little closer then also know, there was something with this French writer. And don’t we all think that the famous composer and music educator Frédéric Chopin would have had a hot affair with this chic French woman?

No one really said that. But if you look into the subject, you will already stumble over phrases like “The place is famous for the hot love affair Chopin had here with the writer George Sand”. I also somehow had the idea that Chopin would have reached the peak of his creativity here. Inspired, of course, by his young muse and playmate.

Either way, the truth is that they were simply a normal couple. And by the way, the clearly younger one was not George Sand, but Chopin. And this couple wanted to go to Mallorca for the winter for the simple reason that one of the children that Amantine Lupin, Sand’s real name, had brought into the relationship had rheumatism. Chopin then thought to himself: “if it helps Maurice, maybe it will help me too” and decided to travel to Perpignan, where the rest of the family was already waiting for the crossing to Barcelona. They had to stay there for two weeks longer, because the maestro needed that long to catch up with the rest of the family.

When the whole group arrived in Barcelona, they had to wait again 5 days for the crossing to Mallorca. And it took a full two days at that time.

So there was by no means a couple on the road here who might have had a hot short affair. But rather an entire family that took on a weeks-long journey to improve the health of their older brother and stepfather. And let’s not forget: there were neither iPads nor cars …

Valldemossa and Chopin
Valldemossa is beautiful village in Mallorca. Its most famous landmark: the Royal Charterhouse of Valldemossa, built at the beginning of the 14th century, when the mystic and philosopher Ramon Llull lived in this area of Mallorca. Since the 19th century, Valldemossa has been promoted internationally as a place of outstanding beauty, mainly due to the affection of the important traveler and cultural writer, the Austrian Archduke Ludwig Salvator.

A brief interlude into modern times, let’s move the words of the Balearic – Government in our hearts and read together this quote:

As a protagonist of musical romanticism, Chopin left indelible traces in the town of Valldemossa, where he lived between November 1838 and February 1839, hoping to improve his fragile health. Despite the brevity of his stay, no one will ever be able to replace the memory of the person of the composer on the island of Mallorca.

What the hell are you doing? The poor guy came to Mallorca to treat his tuberculosis. At first he moved to Establiments. To a finca called “Son Vent”. Which means “house of the wind” in Mallorquin and does not necessarily indicate a wind-protected location. But compared to what followed, this house was probably still the luxury version. For the local authorities evicted the unmarried couple. On the one hand, there was the concern about morals, but on the other hand, there was also the even understandable concern about the health hygiene of the population, because Chopin coughed his lungs out of his throat. And authorities justifiably speculated that the fine gentleman might be excreting some less fine bacteria.

In fact, the family then moved, of necessity, to the monastery carteuse of Valldemossa. Nobody else wanted to go there. Simply because it wasn’t a very livable place in the winter. But the coughing Chopin didn’t bother anyone there either.

Madame Sand actually wrote a book about her time in Mallorca entitled“A Winter in Mallorca“, which was reissued in March 2022 by Suhrkamp/Insel Verlag.

One of us fell ill; he was of delicate constitution, had contracted a severe laryngitis, and soon suffered from the effects of the humidity. The House of the Wind (Son Vent in the local dialect), the villa that Señor Gómez had rented us, became uninhabitable. The walls were so thin that the lime thrown on the walls soaked in like a sponge. I have never suffered so much from cold, although in reality it was not very cold. But for us, who are used to heating in winter, this house without a fireplace weighed on our shoulders like an icy mantle.

Not really surprising, but the tuberculosis didn’t really get better in the monastery’s cardhouse. Consequently, in mid-February 1839, the whole troop set out again to leave the island. Valldemossa and Chopin was simply finished!

What a stupid idea, right?

Valldemossa and Chopin
The composer and pianist Frederic Chopin was born on February 8, 1810 in Warsaw and died on October 17, 1849 in France.

And yes, of course, one can only shake one’s head at such a snap idea. But it is also a crazy idea to assume that Chopin fell madly in love with the island during these three months? The guy coughs and coughs. Travels around in horse-drawn carriages for days and weeks at a time. Because: we are at the beginning of the 19th century. Lives in cold and damp monastery chambers. Which are not heated at all. Your own wife then grumbles that she has never suffered so much from the cold. And let’s not forget: the poor guy had to do some creative work in the process. He composed 24 Préludes during his time in Mallorca. The most famous of these, by the way, is significantly the “Raindrop Prelude” …

In fact, his own piano didn’t arrive until January. Before that, he had to have fun with what he considered to be a “bad instrument.”

And exactly this guy then supposedly falls in love with this island, of which he must think that it has played him so badly that he will never set foot on it again in his life?

You might think: The whole number with Valldemossa and Chopin reminds me of Hemingway and Havana. Throughout the beautiful city, an incredible number of signs pay tribute to Hemingway by telling what Hemingway would have done in this house in any situation, no matter how trivial. It says some really absurd stuff, some of it is about a single overnight stay. And yet, for all of us, Havana is firmly linked to Hemingway.

Valldemossa and Chopin
A hand-painted Spanish tile sign for the village of Valldemossa (in Catalan) or Valldemosa (in Spanish), set into a stone wall.

The old man and the sea?

But the huge difference is: Hemingway was actually in Cuba for over 20 years. And was revered by the islanders. Quite different from our Polish friend at the time, he did not go down very well with the islanders. At that time, there was nothing of the hot love that the Conseill apparently feels for Chopin today …

But in fact, the refined Mallorcans have somehow managed that countless books have been written on the subject. It was even allegedly “made a dozen films” (Mallorca Magazine, I could not verify). And an incredible number of tourists meander through this actually beautiful little mountain village. And, of course, through the museum.

Please don’t misunderstand me: I don’t want to discourage anyone from going to Valldemosse. Or even to go to the museum. I think the place is fantastic. And the museum interesting. I just can’t understand at all why the Chopins are so inextricably linked with Mallorca to this day. But in reality they never were.

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