My story today begins in Denmark in 1950 with a man who was a revolutionary in so many ways. Elif Krogager was a man of the cloth – a Pastor, a resistance fighter and an entrepreneur. His work with the Danish people after the war made him realise that they were a depressed nation that needed their spirits lifted after the austerity of the war years. He believed that the key to life was in rounded exciting travel experiences and then he set about making this possible for so many. Elif and a friend in small town Denmark set about organising travel for the villagers to places they had never heard of. Tjaereborg Holidays was born in Denmark and its father was Elif Krogager. Majorca was the number one destination for them to bring the adventurous and pleasure loving Danes. They arrived from the 1950’s and beyond in their hundreds and then in their thousands.
Go back now to the small town Denmark where Elif was in charge of the Church to a cheeky young girl named Bodil who, whilst grateful for her childhood in Denmark knew that she wanted to leave and travel the world. An intelligent linguist whose family had the academic route already mapped out for her decided that Tjaereborg might be worthy of her interest. Elif was amused by the 17 year old’s cheek and told her to go and refine her language skills and then come back and see him. Bodil already spoke Danish, French, Swedish and English (having learned in her year as an Au pair in the UK ) but her German needed work. Her travels began by attending a language school in Germany , passing all exams with flying colours and driving her tutors mad with her incessant questions. Job done, at age 18 back to irritate the life out of the priest and tell him that she was now ready to give of her skills to Tjaereborg.
While the master plan was evolving she went on holiday to Majorca – just in case she got a job there. She had been told of the Marina Hotel in the Port of Soller and decided to see what it had to offer. A playboy for a manager with a golden voice and a seaside location second to none was what she found. This was the Marina Hotel in its day as a hostel with shared bathrooms on each floor and none of the features of the fine hotel it is today. The place was leased from French owners and Miguel the Manager was part of the family that ran the place. Many people have memories of these halcyon days of tourism in the Port of Soller . Dancing, singing and music was as important as the food on the table. People didn’t have masses of hire cars to take trips all over the island so they usually stayed where they had booked and looked to the hotels for all their entertainment. The tea dances and the evening dancing was a big feature of the Marina and their dance floor called The Rose Garden was at the back of the Hotel where the swimming pool is today. The nights were long at the Marina and no-one went to bed before dawn. This was a far cry from post war Europe .
Bodil returned as the thorn in the side of the priest in Denmark . She was more determined than ever now to be a Holiday Rep in Majorca . Elif Krogager knew that he had met his match and employed Bodil Hjorngaard as one of the first representatives of his fledgling company in Majorca . Bodil was age 19 when she arrived in Palma at the Tjaereborg office. The staff there were under pressure and Bodil had no idea where she would be sent or what the future would hold but she remembers being very happy to be in Majorca .
The life of the rep in those days was all encompassing especially as the early travellers had no idea what to expect and needed a little more help than they do today. The rep needed to be a multilinguist, a problem solver, a ticket seller and the positive happy face of the company they represented. Bodil was not phased by the job description and added extras to the list that she thought a Rep should be capable of. The bosses in Palma were taken aback by the enthusiasm and forward thinking of their latest recruit and they decided to test her. ‘You’ve been to Soller before so we’d like you to be based there’ and by the way ‘organise and sell trips by coach from Soller to destinations all over the Island – your salary depends on the amount of trips you sell’.
Bodil arrived in the Port of Soller and took up residence near the Hotel Marina. Her guests were accommodated there and she was very important to them. She loved her job and enjoyed every day. The guests filled in their questionnaires and Head Office began taking notice of this young girl doing such a fine job in the Port of Soller . They were also intrigued about how much she was earning. This was a rep you didn’t say no to so all the guests were going out on trips and seeing the early delights of the Tramuntana long before UNESCO got involved. The days were long and busy and the nights full of moonlight and music. Miguel the Don Juan of the Port of Soller was staying home more and spending time with the girl from Denmark .
Bodil arrived in Majorca when tourist trips were in their infancy and so she had to go out and discover all the places for herself. She wrote up scripts of all the locations and did deals with restaurants that she took her guests to. This was to form the training course that Tjaereborg used for the future employees and for their very successful ‘ Tour Guide School ’ that Bordil founded and ran. The larger world of Tjaerborg wanted Bordil to take her skills and expertise and develop them in many other destinations. She was the face of their company in Soller and in particular in the Marina Hotel but much more was waiting for her.
It won’t surprise you to learn that Bodil and Miguel married in the church in the Port of Soller . This was a shock to the local ladies who thought they were in with a chance and also to Miguel’s traditional Majorcan family. The life of the family, the hotel and all the employees was and still is inextricably linked. How was the cheeky girl from Denmark going to work this one out? She worked through all the important considerations for the family and eliminated them. She converted to Catholicism which pleased her mother in law, she decided to continue to work for Tjaerborg and not work directly for the family and that pleased the extended family. They knew that as her company brought in most of the guests that they all would effectively work together but she was never on their payroll.
Bodil changed the direction of her life for love and it was love that kept her on the Repic Beach to this day. She continued her career with Tjaerborg and in the records of the company she is credited with a huge part of its success in Majorca . She worked for them until the combination of retirement and the selling off of the brand to My Travel took place. She received great rewards of being with the company including a world trip on a private plane as recognition for the fine work she has done in tourism on this island.
The Marina Hotel and Spa are celebrating 80 years of life on the Repic Beach of the Port of Soller . A fine spa hotel stands in the place of the hotel that Bodil arrived at all those years ago. The French family sold their hotel to Miguel and his family and since then the hotel has transformed itself into a high end 21st century establishment.
Bodil and Miguel have children who now run the Hotel and a host of grandchildren they adore. They live round the corner and are there for breakfast each day just keeping a watchful eye on the place they love so much. As the evening arrives and music takes its place on the steps of the hotel they wander about with a watchful eye making sure all is well. Once the hospitality bug bites you it is impossible to shake off.
Bodil and Miguel are important in the Hotel world of the Port of Soller . They have continued to upgrade the hotel and each year there are new improvements and additional services. They close long enough in the winter to undertake this work but are always amongst the first hotels to open up again each year. They feel strongly about winter tourism and they do their part in promoting off season walking and cycling holidays. They may have been involved in this sector for many years but they keep up to date with new trends and the higher expectation of hotels that guests have. Bodil has a passion for interior design and enjoys the refurbishment side of her work. The Marina Hotel has large and small bedrooms and self catering apartments within their complex so there is always interior design upgrades to do.
I think this lovely couple are retired but then again it’s difficult to move away from a world that you are so at home in. They wander into the world of Palma to play bridge and see friends but have no desire to sleep anywhere but back at home near the Repic Beach .
Elif Krogager died in 1992 and Tjearborg is now confined to the history books for the important contribution they made to mass tourism. The Marina Hotel in the Port of Soller lives on as does the love story that is Bodil and Miguel. It has been my great pleasure to dip into their world this week and bring their combined story to you.
Photograph by RACHEL FOX