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It smells of tropical fruits and plants, of coconut and aromatic cocktails – a mysterious scent of holiday light-heartedness, of flirtation and good mood. 28 degrees warm waves roll out in the snow-white beach sand: a morning walk at the Seven Mile Beach on the Caribbean island of Grand Cayman somewhere halfway between Cuba and Mexico – a beach where all the clichés of a Caribbean holiday suddenly become reality.

A few steps further towards Georgetown, the capital of the island, another scent gains the upper hand: it smells of fish in countless different ways. Cooked. Roasted. Fried. Smoked. The swathes blow from somewhere above the beach: Claudette Bercher from Jamaica is the culprit. Her wooden hut is called “Heritage Kitchen”, is densely surrounded by locals – and she is known for her fish specialities. When there is a crowd, master chef Claudette juggles back and forth in the narrow hut between hotplates, pots and fireplaces, serving fish in rough quantities for breakfast, lunch or dinner: Red snapper, Doraden, the edible fish Dolphin, which has only the name in common with Flipper. And those who want to toast themselves do so with “fish tea” from a paper cup, a fish soup that is drunk on the Caymans instead of spooned. Claudette is famous for it.

Strangers don’t often find their way to the “Heritage Kitchen” and prefer to be pampered in the fine restaurants and beach bars of the four- and five-star hotels. In one of them many scenes were shot for the film adaptation of the Grisham novel “The Company” with Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman. Julia Roberts is a regular here, Geena Davis regularly visits Grand Cayman. Those who spend their holidays here relax on the beach, let the sun burn on their skin, surf, sail or dance over the waves with powerful jet skis. The main island, which is only six kilometres wide and just over 30 kilometres long, has a fine reputation in the international banking business. No income tax is levied on the Caymans, and you can also shop duty-free here. The islands are above average wealthy, comparatively clean, well-kept and above all safe. In return, the cost of living is significantly higher than on the neighbouring islands.

Europeans are just beginning to discover the Caymans with their dream beaches from Rum Point to Seven-Mile-Beach and their first-class diving sites as a holiday destination for themselves. Claudette shines when someone finds her and praises her culinary skills.

Ivan Farrington, on the other hand, is a must for tourists. The man who went to sea for two decades and then sold meals in the schools on Grand Cayman wears a red coat, red plastic hair and two croissants on his forehead. Ivan Farrington works in hell, can prove with his passport that he was actually born in hell: “born in Hell, Grand Cayman” is above the official stamp. Today he almost consistently mimes the devil. Farrington bought the post office in his birthplace Hell, converted it into a souvenir shop and successfully marketed the curious place name to tourists. The old man offers himself as a walking photo spot in front of his flame-red house, sells souvenirs – and secretly wears horn-rimmed glasses when nobody is looking. He prefers to take them off for the photo: “Doesn’t match the image,” he says. “Devil’s Hangout” – as much as “the devil’s resting place” he calls his hut, in front of which every round trip bus stops. Visitors are then also surprised: The rattling air conditioning provides for pleasant temperatures in the heart of hell – quite different than expected, much cooler than outside.

A few bends further on, Frankie Otis benefits from Farrington’s marketing idea: he has set up his fruit stand here on the main road and can be sure that every second car passing by will stop – whether taxi, minibus or rental car. Frankie lifts juicy melons, oranges and bananas over his self-made wooden counter – everything his little field in the south of the island has to offer.

Pirates once had their hiding places here

Despite the tourism on the most beautiful beaches: Grand Cayman offers a lot of free space away from the biggest attractions, even more the two smaller sister islands Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. Together, the Caymans, which belong to the British Commonwealth, are home to only 40,000 people. The Canadian Wallace Platts, for example, fell in love with these islands on holiday a few years ago, got stuck here, bought a piece of land by the sea and “built on” it in the typical style of the country: he spanned two hammocks between the Figtree trees on the beach and enjoys life – just like the pirates who used to have their hiding places here and especially lived around Bodden Town on the south coast and Gun Bay on the east coast.

A shop in the capital then also offers expensive centuries-old gold coins with a “certificate of authenticity”, which are supposed to come from sunken ships, some of which have been hijacked by pirates: a bestseller that American tourists in particular cannot get enough of.

Divers get up close and personal with stingrays

Even if it’s not about wrecks: one of Grand Cayman’s attractions attracts even the most confirmed landlubbers with snorkels and diving goggles into the water – “Stingray City”, a region in North Sound where tame stingrays are at home. Traditionally, the Cayman fishermen here have tipped overboard the remains of their catch and thus unintentionally made the rays almost tame by hand. With a little luck, divers can even touch the giant flounderfish, which glide over the seabed like flying carpets, on their backs, swim next to them and playfully dive around the rays.

The few, who prefer to dive only when they are guaranteed not to get wet, board the submarine. Several times a day the tourist submarine “Atlantis” goes on a diving trip from Georgetown, sinks up to 50m deep towards the seabed and offers the best view of colourful schools of fish through huge bullet-proof portholes. Claudette Bercher’s heart would also beat faster: everything you need for a good fish tea is within reach.