The night sky over Lloret de Mar is hung with myriad red and blue neon signs, but in the morning when the lights of Magic Park, Hollywood and the other bars and clubs go out, the town turns as grey as concrete. As the scavenger squads emerge to clear the pavement of last night’s excesses with road sweepers and humongous hoses, the graduates plunk down onto their hotel beds. Olli, the holiday host, won’t be revving up his programme again till two in the afternoon: get-together at Dr. Döner, where the barrels will be waiting for the sangria party. But anyone who gets up before then can have a beer or Vodka lemon at the hotel bar. There are virtually no holds barred in Lloret: that’s why they’ve come here.

These past few weeks, the students heard their teachers and headmasters say what all teachers and headmasters say when they send their students off into life with somewhat too much élan: you are the elite, you will be the cream of your country. The graduating class contingent taking off for Lloret de Mar on Spain’s Mediterranean coast put all that elite business on ice for the time being, and before leaving they make sure to book the booze at the hotel in advance, which is cheaper than paying each drink as they go. Some 35,000 school-leavers from all over Germany board the buses bound for the Costa Brava right after their final exams: the nation’s future engineers, dentists, federal police.

Lloret is a supermarket for high school grads, and for five or six weeks each summer, the city’s sole raison d’être is to temporarily eclipse the complexity from the new life they will have to face after leaving school. And the first steps to freedom lead straight to the sangria buckets. Olli shares responsibility for complexity reduction in Lloret. He is 33 and the head of two dozen local holiday reps for his employer Abi4Life [Abi = Abitur = school-leaving exams], a firm that organises tours for kids who have just passed their A-levels. Olli sports a goatee and is one of those guys who are never down at the mouth, he gets along with everyone, he’s the life of the party. When on Saturdays and Tuesdays the coaches jolt into the city loaded with thousands of students from Berlin and Münster, Cologne and Leipzig, Bühl and Laubach, he climbs into each coach to welcome them and holler out his notion of a happy holiday: “We don’t celebrate here, we escalate!” Escalation is Olli’s favourite word.

Lloret hung over

The student-laden coaches are bound not only for Spain, but also for Italy, Croatia, Hungary and Bulgaria. They usually make for party enclaves that function just like Lloret de Mar, where even inebriated 18-year-olds cannot cause much mess or damage because most of the town is made of concrete or is either washable or so cheap it can be replaced at little expense.

With its 38,000 inhabitants, 199 restaurants, 93 hotels and 42 discotheques, Lloret is making a killing on the visitors, but for some time now local politicians have begun to worry about the town’s image, which is being ruined by the carousing hordes from Germany, but also from France, Russia, England, The Netherlands and Italy. Lloret is fed up with the party.

In the evenings, there are policemen with truncheons standing around in the Avinguda Just Marlés, the neon-hued club mile, but the cops can’t stop the excess – or even prevent disaster from striking: in late May a 20-year-old student from Osnabrück left a disco in the dark and apparently fell from the embankment. A passer-by found his body a week later.

The Lloret police chief says, “If you look at what the tour operators promise, you think it’s nothing but sex and alcohol here. The young folk figure they can do whatever they please.”

In the late afternoon, the whole graduating class of Mittweida High is lying on the sand around a couple of crushed beer cans by the volleyball net. 300 metres further down the beach, Syke High is sleeping off last night’s revelry next to the trash cans.

In the evening they shovel noodles or croquettes from shiny steel basins onto their plates at the hotels. The night life begins on the hotel balconies, small stages on which four or five kids congregate and swig a toast to the other clusters on the stages opposite with beer cans and wine cartons. At half past nine, the group leaders assemble the students in their hotels and then head over to the Aztek for a “tequila rampage”, as Olli calls it, which involves the holiday reps’ pouring liquor from above into the students’ mouths.

There is a fat little man standing in the street in front of the Aztek fiddling with a couple of fifties in his hand. Graham (53) is the manager of the Aztek, the Londoner, plus one other bar and a hamburger joint. He is from England, came to Lloret in the ’70s and was among those who transformed the little Mediterranean town into a party enclave for teenagers. Graham complains that the municipal authorities give the disco owners a hard time. “In the old days you could do whatever you wanted here, now it’s harder.” But he also says Lloret will keep on partying – no matter what the police chief and the mayor say, no matter how many more ordinances are imposed.

He will not forego the money the teens bring with them, especially since they come before the peak season. Lloret wants calm, Lloret wants money, so the excess might well never stop.