Sylt – the Northern Star of Germany

Travel

As my time in Germany is limited, I am trying to make the most of it. In between wrapping up things, I decided to do a few getaways to incredible places around the country using only train and public transportation. In April, I’ve visited Weimar and I still have Dresden on my list. This post is about a two-day trip I made to Sylt, the Northernmost island of Germany on the North Sea.

You can clearly see me wearing the winter clothes and sunglasses at the same time – I think it’s the best metaphor of the weather in Schleswig-Holstein all year round. Beginning of May I had quite a lot of luck not to get too much rainfall, but the freezing 50 kmph winds that almost blew me away from the dunes.

It is fairly easy to get to Sylt from the capital: 6 hours of train drive (29,90 EUR if you’re early enough to book) with a connection in Hamburg, and you can reach the capital of the island: Westerland. To prepare you for the dramatic weather, you are welcomed by four sculptures facing the wind. Germans are pretty serious about warning you about the dangers I guess.

While Westerland is the biggest town and has some life going on (at least off season Sylt seems to be mostly a destination visited by the schoolchildren groups and the elderly), it is the nature what is the most breathtaking and worth exploring while on the island. On the Southern, ‘the sunshine’ tip of Sylt one can hike around on truly beautiful beaches, or take a boat trip to see the varied sea life of both North and Wadden Sea (Wattenmeer).

The phenomenon of the tidal flats of the Wadden Sea is the biggest in the world and Sylt is one of the places on the North Sea when one can experience the mythical ‘walking on the water’ at least once per day when the current is receding.

My favourite part of the island was the North: around the List harbour. Watching abundant and rare bird wilderness, walking through the hiking paths alongside free range sheep and cows was a bliss.

In this part of the island you can also experience the most unusual lagoon and bay formations between the Wadden and North Sea.

Even though I was one of the very few visitors at this time of the year, I loved the solitary experience – probably the island turns into a completely different place in the summer. On the way back, I could not help but looking into the rural, flat landscape of the Northernmost region of Germany – including the endless dunes, Wadden Sea flats and North-Baltic sea canals.

Advertisements

So… pack light!

Personal

Only partially related to travel, but here comes the story of my past month: I’m moving again.

After having spent almost five years in Berlin, like a bird craving the warmth of the sun, I’m heading back South and from there will continue reporting back on Lusofonetica, in the beautiful and sunny region of Spanish Andalusia!

There is a lot going on in my headspace, wrapping up my life from professional to very personal perspective. The change is constant but when such a big one happens, there is barely any time to think and reflect, so to be fair, I am sure the moments of saudade and retrospection will probably come in a few months from now.

I have learnt that it used to be easier to move around the world for me even a few years ago. Once I settled for good in places like Poznan, Barcelona or now Berlin, I grew roots and when moving to the new destination, had to leave a lot behind. Bureaucracy of changing cities, countries and continents is definitely painful but with a good deal of preparation it is bearable to go through it.

Even the most tedious, physical aspect of packing may be fun and gamified, as at the end of the day… these are simply the things. They are often heavy and may no longer serve us, but may bring joy to others. Just in a few weeks I’ve given away some books I love, winter clothes I will no longer (not so often at least!) need in my new home, and a bike which made my life in Berlin so free. I hope I also left a piece of me, not in a material sense in this special city.

Most importantly, I am grateful for getting to know such a great community and friends in Berlin. I will miss you all so dearly, I already actually do. So the most important luggage I take, is the quantity of love, trust and happiness I shared with my all these wonderful people.

Celebrate good times

Personal

I was pending to share two sources on the profoundness and richness of the Portuguese language – recently I’ve read a comprehensive book on the MPB genre: Claus Schreiner’s ‘Musica Brasileira’ as well as this article summarizing why is Portuguese the best language for music. I can recommend these reads to everyone interested in both music and Portuguese language, but also the art of celebration: just because when I think about the rite of joy, the most powerful association comes with the carnival. However, these publications are showcasing the history of the language and culture, also taking into considerations not only stereotypical ‘fun’ associated with the carnival, but also racial and class complexities of the postcolonial, modern Brazilian society.

Today is Sunday, just after the Carnaval 2019 which I celebrated in a great company of friends, without dancing, sun and craziness typical for more exotic parts of the world, but in a cosy dining room in Berlin. I reflected a lot about how lucky person I am to be living in a peaceful, loving environment and whatever may change, it will likely be for better. Never mind where you are based, I understood how important is to celebrate good times, regardless how you like to do it.

Often times, we take lifetime’s milestones for granted, and we hop from one achievement to another, not taking a break, reflecting and sharing our happiness with the nearest and dearest, only wanting more and more to happen. Other times, we forget to appreciate the great company of people and surroundings of places we live.

Carnival is about celebrating the moment, living in the present, often without a goal. What if there is no milestone, no higher bar, no rushing into the ‘next big thing’? Mindfully taking changes as the enriching part of the lifespan, collecting thoughts, emotions and observations into a big picture can make us more connected to ourselves and our loved ones.

Last week has brought me some great news and upcoming changes, not only for me, but also in the life of my best friends. After a long and dark winter, the sun is coming up, and our lives start to beam again. I was right about 2019 being transformational and it’s not magical thinking speaking through me. It’s being conscious about what life is and if you decide to make the most of it, you will. With that, I wish you all a great start of the month, and springtime, even if the carnival is over now.

Málaga, olé!

Travel

Similarly like a year ago, I’ve travelled to Spain in January to take part in the annual Berklee College of Music Career Days. This year I decided to extend my stay to travel along the South-East coast of Spain aka Costa del Sol to appreciate the beauty of the spring-like winter in this part of Europe. Clear, deep-blue coloured skies made my body react with shock due to the vitamin D overdose at first.

Interestingly enough, upon the arrival in Málaga, I have heard it’s been quite cold this year, and I remember how much the perspective is different when you live in the South or North of Europe. To me the getaway to Spain was nothing but a bliss.

Nevertheless, it’s been my third time in Málaga already, having previously visited during the acclaimed Semana Santa (Easter Week) in 2012 and Navidad (Christmas) in 2016. It’s not that I’m religious, quite the opposite, however the decorations and festivities are very impressive and would recommend anyone to experience. This time I’ve discovered how much the city has developed in terms of the infrastructure (it’s all under construction though!) and how many opportunities for tech companies have emerged in the meantime.

View this post on Instagram

Green metamorphosis 💚

A post shared by Cátia Coração Da Torta (@catiape) on

Málaga, apart from being the City of Light given its sunny location, leaves and breathes the beauty: both culturally and naturally. I spent some time hiking around multiple parks and botanic gardens, Gibralfaro Hill and Paseo de Reding, amazed by the variety of plants and bird species. Such a retreat in the centre of the vibrant city!

I also discovered a few culinary highlights: plenty of Moroccan-origin and vegetarian restaurants and brunch options have populated in the city landscape. To top it up, I’ve managed to book a table at a renowned, Michelin-star restaurant of José Carlos García in the beautiful port: Muelle Uno which was not surprisingly an exquisite, white-glove experience.

Without a doubt, I revisited El Pimpi, the most famous, quirky and spacious bar/restaurant in the city centre, with a rich cultural and culinary heritage including the most popular wine and food selection of the region (croquetas!).

I am pretty sure that the history, art and climate shape the environment. For sure, Málaga with its fantastic location, historical and contemporary music and art scene, ever-tempting hedonistic earthly pleasures (food and wine in particular!) and international visitors is a great place to visit, and re-visit every time.

With that, I have nothing more to say than hasta luego! 

Deep blue at the Lisbon Oceanarium

Travel

My life tends to get intense at times, for good reasons and by choice. I am a high energy person usually which like to explore and be in the centre of various happenings. However, as I age, I find it extremely important to recharge from all the hustle and bustle of everyday. There’s nothing more relaxing to me than: music, travel and nature, not necessarily always in such order.

So while I was visiting Lisbon in November for a conference located in Parque das Nacões, I could not help but escape for a few hours to the Oceanarium, the largest and probably one of the most impressive in Europe.

Home to various species coming from all of the oceans on planet Earth, it is divided into various geographical lands, featuring both typical and rare representatives of the particular locations.

I could spend hours watching Arctic and Antarctic species, including penguins, terns, fulmars and puffins – knowing some of them from their natural habitats, such as Svalbard, Iceland or Faroe Islands. Travelling in time without moving brought me a lot of memories and peace of mind.

I have never done snorkelling or diving yet, and would love to explore the breadths and depths of the sea starting this year, by visiting more locations for discovering the water kingdom in a respectful way.

The fish which impressed me the most was definitely Ocean Sunfish (aka Mola Mola or Peixe Lua in Portuguese) with its interestingly flattened body and particular fins allowing them to move in a specific way. I could look at this natural wonder for hours not getting bored, while finding out the details of this lovely creature.

As a next step, I will be revisiting Valencia this month, famous for an impressive scientific park and oceanarium so I may take some time to learn about its species more in depth.

 

A rota da Felicidade – Costa Vicentina

Personal, Travel

If happiness is nature, ocean breeze on the cheeks and tranquility, I claim I have found it. Costa Vicentina is located in the South-Western part of Portugal and since many years it has been one of my favourite destinations in the world. It is still (!) not as popular and accessible as Algarve located in the south of the country and is a great destination for those who enjoy the nature, and powerful, jaw-dropping views while hiking. Not to mention surfing, which comes without saying as a consequence of such a landscape.

This year I’ve spent some time in Portugal, namely in Lisbon for work and life balance purposes in November. Weather around this time of the year can be surprising, if not hazardous and indeed, on the last day of my stay there were severe floodings and strong winds devastating almost all country including the capital. Staying connected to the weather warnings, I decided to travel to the south where the impact was not foreseen, at least for a day.

I took a national bus line from Lisbon to Lagos, calling at various sleepy towns of the Alentejo region. My first stop was in Porto Covo, a picturesque village south of Sines, known recently for a dispute against the petroleum investment, potentially destructive not only for the human but all the living species in the region. Porto Covo is the best example why such initiative should never happen – where the locals decorate the houses, palms and other vegetation and truly care for preserving their little paradise. I was very moved by the view of the colourful, winter sweaters embracing the plants, that may indeed feel cold during the Atlantic winter.

After a brief, 30 minutes stop the bus continued its journey further south, passing by vast, sandy beaches, and dramatic views of the National Park of Alentejo.

This region – famous for offering the out of this planet’s ocean landscape, but also fantastic wine, olives and cork. On the top of that, Alentejo can be discovered solely by foot. There are two hiking routes of approximately 250 kms each alongside the coast, or the interior. On the way one can discover natural and historic wonders, and encounter various animals (especially bird species, as I have spotted peregrine falcons, seagulls and jays struggling in the gust of ocean wind).

On that particular gloomy Sunday, I’ve taken a 12 km stroll around Zambujeira do Mar, another seaside town with breathtaking views. Contrary to the weather, while walking around Zambujeira, I noticed: a bunch of friendly people asking if I needed direction, street named for happiness and was welcomed and entertained by a very cheerful waitress in the local tasca. She was notably enjoying her work, unlike in the places where tourism is massive and overwhelming to everyone and offered be probably the best prato do dia I’ve had in a while.

Now, sitting next to the SAD lamp, my loyal companion during the winter months, I already fantasise about returning there, possibly planning a semi-active hiking trip from one winery to another in the upcoming year, combining physical activity with hedonistic pleasure. And I’d call it A Rota da Felicidade (The Happiness Route).

 

Saudade at the tip of Europe

Personal, Travel, Uncategorized

I returned to Portugal for 9 days this month to reunite with my best friend at one of the biggest tech conferences, and for the change of air. Or even more metaphorically: to hear a wind of change. Nous voyageons pour chercher d’autres états, d’autres vies, d’autres âmes. So we travel to search for new states, new lives, new souls.

After a particularly busy week at the conference we took off to Cabo da Roca, about an hour away from Lisbon, to the Westernmost tip of continental Europe (and oh how I like the extremes, remoteness and ends of the world).

I returned there after many years: first time I had gone there when my adventures with studying in Portugal started off and ended up quite abruptly, and secondly after my father’s death, my break up and my return from Brazil effectively. From such experiences one could think it’s a place I would only contemplate finiteness, or profound sadness. Truth is, my last weeks have not been too easy at different wavelengths, at the same time.

Being around natural wonders, vast spaces and with people who are close to me is a one way I recover, music is the other solution. I guess this is why I am not tired of coming back to the sounds and landscapes which cure the soul, and constantly searching for the new ones as well. Hence I still curate Lusofonetica after over 4 years and return to the positive side of life eventually. Like in this beautiful song:

Não me deixe só
Eu tenho medo do escuro
Eu tenho medo do inseguro
Dos fantasmas da minha voz

Despite the darkness this season, various insecurities and ‘ghosts’ in my head, I still write up about the beauty of things in life I have seen and hope to see again, enlightened by the SAD lamp in my Berliner apartment.

At the tip of Portugal, the sun was shining, the sound of waves crushing magnificent rocks brought me to a state of meditation, tranquility and strength at the same time. There’s undoubtedly magic in places at the end of the world, causing our exploratory imagination to move further and remove the artificial obstacles.

After this trip I just hope this winter will be transformational to me. I see the sun.

 

To the South – Greek Macedonia & Chalkidiki

Travel

Last month I visited Thessaloniki, a capital of the Greek region Macedonia for the Polish-Greek wedding of my cousin, and took an opportunity to discover the peninsula of Chalkidiki.

Since I’ve already traveled to Thessaloniki two years ago, and did a very intense city sightseeing, I focused mostly on the earthly pleasures of this place: food and wine tasting all day; simply relaxing in the shadow, or observing the multicoloured sunsets from the cafés located on the Leorofos Nikis boulevard next to the city harbour.

The district I spent the most time was Ladadika – the heart of the nightlife, and the culinary heaven of the city.

After the festive celebration of the wedding, which was particularly interesting due to the multicultural mix of the guests and ceremony, I decided to opt for a few days of blissful rest at the peninsula of Chalkidiki, often recalled as the ‘three fingers/legs’: Kassandra, Sithonia and Agion Oros.

I initially wanted to discover the third ‘finger’: Agion Oros, an autonomous region with a magnificent Mt. Athos. Unfortunately, I was a victim of the tradition and my own gender, as till this date, women are not permitted to land on that particular peninsula due to strict beliefs of the monastery’s residents located there.

Kassandra was still fuelled by tourists but nevertheless, it was a perfect spot for chill out. I stayed in the town of Pefkochori known for one of the best beaches on the peninsula, and some of the best selection of seafood restaurants.

Towards the end of my stay, peaceful waters turned overnight into stormy waves and I could sense the season’s changing – it was already time to travel back to Berlin. The big blue painting of the sky and the sea stayed with me to survive the colder months of the year though.

L’usage du monde à Bordeaux

Travel

 

Last year, while visiting my friend Maria in Lisbon we had a chat about the usual topics we have on our minds: sustainable travel (not to mistake for tourism), languages and literature. She recommended me a book which I devoured with a great pleasure: ‘L’usage du monde‘ by Nicolas Bouvier.

It actually touched upon all these topics and provided a lot of guidance on how to discover the world with respect, quite contrary to the title meaning ‘Using the world’. I’d like to come back in time and describe briefly my last year’s stay in Bordeaux, and reconnect with my ‘French period’. I studied French literature for a few semesters and spent some time discovering the country and its language.

 

My first blog ever, after my summer stay as a intern in the South of France contains of quite a lot of travel, music and cinematic inspirations. Some of it I can’t recall very well these days or am ashamed of writing those days, but leave it up there for the sake of literary honesty and smoky traces.

After many years, I decided to travel to France again to visit the Aquitaine coastline and the city of Bordeaux, famous for its 18th century architecture, fantastic cuisine and wine. Some of the things that I enjoy the most in life (especially when it comes to red wines like Merlot, Malbec or Carmenère – all present in the region of Bordeaux).

The city, divided by the river Garonne has an entry basin to the ocean, so it is often visited by various cruisers – both those that came through the river (often as far as Switzerland or Germany) or Atlantic route. Along the river there are a plenty of cafés, restaurants, concert halls and sport spots. It feels very egalitarian for various age groups and classes: it’s neither too bourgeoise, not too rough.

The area of Chartrons neighbourhood is full of interesting street art. As for the museums, no one should miss the City of Wine, and the contemporary museum: CAPC. Aside from that, Bordeaux feels spacious and not overly crowded by tourists, even during the summer season.

Bordeaux is a perfect city to discover on foot, by bike or convenient and fairly cheap public transport: buses and trams. When speaking French, I felt very encouraged to chat at a pretty much any occasion, quite opposite to my first harsh experiences in Paris.

When tired of the cityscape, within an 1-2 hours train drive’s reach, there are also natural spots like the highest European dune: Dune du Pilat, breathtaking Atlantic coast beaches and cute seaside towns.

Having spent four days only, I could only touch upon the beauty of Bordeaux, the palate of its wine, but already promised myself to return to France soon. Coming back to speaking has been easier for me than learning German, although I have to admit the relative difficulty among these two languages stays similar to me. À bientôt!

Beira Alta – my first time in Portugal

Personal, Travel

This month I have been enjoying hot and sunny weather in Berlin, but I travel in time and without moving to my very first time in Portugal. Since I started this blog over 4 years ago, many things have changed: the city I live in, the job, personal and interpersonal constellations too.

Moving back in time, my adventure with Portuguese language started with me being curious about the sound, structure and melody of it. Then, some cinematic and musical inspirations came up, and I started reading more about Portugal as a country itself. How distant it seemed to me, not to mention the other Portuguese-speaking countries that I wouldn’t dream to discover so soon in early 2000s.

In summer 2007 I saved some student pocket money for a 3-week-round train ticket around Europe: Interrail to reach the most far off country in Europe, Portugal. I didn’t really have much more money to spend on local transportation, accommodation or amusement, so I joined a voluntary service in the rural area of Beira Alta, dedicated to Roman-times archeology camp. In exchange for few hours of physical work in the early morning (the temperatures at noon could easily rise up to 40 degrees Celcius!), I stayed for 2 weeks in a picturesque village of Coriscada, located precisely in the middle of nowhere.

When after 2 days drive by >5 trains, I stepped out of the compartment in the town of Celorico da Beira, I did not really have any expectations. Everything was new to me, the language sounded very unfamiliar and exotic, and I had my first cultural shock already ticked (elderly ladies sniffing drugs in the compartment with some raving Portuguese and Spanish teens!).

I did not speak Portuguese at this point, and I didn’t really know how useful it will be to communicate with local volunteers and inhabitants. Fortunately, my French was very fluent at that time and since a lot of the local population either had families emigrating to France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, or have spent some time working there themselves, I had no problems in getting to know them.

I was extremely lucky that our team leader at a camp was an avid adventurer, polyglot and traveler himself, Luis, and he shared some good tips on how to discover the world at ease. During the stay in Beira Alta, I had a chance to discover the hidden and picturesque villages like Marialva, or Pocinho (where the scenic train to Porto is taking off) and bigger, historic cities like Guarda, bordering with Spain and welcoming the nearby Spanish neighbors by… horse’s tails. For some reasons all of the sculptures involving horses, were facing West and showing the Eastern border their back…

I was even luckier to have been invited to local festivities, cellars with delicious wine & cheese, probably some of the best on this planet (just think about Portuguese tinto and queijo da Serra da Estrela) and got first hand stories about aging donkeys, youth escaping to big cities or foreign countries, preserving the traditions and finding similarities between Portugal and Poland.

When I came back, I knew it’s just the start of my discovery series, and I hope to continue these for the years to come, through music, people, travel and literature.