Far Out Faroe Islands

Travel

Various times I have mentioned about my primary inspiration when it comes to travels: one of my favourite books of Judith Schalansky ‘Atlas of Remote Islands’. The extended title of the book says ‘Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot On and Never Will’.

I don’t care too much about the extended title though. Since I like challenges, this book marked some of the destinations, including Svalbard, Cabo Verde, or Azores. Faroe Islands makes the next landmark in my Atlantic wanderlust, and is in a way the antonym of Faro where I used to live. It’s also home to Sheepview 360 – the only European archipelago without the Google Street View whose struggle to creative solutions of mapping the territory let to amazing results with the help of sheep and iPhone cameras.

Even though Schalansky did not list any of the 18 particularly shaped Faroe Islands in her guide to remoteness, I knew I wanted to visit them for various reasons: my passion for the Northern and polar landscapes, their isolation, their particular culture and last but not least: their breathtaking nature.

I also needed to get away badly from the known and predictable: even in terms of the weather. So I was not disappointed: it did not stay the same for 10 minutes long. Hail/torrential rain/mist/scorching sun was all included.

In order to get there, I flew over to Copenhagen and then boarded the national airways of Faroe Islands, Atlantic Airways. Currently, as of 2017, they have a fleet of two Airbus 319/320 planes and two helicopters and definitely know their game. It was probably one of the most scary landings in the mist I’ve experienced, but I had a full trust in the pilots trained on the misty islands’ approaches to runways.

Since I only had a budget to stay during a few days, I wanted to make the most of it. During the first day I spent in the lovely town of Midvagur on the Vágar island I discovered my first hiking trails and saw a lot of people riding little, white horses, like in the fairytales. Later I learnt that horses not necessarily bring luck in the local legends – some of them are believed to be connecting the world of the living and the dead, through the most emblematic lake of Leitisvatn.

The next day did not promise spectacular views either: I was planning to sail to the Westernmost island of Mykines and underestimated how difficult the weather conditions may be. Again, I was lucky. We did not crush our boat shattered by the Atlantic currents on one of the volcanic ridges.


I immediately fell in love with the village of Mykines: with all the houses covered with the grass rooftops (and mowed naturally by the ever-present sheep), connected with the rest of the world by bi-weekly boat and helicopter connections (should the weather permit).

If I were to retire from life and find my boredom/creative peace, that would be the place. To the point that there are no shops, roads, only the green, sheep and bird chants.

Mykines is known as the home to thousands of birds, including puffins, fulmars and gannets. I noticed that their behaviour is not interrupted (yet!) by the human presence that much. At one point one have to be very careful not to step into puffins’ nests, as they don’t run away as quickly as e.g. on Iceland or in Norway. Wise enough, the tourism on this island is strictly regulated and is due to decrease, since the local authorities have been concerned about the peace of mind of the species.

I have to admit I had to spend some level of energy not to fall from the cliff trail, following the sheep, equally not bothered by the human presence. It’s a good practice to collect the remaining wool from the trail and hand it over to the sheep farms – I guess if I was attentive enough and focused, I’d have a material for a few great quality sweaters (let alone I am not a fan of sweaters).

Around the afternoon the weather cleared and I was able to enjoy the stunning views of the island, the cliffs and surrounding nature. The way back on the boat was incomparably picturesque, passing by various islets and I was amazed how much has been covered in the mist. It was almost like the weather playing with one’s expectations!

The next day I took the bus to the largest island of the archipelago: Streymoy, to the islands’ capital: Torshavn. Not surprisingly, the town offered amazing caffeine heaven with the locally roasted coffee (I experienced the same in Iceland, Norway and Denmark already), and great local record labels.

At the same time, it was perfectly normal to spot a sheep mowing a grass rooftop in the centre of it, or geese walking freely with their chicks, or the horse herds roaming around next to the hostel/five-star hotel.

I would absolutely recommend a relaxing hike between Torshavn and Kirkjobour, a village with a 12th century church ruins, and a Michelin-star restaurant: Koks. Which I could not afford anyway.

Funnily enough, Faroe Islands’ status is fairly autonomous. It’s not a part of the EU and remains a lot of freedom, including a different currency (Foroyar Krona, 1:1 to Danish Krona). It has no prison though, so as an effect Faroe Islands are sending all of the troublemakers back to Denmark.

Since I spent a Saturday night in Torshavn, I was amazed by the richness of its musical culture and how lively it was (let alone it was barely getting dark). I also learned about a pretty amazing electronic music band, Orka and local attempts to bring the freedom for the LGBT movements.

The next day, I visited the second biggest island: Eysturoy with its capital Klaksvik where I took my first helicopter ride back to Vágar, having a chance to see the panoramic view of all of the 18 islands I was not able to visit during this four-day stay. What a thrill!

On the way to Klaksvik I passed through the only bridge on the Atlantic Ocean, amazed by how strong the Gulf Stream is: the water seemed like a river, not a sea.


The helicopter airport was quite something itself. A sole house with a crew of a pilot and traffic controller and a cheerful dog that welcomed me and a few other romantic travellers at the end of this world, including a Finnish man who run throughout the archipelago (~250 km) during 5 days, with a sole luggage of 9 kg. Fun fact: he also went to work on a Monday morning after all that, just as I did.

Before leaving from Vágar back to Copenhagen I had a chance to hike around the picturesque waterfalls and lakes of the island, making a promise of coming back at some point of my life. Takk fyri, Foroyar!

São Paulo: abstraction and society

Music

One of my highlights last month was a business trip to London where I had a chance to learn a lot and meet a lot of new inspirational people. Apart from that, there is no visit in London for me without checking the Art Cathedral: Tate Modern, so during the weekend I spent endless hours binge-eating modern art.

Among various exhibitions, I was particularly happy to see the corner dedicated to Tropicália movement and abstract art coming from São Paulo Biennale. It was founded in 1951, during a moment of very rapid economic growth and urban development in Brazil.

A decade later, Tropicália movement emerged in theatre, poetry, cinema, music and art as a critical response to the political crisis, Brazilian stereotypes and disparate influences. In the music world, Gal Costa, Elis Regina, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil are the most famous artists to name. Here’s one of my fave songs by Elis Regina:

A tua falta somada
A minha vida tão diminuída
Com esta dor multiplicada
Pelo fator despedida

Deixou minh’alma muito dividida
Em frações tão desiguais
E desde a hora em que você foi embora
Eu sou um zero e nada mais

In poetry, Roberta Camila Salgado published her works during the times of political repression and censorship:

céu escuro por que não limpas e iluminas o meu mundo?

So thanks to this exhibition I travelled back in time to Brazil where not only I’ve spent some time living in Brasilia, but also have been travelling around the country between 2011-2013. Nowadays I am no longer up to date following up on social and political crises, but prefer to focus on discovering progressive and bold artists which emerge a new movement 50 years later.

Having said that, I’d like to acknowledge my São Paulo-based friends producing quality techno and house which is already influencing dancefloors beyond Brazil, as well as fighting for the parity for women in the electronic music scene.

 

 

 

 

 

Jazz’aqui – o jazz português em Berlim

Music

I’ve previously written about the Brazilian influences on Berlin jazz scene, I’ve recently written about März Musik, but I’ve never mentioned about the Portuguese jazz presence in the beautiful city I currently live in.

As March is one of these weird, in between months, bridging the everlasting winter sleep with the springtime euphoria, a Friday evening with free jazz sounds was in line with my moods. That’s why I decided to get to know the Portuguese Jazz Festival: Jazz’aqui.

Jazz’aqui was also a good occasion to visit one of the most emblematic jazz clubs in Berlin – Kunstfabrik Schlot, situated in not-so-obvious location of Mitte.  I chose the night of a ‘minimal jazz’ bateria performance and Slow Is Possible playing mostly cinematic jazz.

I was enchanted by its playful and enigmatic dynamics – once very sleepy, then painfully intense, like lucid dreaming. Since I learned that the band consists of musicians coming from various parts of Portugal, I realized how their regional inspirations may come into play. I travelled in my mind to remote parts of Northern and Central Portugal, like the mountainous Bragança or Guarda region, where I spent two weeks during my first trip in 2007.

Then, the music took me on the way to the dramatic coastline of South-West in the winter, where I had a chance to travel in 2011 while studying in Faro.

Finally, carried by rather scary sounds, I landed somewhere in the tiny towns of Alentejo, maybe sneaking in to one of their traditional churches made of human bones.

And the concert ended up, leaving me wondering how little it takes to travel without moving, when the sound and imagination kicks in. As well as, that the music discovery is endless, without the borders of space and time.

 

Islands of the eternal spring: Ilhas Canárias

Travel, Uncategorized

On the very first day of Spring edition 2017 I would like to dedicate some space of Lusofonetica to a place where spring lasts 24/7, 365/6 days per year.

It is not a secret that for people based in the Central/Northern Europe the winter seems to last forever and that one of the most popular getaway destinations are the Canary Islands. Since I have moved to Berlin in 2014, I have already visited  Fuerteventura and Lanzarote and would like to share some of my best photo shots and memories.


Canary Islands are the Norternmost islands out of the archipelago, which makes them accessible within less than 5 hours of flight from mainland Europe. They are located in between the other Macaronesia islands: Northernmost Madeira and Porto Santo, Westernmost Azores and Southernmost Cabo Verde. They are the only one where Spanish is spoken though! While Fuerteventura is more flat, offering vast white-sand beaches, Lanzarote is a smaller yet more diverse island in terms of its volcanic landscape.

Some of my Fuerteventura’s favourites include the beaches close to the town of Corralejo and it’s Dunes Park, and more remote village of El Cotillo with cosy, white houses by the portline.

On the Southern shore there is a vast coast of surfers’ paradise Playa Jandia. One can easily test the beaches for longer than a week, or drive inland to enjoy the Martian landscape of the deserts and volcanic hills.

Lanzarote offer similarly stunning beaches, and surfer spots like Caleta de Famara yet it’s worth mentioning that it’s more of a dramatic landscape with stronger winds and waves’ impact.

Some of my top picks of the Southern part of Lanzarote include the rocky Playa El Golfo and the volcanic Parque Nacional de Timanfaya.

The biggest town of Lanzarote – Arrecife is very pleasant and beautifully designed, inspited by various artists that influenced the island.

To the North of Arrecife, some interesting spots include Jardin de Cactus, or a surprisingly secluded community of El Charco de la Feliz.

The art pieces one cannot miss is the Monumento al Campesino or expositions of the Fundación Cesar Manrique or the inland town of Teguise. From the architectural point of view it’s worth visiting Omar Shariff’s house and enjoy the 360 degree view of the island (if you are a nervous driver like I am and can’t climb up the Mirador del Rio!).

Escaping the winter means also trying the local cuisine – some of my highlighted restaurants include ‘Sol y luna’ in the romantic town of Punta Mujeres and ‘La Tabla’ in downtown Arrecife, offering modern tapas and great selections of local wines.

Similarly like in Fuerteventura, the Southern part of Lanzarote offers endless beaches of Costa de Papagayo nearby a very pleasant town of Playa Blanca.

And like Madeira, Canary Islands are an interesting location to visit around the carnival, where local festivities take place.

Both Fuerteventura and Lanzarote can be visited during one stay, as there as various ferries connecting these two islands, but I enjoyed greatly coming back to Canary Islands and escaping the winter. I hope soon I will have an occasion to discover the remaining islands!

 

 

 

Ilha de Formosa – Taiwan

Travel

During my latest journey to Asia, I took a chance to visit Taiwan, mostly its Northern part and its charming capital: Taipei. By reading more about this beautiful country, I realized that it is heavily influenced by Aboriginal culture and when Portuguese set foot in Taiwan for the first time, they named it ‘Ilha de Formosa’.

In this post I would like to focus on the town of Keelung, Yehliu Geopark, Pinglin and the Thousand Island Lake, as these are the short getaways I made within the Northern part of Taiwan.

On the way to Keelung, I stopped at the Da Fo Buddhist Temple which amazed me by its authenticity and colours. As well as some quirky, almost ‘kawaii’ elements, which were remarkable along the town. However, I learned from the local guide that Keelung has lost its prosperity. In the past, it was one of the main port entrances to Taiwan and in the times of airplanes, it has lost its strategic meaning.

Another wonderful and tranquile place to visit is the Thousand Island Lake. Obviously, I could not name all of the islands, but it has quite a winding and challenging trail where chances are, you will not meet any visitors (if you go early enough), except from the birds, or the dogs. In the surrounding villages the locals can offer a tasty breakfast options containing eggs boiled in tea with mushrooms (and that turned out to be one of the best culinary surprises for me!).

Further up North there is Yehliu Geopark where erosion and sea tides have shaped an amazing, almost Martian landscape on the coastline. If you look closely enough, you will notice fossils aged millions of years or junctions, since Taiwan lays on a quite active spot on one of the  Mother Earth’s tectonic plates.

I was particularly amazed by the flowers looking like shrimps or other sea animals I can’t name, as if the shape of the nature was inspired by the surrounding ocean. Who knows?

Last but not least, the Oolong Tea. And a few more types, including the ‘Grasshopper’ Tea which I was lucky to try during the traditional Taiwanese tea ceremony in Pinglin, a picturesque town laying in heart of the evergreen plantations. I can’t get out of my smell memory the first cup of ‘testing tea’ – it’s like a perfume. Enough saying that since I brought a lot of tea from Taiwan, I cut my daily coffee intake by half. And that means a lot!

I am already missing this place and look forward to discovering more of this part of the world, maybe later this year. This part of Taiwan reminded me a lot of peaceful islands of Azores which I may revisit soon, again.

Macau é legal!

Travel

Last year I set foot in East Asia for the first time in my life and after scratching the surface in pursuit of discovering Japan, quite spontaneously I decided to travel to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan during the New Year’s week.

Most people visit Macau for its fame of being an Asian equivalent of Las Vegas: with their copies of Eiffel Tower, Venice, casinos and its vibrant nightlife. I was attracted to it, naturally, by its history and second language: Portuguese. To make it even more interesting: I went there with my Brazilian friends. It was a pretty amazing experience to be in Chinese-controlled territory and read the names of the streets, menus and shops in Portuguese.

This exotic combination is a consequence of its complicated and paradox history: Macau belonged to Portugal as a part of their administration territory first, and then overseas colonies. Macau was the last remaining European colony in Asia and its sovereignity was transferred back under China’s in 1999. Until 2049 it remains a solid dose of authonomy from China and is one of the wealthiest states in the world.

Being the largest gambling centre in the world and somewhat overwhelming with its luxurious hotels, it is a land of contrasts, too. Together with my friends, we took an opportunity to walk around both the ovewhelming skyscrappers and the ruins to get a bit broader view on this place.

I think there are as many opinions about this place, as are the people. Literally one friend almost discouraged me from even going to Macau, and other claimed it was one of the most unexpectedly nice surprises when island hopping around Hong-Kong.

I have to admit, the visit was definitely unforgettable. Almost like lost in translation between Cantonese, Mandarin and Portuguese. I am always a fan of collages and diversity and I am pretty amazed by Macao’s story. It was equally worth to get lost in its small streets of the Old Town, and in the shadows of the Grande Lisboa Hotel.

My experience is probably incomplete, since I stayed there for less than 24 hours, but what travelling experience is anyway? Straight from Macau, I took a plane to Taipei, from its very modern yet small airport with the runway located on the sea, which added up a lot of adrenaline to the overall experience (after having a blissful breakfast of a typical Portuguese tosta mixta and pastel de nata).

Apart from quite particular art showing various depictions of rabbits, which can be the best closing note for this blog entry.

Special dedication to Cassiana & Paula who took this extravant journey full of champagne com cereja (e certanejo) around South-East coast of China with me. You’re the best and you know it.

Lissabon Wuppertal Lisboa

Music

When I travel, I look at things with the naivety of a child‘ – this is one of the most inspirational quotes I’ve lately read when visiting the exhibition dedicated to Pina Bausch at Berlin’s Martin Gropius Bau museum. I would love to share my thoughts about my relationship with dancing and travelling, and how I think they walk hand in hand as a self-reflective experience.

I came back to exploring my passion of the contemporary dance since I’ve moved to Berlin, given my early background in ballet, and Pina Bausch has been always a great choreographer and dancer I’ve been looking up to. Creative, fierce and explorative – these are the characteristics of my perception of her pieces, which I could by now only look up on Youtube. However, I am more than thrilled that tomorrow I will see the legendary ‘Palermo, Palermo’ by the Tanztheater Wupperthal Pina Bausch which continues the work of this artist after her death in 2007.

What brings me to the Portuguese influences, is the piece that has been prepared specifically for the Expo 1998, which took place in Lisbon. Pina Bausch often referred the discovery of the world and own body as a similar experience and that’s why her theatre benefited a lot from the international cooperation (to name Sicily, Hong-Kong, Japan and Portugal as a few).

To me the plethora of the local and universal symbols combined with her excellent choreography bridges dance almost as a travel experience. That’s why in the darkest, coldest seasons I resort to the passion and strength that I can force through dancing. This kind of escape through travelling without moving has obviously not much to do with the dance theatre, but originates in the same need of discovery, rejecting the boundaries and limitations. This is why I can’t probably stop watching various versions of ‘The Rite of Spring’ while waiting for the sun to come up and change the season, as these are my usual thoughts around second half of December.

 

Warm sands of the Nordeste

Travel

On a grey day like today I like to time travel and re-discover the place where the warm sun, sand and water give shelter. The winter has not even started in Europe, but it’s been incredibly cold for over a month or so. Patience is key, and so are the winter time escapes. In one month I will be travelling to Hong-Kong, but before I need to find a way to deal with the dark and freezing reality.

To cheer myself up, I refrain to the memories of February 2013 when I travelled to Rio Grande do Norte, precisely Natal, Tibau do Sul and Praia da Pipa, the capital of the region and emblematic seaside towns in the North-Eastern part of Brazil.

Not only the warmth of the sun, sand and water, but also the cheerful and relaxed nature of the inhabitants made this location a perfect winter getaway destination.

I was lucky to live in a small condominio of the Atlantic forest between Praia da Pipa and Tibau de Sul where I was woken up by the birds chanting, and oh well, some insects.

The location is perfect for the surfers and wanderers. Wide beaches are perfect to walk around in between the high tides, and when it comes, it is amazing to simply jump on the prancha (surf board) and try your best fighting the powerful water element.

Years have passed and I remember the smell of the salty water, the taste of the local cuisine, the view of the bonfires burning at night at the beach and the songs of the local vendors. I definitely plan to come back, possibly visiting the beautiful archipelago of Fernando da Noronha islands. Stay tuned!

Brazilian Jazz Carnival in Berlin

Music

Two years have passed in an Augenblick (like Germans like to define “the time that flies”) since I have moved to Berlin. I would lie, if I said I don’t miss Barcelona, Brazil, Portugal and my hometown Poznan from time to time. Travelling is relatively cheap and easy these days, at least to some of these locations though, so I don’t happen to be homesick too often to be honest.

Especially that I feel very happy where I am now, both personally, and professionally, and Berlin keeps surprising me every day with its amazing cultural offer. I even realised how I can cope best with the dark and cold days throughout roughly half of the year. Concerts and dancing are among my most powerful weapons!

It is also fair to say, that during these two years, I have met amazing people from all over the world sharing my passions and at the same time showing new perspectives, opening my mind and enriching my life.

More importantly, I keep speaking Portuguese. Be it at work with my Portuguese-speaking colleagues (or those wanting to simply learn and practice!), be it with my good old or newly acquired friends. Berlin has an incredible offer of Latin American movie festivals as well as concerts of all the music genres,  out of which I happened to see two of my Brazilian jazz gurus this year already.

I am very honoured to have seen Ed Motta earlier this year, and Azymuth trio only yesterday. There are very few artists which inspired so many DJs and producers much as they did. Actually, I can’t think of any dancefloor which wouldn’t go crazy if a DJ dropped ‘Jazz Carnival’, regardless of the location. As a consequence, their tracks have been often remixed and incorporated into legendary mixes. I was hoping to see them live for a very long time, especially when I noticed that they were featured at the Boiler Room session and announced their European tour.

A thought that occurred to me yesterday, was about the universal and timeless aspect of music. Even though Azymuth members could be my grandparents, and most of their tracks are much more older than I am, their sound is moving the crowds to a state of frantic trance.

Muito obrigada, Maestros and long live Brazilian jazz!

Nascer do sol – Portuguese encounters in Japan

Music, Travel

I am happy to say that I spent the majority of this month in amazing Japan. I have dreamt about this trip for a long time and it has finally come true. Great part of it was dedicated to some musical research, as I knew that Japan is great source of digging the vinyl shelves and a lot of the DJs and producers I respect researched quite a lot on the streets of Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka.

I was always very intrigued by the fact that there is so much Portuguese speakers living in Japan. Partly, this may be due to massive immigration of Brazilian nationals to industrial cities like Nagoya, and the other way round a lot of Japanese migrating to Brazil. Actually, my first encounter with the Japanese culture was in 2013 in Liberdade, São Paulo’s district, home of thousands of Japanese descendants. Yes, I got to use the famous Japanese toilet ToTo there! But speaking seriously, I discovered Portuguese influences in Japanese music early when I discovered new jazz producers in the early 2000s, to name a few: Hajime Yoshizawa, or Kyoto Jazz Massive which I would like to list as sources of my inspiration.

There are influences reaching fur beyond music. While visiting the city of Nagasaki, I learned that for years, it has been an important port for various sailors from the European countries, to name the Dutch, the Spanish and the Portuguese on the far East. After the Portuguese, a sweet memory was left: a sponge cake called Castella

Finally, during my trip I got to know pretty amazing Japanese people interested in music: from Detroit techno, through soulful hip-hop up to exotic influences of music of Cabo Verde. It is hard to summarise the variety of all these encounters in one blog post, but I wanted to encourage everyone to discover the country through the sound and multicultural influences. And even if the country of the Rising Sun is one of the most remote and isolated places, it’s full of contrasts, inspirations and definitely is a great place to discover new music styles.