Día de Andalucía en Córdoba

Travel
Today’s a very special day for all the women and human population anyway. Last week though it was the region of Andalucia that celebrated its Day. 28th February fell on Friday and thanks to that, I could getaway for a long weekend to one of my favorite cities nearby: Cordoba. 

Why Cordoba is so special? Dating back to Ancient Roman times, it was one of the most developed cities in the world: home to philosophers, scientists and artists. Till today one can really ‘breathe’ the air of this place.  

For centuries, it was a melting pot of Jewish, Arabic and Christian culture, until the history took drastic, turning points. Fortunately, the presence of all these is palpable in various parts of the city. This time I decided to indulge myself in the remnants of the Caliphate culture by staying in a stylized Arabic livelihood, visiting Hammam and even eating out at the restaurant inspired by Andalusian cuisine from 14th Century: Noor. 

The ingredients used for the creation of the menu at Noor consist of typical dishes from the region and 0 km food. Also, to pay tribute to the Andalusian Caliphate, the chef, Paco Morales decided not to use any of the ingredients coming from post-colonial times, e.g. tomatoes, potatoes, avocado or chocolate. Thanks to that he and his team achieved a recreation of the cuisine from the very special period of the Arabic reign in Cordoba. 

Cordoba’s monumental Cathedral: La Mezquita is probably one of the most beautiful and mystical religious sites I’ve ever been to. I remember visiting it in 2011 when there was still a place to contemplate the details and the big picture with its surroundings, nowadays it’s way too crowded to my taste. Apparently in 2019 the number of visitors surpassed 2 millions annually. 

This is why currently what stole my heart were the tiny streets in less crowded parts of the city. Some of them have rather peculiar names, such as ‘Where are we heading to’, ‘Images’ and other descriptive ones. The narrowest one, Calleja del Panuelo, is one of the cutest, although not recommended for people with claustrophobia. 

Cordoba boasts the tradition of houses with flowery patios, offering shade during crazily hot summers when the temperature rises up to 45 degrees Celcius. In May there is even a Festival of Patios when proud owners offer visiting their beautiful gardens. In February orange trees blossom and the smell around the city is simply magic.

I could not choose a better way to celebrate the Day of Andalucia, and I wouldn’t mind returning there time and again.

Sierra de las Nieves

Travel

February = springtime at its fullest in Andalucia. It is probably one of the best months to experience hiking trips in the Malaga province, and this post is dedicated to describe a gorgeous hiking trip in Sierra de las Nieves, aka Snowy Range near the picturesque town of Tolox.

I was encouraged to take part of this hike thanks to the nature- and outdoor-activity loving community from the tech world of Malaga. I love to meet new people and also get to know them while doing things I enjoy: breathing the fresh mountain air while working out over a moderate 12 km route with over 600 m ascension/descend.

The route starts at the Balneario of Tolox – and in this part of the year is very green. The scent of the forest, multiple birds and water creeks are present throughout the first 3-4 kms. My hiking boots survived walking around the ice trails on Svalbard so I was not worried about their condition.

On the way you can spot at least three waterfalls: the first one is great for taking an actual leap on warmer days, the second one can be noticed from afar – taking winding curves and thus making it the highest waterfall in Andalucia. The last one you are literally walking over a tiny bridge. Unfortunately, as the land is quite arid, it dries out for most of the months. We were very lucky to see it, but we could also be unlucky if it’s too humid: the trail might be slippery when not properly dried out after springtime rainfalls. As in Andalucia rain is rare, when it happens, it is torrential.

After 13 kms the descend starts towards the picturesque village of Tolox, one of the emblematic ‘while villages’ of Andalucia. On a Sunday afternoon, it is the oasis of tranquility. After a straining hike, resting in the local bar overlooking the various mountain ranges, up to El Torcal and Sierra Nevada while eating tapas was the best reward.

To top it up, Tolox is full of actual art, depicting the local art inspirations, naive art and poems of Pablo Neruda. I can’t help falling in love in a place like this.

Montes de Málaga

Travel

Málaga is associated primarily with the sea, and a gateway to the ‘Sunny Coast’ known as Costa del Sol. Nothing more misleading: its province is by far the tallest in Spain, containing of some of the youngest, and highest mountains in the country.

You can easily experience their scope already while approaching the landing at the airport, especially if you take some additional turns around the province. One of the first trips I’ve done when I moved here, was to hike around countless trails of the National Park of Montes de Málaga, just a few kilometers away from the city centre, and within the public transportation reach. I learned though that hiking in June is already too late – it’s too sunny and too dry to truly enjoy it.

Instead, I visited the historical Botanic Garden, home to abundant and exotic flora and fauna. This stunning scenery can be found in the Northern part of the city and is also accessible with the public transportation, followed by a 15 minutes walk. The garden hosts shelter to various bird houses: if you are patient you can spend hours looking at their nesting areas and spot interesting species. It is great that Málaga has made this garden available to public, especially that the city itself lacks green spaces.

Another destination worth mentioning is Mijas Pueblo, a little village located in Costa del Sol, about 45 minutes drive from Málaga and again, accessible with public transportation. It is one of the typical white, Andalusian scenic villages with castle ruins, beautiful town hall square and breathtaking views over the coast.

Also the trip through the winding road can take the breath away, if you are sensitive. I think that the village itself is as touristy as Ronda, and it takes its toll. I was particularly saddened by the use of donkeys for the touristy rides. I escaped the crowded trap quite soon and wandered around the hilly streets followed by eating lunch at an inexpensive, unpretentious place far away from the masses.

I enjoy the little escapes around Málaga, even without having a car for now. I am conscious that the best places are out of my reach for now, but I am trying hard not to own a car – driving though is a good skill to acquire when living on Costa del Sol and is a different story. Looking forward to bringing you more tales from the trips I will take in 2020, to be honest I have not planned anything and have no idea where my imagination will take me.

Autumn scapes in Segovia

Travel

I love the fact how fast you can travel around Spain. I am very privileged to be currently living in the city with a high-speed train connection with most of the country, Malaga. Even though it is one of the Southernmost cities in Europe, within 2,5 hours ride you can be in the centre of Madrid, in a completely different setting, and this time of the year, it is especially visible.

For years I’ve been dreaming to escape the European wintertime and November gloominess, and darker, shorter days. What I miss though is the change of the leaves and how they dance in the sun.

That’s why, and for a few other reasons for the November 1st long weekend weekend we have chosen to travel to Segovia near Madrid. I have already visited Toledo and Segovia was recommended to me like its Northern sister, beautiful and charming in a different way.

On the way to Segovia from Madrid you pass through one of the longest mountain train tunnels in Spain, and at its opposite end, seasons and landscapes completely change from Castilla to León. As we descended from the Ave train, the difference in temperature between Malaga and Segovia was more than 15 degrees Celcius!

Our first impressions of Segovia was its elegant sepia colour, matching the surrounding rocky mountains of Castilla. Even if Segovia’s historical sites date back from Roman times to Baroque, it seems this colour keeps the continuity of the story behind the city. We stayed at the Parador, which is monumentally overlooking the city panorama where you can obseve eagles on the treasure hunt.

On my first day I hiked around the surroundings of the Parador, in the valley of Eresma river. There are plenty of monasteries nearby, adding to the mistery of this neighbourhood. There is also an interesting numismatic museum called Casa de la Moneda, showcasing the story of the Spanish capital.

From afar, one of the most impressive buildings is the Roman aqueduct, still in use, providing potable water to the city and its surroundings. Everywhere you go, you can see the water flowing from the wells or fountains. As I followed the hiking train around Eresma river, I fell in love with a sleepy neighbourhood of San Lorenzo where you can eat out at local bars, trying tortilla de escabeche and wine early in the morning, and spot a sculpture of the laundress.

Multiple churches from early Gothic to Renaissance times are complimenting the monumental Cathedral of Segovia which is the last type of Gothic cathedral build in Europe. As for the ever-present monasteries, in the former Convento de Capuchinos nowadays you can eat out at the Restaurant Villena, probably the most hedonist place I’ve ever been to. Serving the local treats like cochinillo in a very creative ways with the local wine pairing, it is literally the heavenly pleasure.

Last but not least, in the Western part of the city, there’s the impressive, medieval Alcazar castle, where Isabel I was crowned as the Queen of Castilla and more trivially, it inspired Walt Disney for the depiction of the castle in the Cinderella tale.

Segovia is a dreamy, quiet place, surrounded by impressive mountain ranges and green fields. The autumn colours mixed with its architecture in sepia colour makes it probably one of the most romantic sites in Spain to visit during this time of the year and contemplate the time that passes by, like the seasons every year.

Viajeros romanticos de Ronda

Travel

I feel unbelievably lucky to live in the cradle of Mediterranean and Spanish culture, Andalusia. In the past weeks I’ve been quite busy discovering the Malaga region and I’d like to dedicate today’s entry to Ronda.

 

Located about one hour away from Malaga, Ronda is one of the most picturesque towns of Spain, and a known destination since 19th century. This is when, upon the raise of the industrial era, wealthy class representatives and intellectuals formed the group of ‘romantic travellers’, trying to find a way to the roots of the European culture, visiting the emblematic Spanish, Italian and Greek land- and cityscapes. The idea of travel was born and inspired generations of writers, painters and music makes, tired of the smoggy, dirty and dehumanized big cities of the industrial era.

Ronda remained its romantic charm until today, however, overtourism is again taking its toll here. Forget about a peaceful walk around the canyon, you will end up in one or the other organized tour, queuing to see the most picturesque spots. Instead, it is best to roam around much more quiet old town, or visit Casa del Rey Moro, a (literally) breathtaking castle-house of the Moorish kingdom, situated inside one of the giant rocks, all the way down to the canyon river level. As you go down twenty floors from atop, you can visit chambers that used to serve for keeping the slaves, armour and secrets.

Being located in the middle of the Cordillera Bética, one of the highest and youngest mountain ranges in Spain, Ronda is surrounded by incredibly romantic gradient of sharp edges, equally stunning at the dawn as at the sunset. Even though I have heard there is not much to do in Ronda for two days, I enjoyed myself simply staring at the horizon, dreaming, observing colours and reading about the useless, romantic travellers from the past and their crave for the great, classical beauty in this life. It is one of these places that words are needless to describe more, so I will let you simply look at my photos instead.

 

Saudade algarvia

Travel

This year I have decided to focus on discovering the Iberian peninsula mostly by train or public transportation, to reduce the carbon footprint. Still, I have a feeling I have been travelling a lot as for such turbulent and changing times as moving from Berlin to Malaga. This month I had a pleasure to revisit the South of Portugal for 3 days, taking advantage of meeting a befriended couple on holidays in Algarve. It was a great experience to walk around the old places and compare the changes, while discovering the new.

 

For the first night and morning after, we stayed in Faro where we were waiting for our friends to pick us up. As a matter of fact, the flat owner was somewhat related to the University of Algarve where I used to study in 2011 and we even had some friends in common. He was extremely friendly, even though we arrived at 2 am! In the morning, I took my boyfriend for a long stroll around the rundown streets of Faro, a student town with a difficult charm of being partly ruined, partly chaotic and partly ugly. We had a breakfast consisting of tosta mixta, coffee and orange juice in Seu Cafe – a cult place opened for almost 24/7, making it legendary for the local student scene. I couldn’t resist the famous pastry from Algarve: chocolate salami being the sweet of choice.

After our friends joined us, I had a plan of having a laid-back picnic at the Pego do Inferno which proved to be the saddest part of our journey. Apparently, thanks to travel blogging and related (I find myself to be blamed too), this place is completely destroyed. The crystal clear waterfall waters are nothing more than a stinking pond, and the green path around it is destroyed by fireplaces – probably the global warming effect, or even more probably: the effect of stupidity of tourists…

Not to worry, we went to the Praia da Marinha, a typical Algarvian beach surrounded by the rocks and coral reefs. Our friends were very well prepared in the body boarding and snorkeling equipment so we had a lot of beach and ocean fun. I finally convinced my boyfriend to buy a floating unicorn (even though we avoid buying plastic…) – which made our stay at the beach hilarious.

The next day we decided to go to a more surf-type beach near the Praia Grande/Praia dos Pescadores where the waves and wind were perfect for all types of surfing and nearby, there was a birdwatching place, but unfortunately we did not manage to spot any flamingo out there. In the evening, we booked a fantastic restaurant in the town we were staying: Cabo Carvoeiro, located directly on the rocks.

On our last day we tried to book Atlantic kayak activity, but the ocean was cruel to us: unfortunately the trip was cancelled due to the ocean’s unrest. We spent our last day on the rocky Praia de Benagil.

It was sad to leave this beautiful place behind, and most importantly: our great travel companions, the reality though is that I had to come back to work. I am still grateful that living in Malaga offers me so exciting weekend getaways within the reach of 4-5 hours drive, regardless if I am on holidays or ‘just’ taking advantage of the weekends and the proximity of many amazing locations. We are already planning to return, especially off the main season and off the beaten track next time.

Asturias – Costa Verde

Travel

August is undoubtedly the hottest month on the Iberian Peninsula and I feared that at some point I won’t be able to bear with it. Apparently, Malaga was not as bad as the rest of the continent, especially thinking about how global warming has been affecting Europe in the past years. The most unpleasant days were around the second week of August where the famous Terral wind started to blow. I’ve never experienced a wind which is as hot as 40 Celcius degrees with the speed reaching 40 km p/hour – it really felt as if the air was coming out of a hairdryer.

August is also a month when the most (in)famous festivity of Malaga takes place: La Feria. It is about 10 days of celebration of the local folk tradition, including bull fighting, horse riding, and most importantly: flamenco dancing and Cartojal (sweet, strong wine) drinking. This attract millions (!) of national and international tourists every year, making Malaga allegedly unliveable. This also turned out a myth, since the festivities were distributed around the whole city, and not only the city centre, while the municipality of Malaga made a special effort to keep the whole area very clean and vigilant for common vandalism. Not knowing about these two happenings of the month were not as bad as the word of mouth, I decided to escape for five days into the North of Spain: the green coast of Asturias.

After visiting Basque Country many years ago, and Galicia last year, I was the most curious about the coastal hiking in this mostly rural and unspoilt region of Spain. Landing in Asturias, I already felt the change: it was probably 10 degrees less than in Andalucia, and I got almost dizzy with the fresh air coming from the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding woods. Quite a change after the hairdryer Terral just a few days before.  I was not too ambitious when it comes to the scope of discovering the region: since I only had 5 days, and no car, I focused on the western part of the region, leaving the higher mountain hike and the eastern routes for some other occasion.

On purpose, I stayed in a very small village nearby a more popular, touristy town of Cudillero when I only visited when in need (of food mostly). Due to its rough coastline, to visit the town, I had to descent about 700 m down with the slope of about 90%. Not to mention coming all the way back uphill. What helped to achieve this, is definitely the local food: Spaniards warned me about the size of the portions offered and they were indeed large and tasty. I’ve eaten probably the biggest and most impressive mariscada in my life in the restaurant called simply El Pescador in Cudillero, boasting a Michelin recommendation this year.

Another hiking highlight was the route called Senda Costera from the picturesque village called Muros de Nalon until the river port San Esteban de Pravia. It takes a few hours to walk through a path throughout the Atlantic forest, with a possibility to descent into the wild, Atlantic beaches.

Asturias is not only nature though, it’s also a maritime and industrial patrimony, visible in the cities like Aviles or Gijon. Although the focus of this trip was mostly on hiking (and eating out!), I managed to visit both cities – the most interesting is probably the cultural centre of Oscar Niemeyer, the architect of Brasilia and simply admiring the difficult charm of the long, post-industrial sites. To finalize the visit, on a last, rainy day in Gijon, I tried the Michelin start restaurant situated in the green Asturian park: La Salgar, run by the chefs Esther and Nacho, offering amazing experience for relatively reasonable price. Overviewing a typical, Asturian horreo, tasting the local food with the creative touch, I decided I will return to this mysterious, strangely beautiful part of Spain one day again. Who knows if not to retire.

 

Málaga, martini del mar

Personal, Travel

I have been living there for almost two months and instead of writing too frequent updates I have opted for hand-writing my daily notebook while updating my blog on a monthly basis.

 

So what have I been up to? Definitely discovering the new city and its earthly and more sophisticated pleasures. Málaga offers incredible quality of life which is a sum of simply having the most pleasant climate on this planet, and being situated in between exciting coastal and mountain range. With its origins dating back ancient times, Málaga was at a crossroads of the cultures and it all is reflected in its exciting architecture and traditions. It’s a heaven on Earth both for foodies and for sportive folks (if you can manage to do both, the better).

The city promotes its cultural heritage a lot, and this month I have contemplated the Spanish paintings from Museum Carmen Thyssen, as well as the exhibition around the female representation in art called Perversidad. I was impressed not only by impressionists like Sorolla, but also by the realistic paintings from 19th century, picturing the everyday lives to the very detail.

 

I still have over 20 museums to check out and will be reporting back on these. There is also a lot going on in the local streetart scene. I especially like to bump into the poems, including the one I love the most: Kawafis’ ‘City’. Some of them feature Málaga, the others: topics like machismo and 3rd wave feminism.

I am so happy Málaga is welcoming LGBTQI+ too, and is embracing slowly but surely electronic music scene. It is hard to compare Berlin to any new place, but at least with La Térmica open air parties I found a friendly and musically open-minded crowd.

Last but not least, this month I earned my very first sailing license, so will be able to spend more time on the water. Sailing gives the freedom to escape from the crowded beaches, mindfulness of listening to the waves and wind. It’s been a while I have been hooked up on something that much!

In August I will be facing the famous Feria de Málaga, but to be honest, will be escaping most of its part all the way up to Asturias. Will keep you posted here, as I mute again most of the other known social media channels and indulge myself in the sea and sounds.

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.

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.

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!