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!

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.

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!

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.

 

Lisboa does not love?

Personal, Travel

First of all: this post is all about love. My everlasting love for Lisbon.

Secondly, it is about sustainable tourism, gentrification and all the negative things that make me think if I should continue writing this blog ever more.

Lastly, it is about the sadness about losing the authentic touch for which I initially fell for when I decided to move to that city, and re-visit almost each year.

So what happen this month? I had a chance to travel to Oporto where not so much changed and then spend a couple of days in Lisbon for the Lisb:On festival and visiting my friends and favourite places.

While I’m very interested to see the rising number of people talking about Lisbon’s unique atmosphere, as well as observing the interest of the investors in the start up scene out there that make the city a living entity attracting expats and creative workforce, I am very worried about Lisbon’s entering solely commercial path.

I’m tired about being bothered by street selling, exactly the same like in Rome, Barcelona or Venice, being approached by tuk-tuk drivers (what does it have to do with Lisbon anyway?!) or being treated like a tourist anywhere I go. Even if I know the city well and speak Portuguese. And don’t act out like a prototype tourist. Website Lisboa-Does-Not-Love.com lists the reasons why massive tourism is destroying the city and its morale and acts as the code of conduct while in Lisbon, but will it stop the massive tourism craziness?
I had to spit out my frustrations about the changing landscape of one of my beloved cities, and pose an open question: should we advertise for places we think are unique? Of course the sole act of visiting will not destroy the well-kept secret, but the scale of reach out via travel/lifestyle blogs may actually lead to it.
That’s why with mixed feelings, I’d like to leave you thinking about which direction can Lisbon take to prevent from becoming another tourist-fuelled city like London, Barcelona or Venice? I care too much about Lisbon to simply never visit again, as this replicates the scheme for which I moved out from Barcelona and hope never be forced to relocate from Berlin.
I love all Lisbon, much as I do love Barcelona and can’t keep falling in love with Berlin. What I’m just pretty sure about is that they don’t love massive tourism.

After the rain comes sun in Porto

Travel

It’s definitely high time to re-visit the city of Oporto, or o Porto in Portuguese (and hence the English name, I guess). My Lusofonetica project has been running for over 2 years now (can’t believe it flies so fast!) and I simply can’t believe that I haven’t found time to share my impressions about this beautiful place.

I’ve first visited it in 2007 during my Inter Rail trip around Europe combined with taking two weeks off in the Beira Alta region to sample a live of a volunteer-archeologist in the tiny and extremely hot village of Coriscada which I guess this deserves a separate post itself. I traveled to Porto via very spectacular train ride alongside the Douro Valley which I’d recommend everyone to take. Since then I paid three more visits in Porto, but unfortunately they were mostly related to connecting flights so literally ‘flying visits’.

During these short stays I managed to soak only a sample of the city’s atmosphere and indeed, to feel the glorious difference between the North of Portugal and the South. Contrary to the famously changing weather, I always got a very warm welcome from the bar or restaurant owners, and I made very good experience with the people from Porto whom I’ve met all over the world.

So almost in one week from now I’ll be in Porto again, this time for 2 (!) days, hoping to compare my impressions from the previous stays, eat delicious francezinha, wander around the wine cellars, and potentially hit one of their clubs in search of the electronic music originated from ‘the London’ of Portugal.

Why is it so? As I mentioned, it rains here much more often than in the other parts of Portugal, and the light/style of the city somewhat reminds England. It’s also due to the historical presence of the British entrepreneurs which were involved in setting up the most famous port wine companies in this region, that the city has this vibe.  It has long history of influence by the industrial architecture (like Tour Eiffel of Paris), and been a centre for economical development of Portugal. It’s also been an important cultural centre – and a good example of it could be an impressive Casa da Música.

So I hope to come back with a fresh set of thoughts and observations, hopefully on the sunny side this time: até logo o Porto!

 

Nôs Terra

Travel

Lisbon is especially interesting place for those who would like to discover not only Portuguese, but also Afrolusobrazilian culture.

It is a perfect place if you go to different Portuguese-speaking destinations, either as a stopover location or a final destination. To me Lisbon served as both for the past couple of years. After a brief episode of living in Portugal, I always felt certain nostalgia (cliche term of saudade is definitely relevant here) after this place and longing to travel to Portuguese-speaking destinations.

So last Christmas I gave my heart to the archipelago of Cabo Verde and of course, made a stopover in Lisbon. Apart from some very interesting animation show at the Praca de Comercio, there were some other highlights of that short stay, such as joining capoeiristas by the sunset.
This is where a friend of mine, who is very influenced by afrolusobrasilian culture, introduced me to some cultural associations and places where typically descendants of Portuguese-speaking African countries organize their concerts, events or festas.
I was also lucky to try the typical food from Cabo Verde: cachupa, before actually reaching my final destination. Be it Cabo Verde, Sao Tome e Principe, Moçambique, Angola or Guiné-Bissau, or even further in the world: Timor Leste, Goa or Macau – you will find all the places inside Lisbon, like travelling without moving.
Obviously, this has to do a lot with the history, and multiculturalism of Lisbon is an effect of post-colonialism processes. Upon my arrival from Cabo Verde I started digging deeper the topic of the descendants of the African countries living in Lisbon. ‘Nôs Terra’ shows the day-to-day specificities and also struggles of the Caboverdean community in Lisbon. It shows processes familiar to everyone who ever relocated, the in-between state of not belonging anywhere (the country of origin and current location).
I hope though that the unique multiculturality of Lisbon will stay a value itself. Music industry has already spotted Lisbon as one of the most interesting places in the world and so is becoming with art in general. There is no place like Lisbon, colourful, diverse and full of inspiration.

All…garve pt.3: Barlavento

Travel

May is already here, summer is forthcoming soon (even in Berlin!), and I am still not done with describing one of the most charming locations in Europe: Algarve in Portugal, where I was lucky to travel and live for a while.

So far I have dedicated most of the entries to the Leeward, Eastern side of the Southern Portuguese coast, given my sympathy and know-how of Faro and Olhão regions as well as Formosa river’s natural wonders.

The other side of this wonderful 100-km coastline stripe: Barlavento (eng. Windward), on the West, has been traditionally recognised by the surfers, beach testers and festival-lovers (famous festival Sud Oeste, taking place: as the name says: in the South-West Portugal). Infamously, this part of Algarve has been also known as the land of the massive tourism and disappeared child called Maddie few years ago that made this region a pretty bad press. With or without the scandal’s impact, I would avoid places like Portimão or Albufeira which are huge beach resorts with soulless architecture for rather lazy, all-inclusive kind of tourism. Sad places to see in such an authentic country like Portugal.

Coming back to the wonders of Barlavento, I would name a few: coming there outside of the season would be probably the most beautiful experience, since massive rocks and strong winds, while few people around create altogether a very dramatic and picturesque atmosphere.

My to-do list would include wandering around little towns with rich history, such as Aljezur, Lagos or Sagres (famous also for being a name of one of two most popular Portuguese beers!). For the romantic spirits, I would absolutely recommend facing the sunset at the most South-Western tip of Europe: Cabo de São Vicente. Whereas villages like Raposeira or Porto das Barcas would be on my surfing paradise list.

Last but not least, even in the surroundings of Lagos, one can find very particular beaches – among the numberless and funnily-shaped rocks. Beware that Barlavento: as the name indicates is the land for wind-loving people, but if you do, you won’t be disappointed by the natural diversity of this coastline.