Ceuta – on the other side of the sea

Travel

Longing (saudade) and curiosity go hand in hand, in my opinion. I remember that experiencing the combination of both, started quite early for me. When as a child I looked at the sea, I was wondering about the distant lands which are far beyond the horizon.

I could not see what is behind the horizon but nowadays, I live in a truly special place, which is the closest strait between European and African continent. When the day is bright, even from my terrace, I can see the Atlas mountains and wonder, if Malaga mountains can be seen from the other side equally well. 

Recently, I decided to cross the Gibraltar strait and visit Ceuta, an autonomous Spanish city on the African shore. Previously, it belonged to many other countries, including Portugal, Reino Nazari, dating back to Romans and Phoenicians. The influences and the long history is visible almost at every step you take on the peninsula.

The name Ceuta derives from Septem > Septa > Sebta describing the seven mountains on its territory. Its architecture is dominated by the fortifications and Portuguese influences, so much so, that I could easily forget I am still in Spain. Also the city centre is so steep it somewhat reminded me of walking around Lisbon

The city walls are very impressive, and you can visit them as well as the rich, complex history and art museum of Ceuta. What I found the most impressive though is the microclimate and the natural variety in the greener parts of the peninsula. Also, as I visited Ceuta in December, the city centre was beautifully decorated around its main monuments and attractions, such as Puerta de Africa, Parque Maritimo and Plaza de España. 

You can get to Ceuta from mainland Spain on the boat, ferry or using a convenient helicopter, connecting the city with Malaga within only 25 minutes! The passage itself is an adventure, especially in the winter when the weather may get stormy. It was stunning to pass by the Gibraltar Rock and leave the European shores behind, and then to cross multiple vessels and migratory birds in the Strait

Arriving to the African shore, you can already experience higher temperatures and humidity, and hear some very new birds around, including bulbuls, hiding around the bushes. I truly recommend a walk around the peninsula and the Hacho fortress where you can smell the blossoming flowers, trees and observe the colonies of Audouine seagulls, nesting around the green shores of Ceuta. 

The circular route will take you around the Santa Catalina isle, Punta Almina lighthouse to San Amaro park which is home to rare bird species, stunning trees and art. Now, since this is not a political blog, I will abstain from commenting the tensions around this location.

Of course, this is a complicated place for multiple reasons and while I am allowed to travel freely around the location, many cannot and lose their lives on the way to the rich Europe.

I choose to cherish the multicultural side of the place, of many religions and backgrounds living next to each other, hopefully in respect and dignity towards each other. And that includes, feeling safe as a woman, travelling solo

 

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.

Women Who Travel

Personal, Travel

This post is not dedicated to any particular journey I’ve made. This post is about women who travel: independently, in a creative and respectful way. Just the way they live their lives. They are no abstract protagonists, they are represented by women I know in my family (starting from my awesome Mother), my friends and colleagues, and finally: myself. However, the happenings from last week in Ecuador proved how fragile our freedom for travel is. I want to dedicate my own personal Women’s Day tribute for the memory of all the female travellers who lost their lives because of sexism, misogyny and fundamentalism.

There is so much anger in me, although initially there was simply immense sadness when I heard about the unbelievably brutal and pointless murder of two Argentinean women travelling in Ecuador. Sadness gave way to anger when I analysed the language of the press coverage: initially putting the blame on the travellers to be behave reckless, inappropriate, and visiting the dangerous places. Calling out to parents, why the hell they let them travel alone. In 2016, really?!

This could be me. I travelled alone (not even with the other friend!) thousands of miles in my life, simply because I like discovering things at my own pace. Other times, I travelled ‘only’ with my Mother, or my female friend(s), and I met so many great, like-minded women on my way! I always try to inform myself about the place I’m travelling to, the customs and things to take into consideration, and I never seek out the dangers for the sake of adrenaline rush. Still, I was mugged only once, the luggage that got lost, got back to me through the seven mountains and jungle, and I never had problems with unwanted sexual attention, as I knew how to handle such situations within clean communication and in a respectful way, if needed.

Still, I have to consider myself luck, as this shit is still happening, at a very creepy scale. Unnamed authorities calling us to cover our bodies, be accompanied by men or family or stay at home at night, as if we were an object to carry. I am very frightened to see this conservative trend taking over in many countries around the world and I want to voice my scream against the freedom of women around the world, the explorers, the curious, the mindful and the half of this beautiful world!

Don’t let us scare off, close at home, force into relationships for the only sake of protection (disclaimer: I don’t have anything against the great couples, I’m just putting a broader context!) which ultimately leads into manipulating us more easily. At no other times women had a better financial situation and travelling was considered easier than nowadays, in general. I would like to embrace all my experiences that made me a person that I am now: open for changes, diversity and uncertainty in life, able to risk and step out of my comfort zone to deep dive into something new. And I would like to thank to all the amazing people I met on my way that acknowledged the fact I love travelling alone, and making it an unforgettable story of its own.

RIP Maria José and Marina.

Poeira de Deus

Travel

My journey to Cabo Verde is not over. After having visited the islands Santiago and Fogo, I started researching about the whole archipelago more and more and it seems that the journey through the available material is endless. Each island represents a very unique history, culture and even more often: a dialect.

So during the cold evenings in Berlin, drinking the flowery moscatel and refreshing white wine from the volcanic soil of Fogo I managed to find a documentary about the Rebelados – a community that inhabits the mountain ranges of Serra da Malagueta, and refuses the catholic religion, that was historically imposed on Cabo Verde by the Portuguese colonisation that lasted until 1974. I find it particularly interesting to see the beautiful mountain landscapes and fascinating celebrations, such as batuque.

I have spent one day hiking around the Serra Malagueta range, and nearby towns such as Assomada and São Domingos, that are the centre of communication to/from Praia and Tarrafal. Also, they offer a bustling marketplaces with food, clothing and what-not. Having in mind that Cabo Verde is a remote archipelago with the majority of its population living abroad, and scarce possibilities for agriculture, many of the goods taken for granted in the Western societies, here are often a basic need to be fulfilled (such as food, or even water).

In some places rain has not appear in years. Even though Santiago is considered the island with the most tropical climate (and hence: cases of dengue, malaria and ultimately – zika are rare, but contrary to other islands of archipelago, may happen due to the presence of the mosquitos).

The magnificent views, however, and the hospitality (morabeza  – the word originating in Portuguese creole) can make up for the certain hostility of the climate on these remote islands. There is a beautiful story to it called ‘God’s powder’ (Poeira de Deus): on the 8th day after creating and sculpting the world, God threw the rest of the powder into the ocean, creating 10 islands of Cabo Verde. Believe or not, I think there is some truth in it.

 

Téra Lonji – a distant land

Music, Travel

Tired of the 2015: corporate year end’s closure, and pointless rush around Christmas festivities in Berlin, I am counting days to teleport myself to a very distant and different place: Cape Verde’s (port. Cabo Verde) island of Santiago.

Why Cape Verde? First of all, because of its creole music: morna, representing very melancholic sounds of the islands lost somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Once very strategic location given the geographical discoveries, sad history of colonialism, and slave trade. Now left remotely westbound of Africa, the art and music is depicting this lone feeling. I am very much looking forward to hunt for some rare records of yet undiscovered, powerful voices of the afrobeat.

Secondly, because of the ocean, the wind and the scorching sun. Climate of Cabo Verde might get very rough, given the strong winds blowing in this area, but I can’t imagine a better weather, especially if the waves make it perfect for the surfers.

Last but not least: for the language – the most outspoken language on Cabo Verde is crioulo (creole), and given its French and Portuguese roots, is especially interesting for me to encrypt. And so within one week I will be boarding my flight to Praia, the capital of Cabo Verde, full of the sodade e bondade (longing and goodness) feeling. Stay tuned for the stories from the Ilha de Santiago upon my arrival in January!