Meet me halfway, in Aveiro

Personal, Travel

I’ve been to Aveiro for the first time in 2007 during my very first trip to Portugal. It caught my attention as I was staying in Oporto and it was accessible by a regional train pretty easily. Worth mentioning that I was poor as a church mouse and the only reason I could afford it was due to saving my scholarship award money for months in order to buy the Eurail ticket. It would allow me to travel around Europe for 21 days using most of the train service. For the rest of the time, I was volunteering at an archeological site in the literal middle of nowhere, in the most rural (and authentic!( part of Portugal: Beira Alta, as I was craving for some manual, physical work in the sun, after spending a whole year studying clinical psychology and linguistics.

I recall a sunny, windy day; colourful houses and azulejos around canals and lagoons – thinking of a funny fusion of Portugal and the Netherlands. It was a day trip and I’ve enjoyed a beer in the sun with way too many tremosos – salty, marinated and thirst-inducing beans served often to create a drinking loop.

 

Fast forward 11 years later, I spontaneously found myself in Aveiro again. This time thanks to my partner’s sister who happened to be in Portugal around the same time we were. As she travelled to Oporto, and we were in Lisbon, we decided to meet halfway in Aveiro to enjoy a Sunday funday together. Not that Berlin and Warsaw are completely different and separated worlds, but why not meeting in Portugal for a change.

Contrary to 2007, it was the most rainy, springtime day and we couldn’t really explore the lagoons or take a gondola ride on the canals (although the obscene pictures on the boats were promising some great adventures!). Thankfully though we had a few indoor recommendations and bumped into a very friendly bistro, offering vegetarian treats, which is not a common standard in Portugal. As a foreign and exotic language speaking group and myself bringing a strange Portuguese Brazilian/mixed accent, we were getting some attention, and the locals were even showing us the mobile app on how to rate and match table wines. Despite the rain, it was definitely a Sunday funday family reunion in the middle of nowhere, and I would definitely repeat such an experience.

This month we’ll be traveling around Galicia in Spain, something I was looking forward to for a very long time, visiting Islas Cies, and Finisterre aka the medieval End of the World. I plan a few more extreme getaways this and next year too, so I hope to keep you posted regularly with some new content.

 

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Águas de Março em Funkhaus

Music

This month I’d like to feature an exceptional event which I had a chance to participate in Berlin’s emblematic concert hall, Funkhaus. Since last weekend marked the first spring days (at least in theory) after a long and dark winter, celebrating this fact with Brazilian music, and authentic caipirinhas, felt like the most adequate thing to do!

Berlin’s Funkhaus curates some of the most amazing concert sessions since good couple of years, and I am a regular guest returning for the wide variety of top-notch music makers they showcase, from techno to bossanova.

I was delighted to sit in a front row in front of the artists who made such an impact and influenced the years of MPB, as Funkhaus offers a very intimate stage experience if only you wish to come as close. The event was connected to a broader charity campaign for the cause of saving the Amazon forest, and contained of Daniel’s and Paulo Jobim’s band together with Vanessa da Mata who rarely have a chance to play together. It gave the show a very spontaneous friends & family jam feeling.

Once again I am thankful to be in Berlin, thousands of miles away from one of my favourite places I once lived in, and be able to experience Brazilian culture at its finest. With Águas de Março in this part of the world, I am very happy to welcome the brighter, sunnier and hopefully warmer days to come when Berlin changes its face and becomes more of an open air carnival festival.

Thirsty for sunlight, happiness and positive vibes I announce the springtime has arrived with the sounds of MPB! Even if we’re still to experience snow, and crazy climate changes throughout the year. Which makes us only reflect more about our place on Earth, how we treat it and how we can make the most of our local place we live in. Which is a different topic, so I’ll let the music speak.

Oranges in the winter – a short trip to Valencia

Music, Travel

I’ve been to Valencia for the first time over winter holidays, when I still used to live in Barcelona. This year I came back to this beautiful place, as I was invited to participate in the Berklee College of Music panel for re-envisioning careers in the entertainment industry.

Since winters in the part of Europe I’m living in can be particularly bleak, dark and long, an escape in January to the Mediterranean city was a bliss.

Valencia is a vibrant, yet smaller and less tourism-fueled city 300 km South from Barcelona, bridging a historical part with a modern architecture and initiatives.

In the 80’s it was an important place for the birth of rave and techno scene in Spain, following La Movida art movement. (In)famous for the Ruta Destroy, or Ruta del Bakalao, Valencia set the tone for the future of Spanish scene alongside Ibiza, Barcelona or Madrid.

Berklee College of Music shares its location with the Opera House of Valencia, and it’s quite common to spot people like Placido Domingo on its monumental corridors.

I was lucky enough to be shown Berklee’s interior and DJing and recording studios, as well as participated in the cultural programme including concerts, jam sessions with artists like Patrice Rushen.

Although it was a pretty intense business trip, I took some time to stroll around the streets of Valencia, enjoy the intense blue of the sky and the rays of sun, while the oranges were blossoming and the spring was in the air at the beginning of January.

While writing this now, it’s -11 degrees Celcius in Berlin, I’m living my dream working for the music tech industry and enjoy the occasional travel to exciting places like this.

Having an opportunity to connect with exciting composers, founders of Sonar Festival and Live Nation, chatting in Spanish I do realise though how fertile is the ground for creativity in places like Valencia.

 

Tres dias na Terceira

Travel

After visiting São Miguel – the biggest island of Azores, I promised to myself I will return one day to discover the rest of this incredibly beautiful and remote archipelago. This year I had enough time off to plan a trip around five other islands: Terceira, São Jorge, Pico, Faial and Flores. I took thousands of photos and collected unforgettable memories which I will hopefully share in the course of the forthcoming weeks. I will start with Terceira, which was the first (and not the Third – as its Portuguese name says!) island I visited this year.

How did I get there? Terceira, similarly to São Miguel, opened up its runway to cheap airlines and is one of the connecting airports if you want to go to the more remote parts of Azores with their local provider: SATA. It’s fairly well connected with mainland Portugal, as well as USA and Canada. Aviation is very well developed around Azores, since the sailing conditions may be too hazardous during the winter season.

The closest town next to the airport (‘aerogare‘ in Azorean dialect) is Praia da Vitória, a lively and probably the most touristic municipality, with a wide, white sand beach. I was lucky enough to take part of the Festas da Praia, famous festivity around the month of August. Some of the highlights were traditional touradas, gourmet food fair offering tastes of the Atlantic cuisine and folk dances from all over the world (for some reason Eastern European bands were very popular this year!). I later learned that I could spot similar kind of parties on each and every island I visited. This one is pretty big though, apparently!

I drove around the coastline of Terceira and stayed in the lovely town next to the capital: Angra do Heroismo (‘The Bay of the Heroism’). As the UNESCO World Heritage site, Angra is full of history, nature and culture (and stunning street art too!). One can easily spend two days just walking around sites like Monte Brasil, the largest crater mountain with the green caldeira transformed into an open air amphitheatre these days, or winding, colourful streets, botanic gardens and drink cafezinhos (tasty and famous Portuguese espresso) in the local pastelerias.

I stayed at one of the Portuguese youth hostels branch: Pousada da Juventude which is one of the best accommodation options around the country. The quality/price ratio is amazing, and the best thing is that if you travel alone – as I often do, you can meet like-minded travellers and exchange tips/share transportation/simply meet interesting souls. Since it’s not the most crowded place on Earth though often, you can find yourself alone with your thoughts (if you don’t count in the cows which are all over the place!), looking at the most stunning sunsets, listening to the waves and the sounds of the marine birds: cagarros. 

On the northern coast of Terceira, there is a natural lava pool site, Biscoitos. It was one of the first ones I visited and I loved the natural sustainability concept: high waves enter the basins where everyone can peacefully swim and enjoy the fresh Atlantic waters.

It was here where I tried one of the Azorean treats for the palate too: lapas grelhadas, a species of grilled oysters, and enjoyed some fresh kiwi/avocados/maracujã desserts. I have a guilty pleasure of visiting the bars at the end of the world, so I also made friends at a local motorcycle club. Guess, if it turned out we have some friends in common in a small town of Algarve!

Since Azores are made for the travellers who are not afraid of constant weather changes, including very strong winds, the following day I experienced mist/rain/sun change spells every couple of minutes and it was actually an amazing weather for the hike around the natural park of Serreta.

Serreta offers hiking trails around the dense Atlantic forest, hidden lakes and panoramic views (when the mist is gone), as well as some hidden treasures like duck fountains in the middle of nowhere.

Even though I heard that Terceira is becoming increasingly touristic and is not as ‘wild’ as the other islands, it impressed me greatly. I stayed there for three days in August and there were days I met no one at the hiking trail. Elsewhere, the people I met were incredibly respectful for the nature, and the local community. Let’s preserve it this way!

During my last hours waiting for the boat to take me to São Jorge, I hang around Angra, tried local specialty: alcatra (try it only if you love meat… and meat only) and found a book that marked the rest of my journey: Homer’s Odyssey.

Then I boarded Gilberto Mariano boat and sailed through the windy Atlantic Ocean for the first time, which was quite an experience itself. Soon to be continued.

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.

 

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.

 

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!

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.