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.

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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!

 

 

 

All…garve pt.2: Sotavento

Travel

Following up on my post about Far Out Faro, I would love to focus on the Leeward (port. Sotavento) side of the Algarvian coast. This part of the region includes Faro itself, but also picturesque towns like Tavira, Loulé, Olhão or Vila Real do Santo António, bordering with Spain by the Guadiana river.

Leeward coast is particularly close to me, as during the time I lived in Faro, I was often visiting the neighbouring towns, as well as inland points of interest. Worth mentioning that I stayed for a couple of weeks in the village called Pechão on a volunteering service for the local communities, preparing the international part of the anual Festa. If you visit this region between spring-autumn, you will be amazed by the quantity of festas, local festivities, for different reasons: fishing season, cattle growing, and much more (and even more abstract – as there is always a good way to celebrate good times!). Many of these festivities are closely linked with the Catholic festivities (like name days of various Santos, patrons) but they incorporate a lot of ludic elements.

During my stay in Faro and Pechão, I was exposed to some very forward-thinking manifestos of the left wing activists, promoting well-being and equality on different levels. Worth mentioning that this part of Algarve is interesting for various, often borderline awkward reasons. The traditions of building bone chapels in small villages, the architecture showing years of different impact of various cultures and religions as well as food are very recommendable.

Moreover, Algarve is not only, as majority may think, the picturesque coast. Bordering with Alentejo you may find gems like Pego do Inferno, crystal clear waters waterfalls on the hilly trekking path. If you have time, I would recommend cycling around the region, as my Portugal-loving friend does it actually quite regularly!

Last but not least, you might consider taking a local ferry to several islands around Faro and Olhão where you can watch birds (including storks and flamingos!) and enjoy the remoteness. And, oh well, the sunsets… Or this dog, selling cigarettes in the local loja (port. grocery store).

If you are still not done with the beauty of the South of Portugal soon I will take you on the trip to the West side of the coast: Barlavento.

Along the western shores of Santiago

Travel

The shores of Santiago were the first to face the Portuguese colonisation in West Africa. This is why this one of the ten islands of Cabo Verdean archipelago boasts the title of the historically most relevant. Santiago has been ‘competing’ for ages with São Vicente island, given that the port in Mindelo received a lot of traffic and was an important place for encounter of many nationalities, for trade and on the way to more distant lands. Whereas the history of Santiago is often more related to searching of the cultural identity of Cabo Verde, and the rituals over there considered more connected to West Africa.

I had a chance to explore the shores that faced the colonisation, slave trade and trying to empower European, or Portuguese rules over this strategical island in the middle of the ocean back centuries ago. One of the most magical places is Ribeira Preta: a wide beach with the black, volcanic sand. To get there you need to hop on one of the colectivo trucks – forget about the safety, but don’t forget about admiring the mountain and ocean views on the winding, cobblestone road.

If you are lucky, you will notice the egg nests of the turtles, that picked this remote location for their reproductive purposes. It is now a protected area, as Cabo Verde is trying to preserve its ecological richness.

There are many fishermen villages on the way, such as Chão Bom, or Ribeira Preta itself, that are an ideal destination for the surfing and nature-seeking lovers.

Other than that, it is not too far away from the mountain side of Santiago Island, with a very interesting town of Assomada.

Last but not least, if you are in Praia, don’t miss visiting the UNESCO side of Cidade Velha (‘Old Town’) which was the first capital and port of Cabo Verde in the colonial times. You can find here the oldest road built in West Africa: the colourful Banana Street as well as Parochial Church and Cathedral.

I would like to end up the Cabo Verde saga with the memories that stay with me even after 3 months: the sound of the magnificent waves crushing on the remote shores, the smell of cachupa, the taste of wine and the sunsets over the neighbouring volcanic Fogo Island, the openness and hospitality of the locals, regardless of the poor conditions, and sound of crioulo – language, almost as gentle as the music that made its origin on this very special place on Earth. I hope to revisit these magic islands sooner or later, orbigadu e te logu, Cabo Verde!

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.

 

The thin tip or the capital of Azores

Travel

Ponta Delgada means literally ‘Thin tip’, and is a capital of the enchanting archipelago of Azores I was lucky enough to visit a few weeks ago. But don’t be mislead by the name: its airport is definitely not such a thin stripe as the one on the Madeira Island and is already pretty busy. Ponta Delgada can be reached with the direct flights from Oporto, Lisbon, London and Amsterdam, and also from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

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Since it’s the first year of having the low fare airlines operating to Azores, the question is: for how long will the islands stay so peaceful and conserve its remote charm? It is true that there are three times more cows than inhabitants of the São Miguel Island, still being the biggest one of the Azorean archipelago. There are not too many hotels, or pensions (I stayed at the Azorean Urban Lodge, and recommend this experience very much!). However, it already looks pretty welcoming and offering a great deal of the infrastructure, including organized trips, hikes and excellent cuisine to the visitors.

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Some parts of the city look pretty abandoned, given the historical emigration rate, mostly to the East Coast of the US and Canada. Some buildings revive its ‘2nd life’ though, given the art-friendly policy of the city. Don’t be surprised if you notice some popular mural painters’ art on a random backyard street. Or if you see the endemite trees imported from the New Zealand during the colonial times. Expect the unexpected!

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Nature and art, in a peaceful cohabitance, make Ponta Delgada a very special place. Be it Rainha das Bifanas (‘The queen of the beef sandwiches’ – very popular Portuguese dish), the ‘Lion King of Football’ (very popular house decoration) or a fancy mural. This coexistence of different styles, climate (be prepared for weather changing few times per day) and cultures makes this town very special, and hope that this will stay so charming regardless of the massive tourism knocking at its door.

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