Cabo de Gata – the sun, the moon and the sea

Travel

Craving for tranquility in August is a huge challenge and I believe this year most of the places saw the exponential surge in visitors, as the humanity craved holiday destinations. Paradoxically, the search of the tranquility for many of us cramped also typically quiet, rural spots. Since I have been changing jobs, making sure to leave one ship prepared to sail further and setting the sails for the next one’s course, planning our time off has been more of a spontaneous luck charm. The in between personal destination has been set for Cabo de Gata.

Known for arid, out-of-this-planet landscapes, hundreds of more or less accessible beaches, low-key caravan destination and warm, crystalline waters, Cabo de Gata still attracts thousands of travelers – mostly from around Spain, but occasional German, or French road trip aficionados can be spotted.

We stayed at the rural hotel with little-to-none Internet and mobile coverage, in the middle of the desert, overlooking the sleepy seaside village and the lighthouse. There was only one restaurant to go to, opening late at night within the 2 km of walking trail distance. There was nothing better than the walk at the sunset as well as the return in the moonlight. The smell of the volcanic, dry soil reminded me a lot of places like Canary Islands, Guadix or Atacama Desert.

Driving around the area is a sheer pleasure, especially in the morning light passing through the sleepy towns, and villages. It is worth mentioning that if the area was not protected as a national park, it would soon become a ‘sea of plastic’. Not for the pollution, but for the production. Named as one of the Netflix series Mar de Plastico describes hundreds of kilometers of the plantations in Granada, Almeria, and Murcia’s coastal provinces where the most of the produce eaten out by the European population is grown nowadays. As the area suffers from substantial water shortages, Spain is leading the way of making the most of it, using the tropical humidity and GMO to be the most sustainable in feeding the rest of the continent 365 days per year.

 

We stayed in the area of Los Escullos, famous for its oolic dunes, similar as I have once seen in the Northern part of Taiwan. The sunlight changing into moonlight in such a cosmic scenery adds to the magic, similarly as the distant calls of skylarks, cooing of the Iberian quails, and chirps of various cricket species.

The variety of fish, the plants consisting of the Mediterranean forest impressed us a lot. We even tried fried ortiguillas del mar – fried algae species typical for other remote places, like Flores where I managed to eat a similar treat. The most beautiful part of it was to observe the water plants floating freely serving the school of fish to hide and feed themselves, too! We also shared a dormitory with a friendly gecko who saved us from the tiger mosquitos.

I prefer not to name the beaches we visited, to keep the memories and places private and secret. Some of them still have remnants of the unfortunate yachts who caught a storm, and vast parking spots which are already crowded during the summer season. Some of them are rocky, some of them have pristine white sand. I don’t think Cabo de Gata needs more visitors, quite the opposite, to keep it sustainable. It is a very raw place for the nature lovers and not those who queue up for the Instagram / TikTok pose on the vulnerable oolic dune, or brag about shooting the hares, or quails. The respect for the environment, and its fragility shows up in a full scope in such a place – let’s make sure we preserve it, not even stepping outside of the sandy path when snorkeling with friendly species. I will probably return, but off the season, enjoying the total remoteness and disconnection, not even 3 hours drive from home.

Daylight saving time

Personal

I made it to another springtime! Back in a day, living up East/North, advancing clocks on the last weekend of March announced the long-awaited arrival of longer days, more light and beautiful spring/summer feeling around the corner. Even if snow in April/May is nothing uncommon these days in Berlin or Poland, the ritual of a time change was sacred to me almost like the Rite of Spring by Stravinsky. I feel like this transition is much more celebrated by the folks born under a dramatic weather where you never know what to expect. Now, living under more sunny hemisphere where winters look more like springtime, the passage is less dramatic nor awaited, I can’t help but be happier of having more daylight in the evenings. Even more so, after not being able to fully experience the spring last year, due to a home confinement during the first wave of COVID-19 in Spain, this year it makes me wanna dance like the finest Pina Bausch dancers to experience the beauty of it to its fullest. 

This year, still going through various levels of lockdown restrictions, one thing which was not taken away is the possibility of long walks and bike rides within the vicinity. Whenever the restrictions are lifted outside of the province level, I explore the long bike rides, too. Something which I tried last month are more strenuous rides uphill along Costa del Sol, equally satisfying though. Found the magic trick not known to me before – not trying to climb up the same velocity as I use at the plains xD That’s me, always trying to go for the record speed. Also, I managed to find some hidden coastal trails alongside the rocky ‘calas’ of Torrequebrada all the way to Torreblanca, where I can enjoy walking slooowly. Especially if combined with exploring the local and exotic restaurants! I am so happy the opening hours for the gastronomy have expanded this month too.  

Some aficionados of refreshing water try snorkeling and sea baths already – I haven’t been that adventurous yet. I can’t wait to paddle surf again and come back to yachting, too. So far I’ve started with more physical activity on a daily basis. It is hard not to be active when in Malaga! Taking it day by day, step by step at a time, I feel like the fight against the COVID-19 game is unlocking the superpowers to: avoid the virus/not ruin the economy/progress against the infection rate/stay mentally ‘OK-ish’. Quoting almost line by line Roy Ayers, I find myself awaiting for this sweet awakening… 

The daylight in my life is brought by various aspects: apart from keeping the basics of keeping the physical activity/sleep, not compromising on the relationships – both with the closest and more distant ones, only due to the current pandemic circumstances. There have been highlights as well as bringing an acoustic piano home after almost 20 years of living like a nomad without a proper one thanks to my partner’s passion. Hearing those Chopin/Debussy/Rachmaninov notes once again from this beautiful instrument can’t help but make me happy. So, the daylight saving time and daylight in life is here to stay, against all odds. Because, guess what, everybody loves the sunshine! 

Tarifa treasures

Travel

September is one of my favourite months in Spain. Not only loud children come back to school and create less havoc everywhere, but also temperatures drop to a perfect 28-30 Celcius degrees, making it a perfect timing for staying at the beach, biking and exploring the nearby treasures. In this blog post I want to write a little bit about my escape to the Southernmost tip of Spain at the Gibraltar Strait: Tarifa.

Even though the summer has been marked heavily by COVID-19 and the second wave, I try to resume my usual activities: hiking, staying in the nature and exploring the nearby landscapes of Andalucia. Actually, I have enjoyed less tourists and crowds in the region, making it more accessible and enjoyable for the local residents.

I spent just a few days in Tarifa, staying in a small village of Pozuelo, about 3,5 kms walking next to a natural reservoir, formed by the Ocean tides and creeks coming from the nearby hills. I chose it because of the remote feeling, listening mostly to the migrating birds and the wind, famous among the surfers from all over the place.

Tarifa is famous for its impecably white, sand beaches and watersports. Playa de los Lances is one of the broadest and most spectacular ones, from my humble beachtesting perspective.

There are still some bunker remains and a lot of former battery stations all over Tarifa – a literal entry point to the Iberian Peninsula. Nowadays the coast of Cadiz is also one of the entry for the migrants from all the North Africa, and Spain being one of the countries welcoming the biggest number of refugees, after all.

War-torn, Moorish and postcolonial past is present almost at almost every step of the little town of Tarifa. Also, the town blossoms with a lot of green squares and hidden gardens, thanks to the horticultural thought of the Moorish predecessors.

This summer has been strange and the town seemed half-empty, half-crowded at the same time, as only some of the restaurants and shops opened during pandemic, creating a congestion of visitors. This is why I haven’t spent too much time in the town itself, and preferred observing the life of birds, bugs and kites outside of Tarifa. Each year the town even hosts a birdwatching series of events, welcoming thousands of birds migrating between the European and African continent.

I found peace and rest after a very intense period of work at home this year, not to mentioned confinement, walking miles every day and enjoying being outside. The local cuisine consisting of mostly 0 km food, such as tuna and its parts in various combinations and plethora of fish was delicious and I can’t wait to return to this paradise sometime soon.

Feliz Malaga!

Personal

I am ending this year on a very positive note. It wasn’t the easiest and it was also a life-changing year yet everything seems to have gone well at the end. I am very happy I spent the last days of 2019 among my nearest and dearest in my new home: Malaga.

For a start, I have avoided seasonal light deprivation and for a change, I am amazed by the fantastic, relatively long and sunny days, impressive sunrises and sunsets and festive lights in the night. Secondly, and this is already the practice from many previous years, I signed out from the Christmas consumptionism and craziness. The craziest being listening to local, traditional Christmas carols which was a profoundly heart-touching experience. With my dearests we reject presents and we gift each other with quality time, cooking food we like or visiting new places to eat out as well as going to classical music concerts. This is so much more memorable than spending money on gifts no one really needs or expects. For a change, you create prevalent memories.

Weather in Malaga helps staying active, for instance enjoying long walks and sports at the beach. It is obviously fun to watch overly enthusiastic tourists laying on the beach in bikinis or taking a plunge in the Mediterranean Sea. Yet, I can understand it, if you come from a sun-deprived country and want to make the most of it. I can say the record high during Christmas was about 24-25 degrees Celcius.

I have been working all these days, but at my own pace, often taking breaks to take care of myself and my loved ones, which is my mom and my partner. For the past weeks I’ve done most of my health check ups and I am so glad to find out I am healthier than ever and feeling energized. I feel very accomplished professionally, I am proud of having built an amazing, high performing and healthy team and looking forward for more to come in 2020. Also, to taking holidays and recharging more often, which kept me healthy so far as well.

Last but not least, I want to share my love, happiness and energy with everyone else who may lack it in this turning point of the month, year, or decade. I have been there and there are always a brighter days coming up. I didn’t plan anything special for tonight, as last night I spent a lovely evening with friends and I don’t feel I need to do anything else this year, I already feel great with all that happened.

2020 plan? Again, nothing special to ask for and still, so much to ask from yourself. Staying on the right trajectory with my North Star being: wellness (in all its aspects), integrity, love for the closest ones and for the rest of the universe, keeping the mind sharp and open for whatever is about to come.

On a closing note, attaching one of my favourite mixes coming from 2015 New Year’s set at Plastic People coming from Floating Points and Four Tet ❤

 

Nueva vida

Personal

For those who have been reading my dribbles for some time, you might have noticed how much I missed the sea, the warmth, and the South. Last month I’ve made a turn and relocated back to Spain, after a long process of preparation. I would like to walk you through my n-th relocation in life, and probably the most complex one.

The complexity comes from the fact that I was indeed very torn between how lucky I am living in Berlin, the centre of the modern cultural world, being in a very comfortable position in one of the stellar music companies and with a loving boyfriend living quite a similar scenario in his industry. We’ve just moved in together to a place we made so much ‘ours’, yet we knew that our rent will not go for much longer than one year. This is where the first cracks started to spoil the image of perfect happiness. Was it really? Housing situation, even if you are pretty well-off, is dramatic in Berlin AD 2019. There’s simply too many people attracted to this city and too little space for them to live in, which makes the market ultra competitive. The cost of living rises, but obviously this is not met with the salaries. The companies come and go, or at least make you go through pretty harsh twists and turns, and there’s no such thing like stability offered anymore. You notice you work more hours or at least think and talk about work all the time. Your friends as well. You’re quite lucky if you manage to see them once in a month, even the closest ones. The winter lasts for about nine months – and it’s not the cold that makes you so miserable, it’s the lack of light, the constant greyness. Last but not least, it’s gloomy. Even if you love the black colour, the sadness of jazz, after 5 years it starts to affect you. Is this how I imagine my life to be for the upcoming couple of years? Do I have to spend my weekends flying down to Spain, Portugal or Italy and polluting the planet instead of just… relocating back? I couldn’t help but trying to plot how could this look like, if it happened for real.

I started tucking myself and preparing a plan. I need a job, which would be comparibly attractive with what I have, but offering more growth, preferably in a less gentrified place than Berlin or Barcelona, where life is somewhat easier and more pleasant. Where I speak the language good enough to understand the context and culture, and which makes me smile, not felt misunderstood. Where I can watch the sea and hike in the mountains. Where I can predict the weather will be sunny for most of the year. Magically, a person from my network tells me there’s a very good opportunity in Malaga, in a company that is investing a lot into their employees and is technically speaking, fantastic. I am pretty surprised that my scenario can be true, but would it hurt trying? I test the waters and enjoy conversing with my potential future leader, and in two weeks from then I am invited together with my boyfriend to spend a few days in the city to get the feeling how is it in January (the coldest month of the year, around 20 degrees during the day and sunny) and get to know more people from the company. At this point we really enjoy our time in Malaga, but don’t think that this would seriously happen… until I get the offer. With a relocation package and guarantee that my boyfriend would be able to settle down with me without the necessity of finding a new gig from the start, but to live life a bit slower, mindful while learning Spanish and focusing on his projects. My job sounds exactly as I wanted: a step up, with great degree of vision and strategy. We decide to make the move and then the process only starts. 3 months to go. We are as excited as scared.

As it happens with unexpected twists and turns in life, no one really expected us to relocate to Malaga. They would bet on Barcelona, Lisbon, maybe Valencia or Oporto which are considered more ‘modern’. We leave our comfort zone greatly, and face the initial disapproval coming from the family, which is simply worried about us going so drastically further away than Berlin or friends who see us as these cool guys who would die out of boredom on Costa del Sol. Not all of them though, some see it as a great opportunity. They just need some time to understand this decision and support us through the change. My Mom goes, in parallel, through another transformational time, selling out our family house and settling down in a flat in the centre of the city, to be more connected with friends and family, to cut down the costs and be able to travel and enjoy life more. I feel I will be missing her a lot (now being away by just 2,5 hours on the train) and worry how this will all go. I also talk a lot with my boyfriend, how different our life will be and how we can support each other. I feel we grow stronger through this process and that I have never loved him more than now.

At the same time, we create a project management tool to go through the shlepp of: resigning from work, from the flat, cancelling all the running contracts in Germany, finding a transportation company, deciding what to take with, sell the remaining things, look for the new tenants, and paperwork that sees no end. Finally, saying countless goodbyes to our friends, probably the most emotional part of letting go off an important chapter. Until the last day I can’t actually let the tears go by, but then I burst at every single memory from that important period of my life. Our flat is completely empty, after having packed the full truck with our stuff, and we have 6 suitcases to take onboard the flight. The day has come, it’s 31st May 2019.

The flight is blissful and the stress goes away, we are ready for the new adventure. The partner from the relocation company picks us up from the airport in Malaga and lets us into our temporary flat prepared by the company, where we will spend the next three months. There’s even a fridge prepared for us so that we don’t have to worry about the groceries, I feel really embraced. We spend our first weekend in between our favourite restaurants, the beach and hiking through the nearby mountains. I can’t be happier, but I am aware this is a part of the cultural shock and that difficult days may come up. At work I feel extremely welcome and trusted from day one. As agreed, I get a great sense of responsibilities and my ideas are very embraced. We get to know first people, both expats and Spaniards, and the friends and family we left behind are starting to plan the visits. We found our flat! We will move in on September 1st to a more residential neighbourhood where we’ll be still quite close to the centre and the sea at the same time, but further away from the tourist traps (that’s probably the most disappointing part of the relocation, but that calls for another topic).

It’s been over 3 weeks now and in the meantime, we note everything in our physical notebooks, day by day, not to lose the sense of the process. There are great days and more challenging ones, but I start noting the change in how I walk, breathe and talk. It’s been almost 5 years writing this blog and Berlinering, at the same time, and I am looking for a new way of expression, might be a longer form at some point.

So far, I can only say that I am surprisingly at peace.

 

A rota da Felicidade – Costa Vicentina

Personal, Travel

If happiness is nature, ocean breeze on the cheeks and tranquility, I claim I have found it. Costa Vicentina is located in the South-Western part of Portugal and since many years it has been one of my favourite destinations in the world. It is still (!) not as popular and accessible as Algarve located in the south of the country and is a great destination for those who enjoy the nature, and powerful, jaw-dropping views while hiking. Not to mention surfing, which comes without saying as a consequence of such a landscape.

This year I’ve spent some time in Portugal, namely in Lisbon for work and life balance purposes in November. Weather around this time of the year can be surprising, if not hazardous and indeed, on the last day of my stay there were severe floodings and strong winds devastating almost all country including the capital. Staying connected to the weather warnings, I decided to travel to the south where the impact was not foreseen, at least for a day.

I took a national bus line from Lisbon to Lagos, calling at various sleepy towns of the Alentejo region. My first stop was in Porto Covo, a picturesque village south of Sines, known recently for a dispute against the petroleum investment, potentially destructive not only for the human but all the living species in the region. Porto Covo is the best example why such initiative should never happen – where the locals decorate the houses, palms and other vegetation and truly care for preserving their little paradise. I was very moved by the view of the colourful, winter sweaters embracing the plants, that may indeed feel cold during the Atlantic winter.

After a brief, 30 minutes stop the bus continued its journey further south, passing by vast, sandy beaches, and dramatic views of the National Park of Alentejo.

This region – famous for offering the out of this planet’s ocean landscape, but also fantastic wine, olives and cork. On the top of that, Alentejo can be discovered solely by foot. There are two hiking routes of approximately 250 kms each alongside the coast, or the interior. On the way one can discover natural and historic wonders, and encounter various animals (especially bird species, as I have spotted peregrine falcons, seagulls and jays struggling in the gust of ocean wind).

On that particular gloomy Sunday, I’ve taken a 12 km stroll around Zambujeira do Mar, another seaside town with breathtaking views. Contrary to the weather, while walking around Zambujeira, I noticed: a bunch of friendly people asking if I needed direction, street named for happiness and was welcomed and entertained by a very cheerful waitress in the local tasca. She was notably enjoying her work, unlike in the places where tourism is massive and overwhelming to everyone and offered be probably the best prato do dia I’ve had in a while.

Now, sitting next to the SAD lamp, my loyal companion during the winter months, I already fantasise about returning there, possibly planning a semi-active hiking trip from one winery to another in the upcoming year, combining physical activity with hedonistic pleasure. And I’d call it A Rota da Felicidade (The Happiness Route).

 

To the South – Greek Macedonia & Chalkidiki

Travel

Last month I visited Thessaloniki, a capital of the Greek region Macedonia for the Polish-Greek wedding of my cousin, and took an opportunity to discover the peninsula of Chalkidiki.

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Since I’ve already traveled to Thessaloniki two years ago, and did a very intense city sightseeing, I focused mostly on the earthly pleasures of this place: food and wine tasting all day; simply relaxing in the shadow, or observing the multicoloured sunsets from the cafés located on the Leorofos Nikis boulevard next to the city harbour.

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The district I spent the most time was Ladadika – the heart of the nightlife, and the culinary heaven of the city.

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After the festive celebration of the wedding, which was particularly interesting due to the multicultural mix of the guests and ceremony, I decided to opt for a few days of blissful rest at the peninsula of Chalkidiki, often recalled as the ‘three fingers/legs’: Kassandra, Sithonia and Agion Oros.

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I initially wanted to discover the third ‘finger’: Agion Oros, an autonomous region with a magnificent Mt. Athos. Unfortunately, I was a victim of the tradition and my own gender, as till this date, women are not permitted to land on that particular peninsula due to strict beliefs of the monastery’s residents located there.

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Kassandra was still fuelled by tourists but nevertheless, it was a perfect spot for chill out. I stayed in the town of Pefkochori known for one of the best beaches on the peninsula, and some of the best selection of seafood restaurants.

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Towards the end of my stay, peaceful waters turned overnight into stormy waves and I could sense the season’s changing – it was already time to travel back to Berlin. The big blue painting of the sky and the sea stayed with me to survive the colder months of the year though.

L’usage du monde à Bordeaux

Travel

 

Last year, while visiting my friend Maria in Lisbon we had a chat about the usual topics we have on our minds: sustainable travel (not to mistake for tourism), languages and literature. She recommended me a book which I devoured with a great pleasure: ‘L’usage du monde‘ by Nicolas Bouvier.

It actually touched upon all these topics and provided a lot of guidance on how to discover the world with respect, quite contrary to the title meaning ‘Using the world’. I’d like to come back in time and describe briefly my last year’s stay in Bordeaux, and reconnect with my ‘French period’. I studied French literature for a few semesters and spent some time discovering the country and its language.

 

My first blog ever, after my summer stay as a intern in the South of France contains of quite a lot of travel, music and cinematic inspirations. Some of it I can’t recall very well these days or am ashamed of writing those days, but leave it up there for the sake of literary honesty and smoky traces.

After many years, I decided to travel to France again to visit the Aquitaine coastline and the city of Bordeaux, famous for its 18th century architecture, fantastic cuisine and wine. Some of the things that I enjoy the most in life (especially when it comes to red wines like Merlot, Malbec or Carmenère – all present in the region of Bordeaux).

The city, divided by the river Garonne has an entry basin to the ocean, so it is often visited by various cruisers – both those that came through the river (often as far as Switzerland or Germany) or Atlantic route. Along the river there are a plenty of cafés, restaurants, concert halls and sport spots. It feels very egalitarian for various age groups and classes: it’s neither too bourgeoise, not too rough.

The area of Chartrons neighbourhood is full of interesting street art. As for the museums, no one should miss the City of Wine, and the contemporary museum: CAPC. Aside from that, Bordeaux feels spacious and not overly crowded by tourists, even during the summer season.

Bordeaux is a perfect city to discover on foot, by bike or convenient and fairly cheap public transport: buses and trams. When speaking French, I felt very encouraged to chat at a pretty much any occasion, quite opposite to my first harsh experiences in Paris.

When tired of the cityscape, within an 1-2 hours train drive’s reach, there are also natural spots like the highest European dune: Dune du Pilat, breathtaking Atlantic coast beaches and cute seaside towns.

Having spent four days only, I could only touch upon the beauty of Bordeaux, the palate of its wine, but already promised myself to return to France soon. Coming back to speaking has been easier for me than learning German, although I have to admit the relative difficulty among these two languages stays similar to me. À bientôt!

Gone with the wind in Galicia

Travel

Last month I travelled to the North-West of Spain, Galicia, to disconnect with the hustle and bustle of the city. On the way, I have stopped in my beloved Barcelona to spend some time in the city with my friends, and eventually I was speaking at a conference there. That’s why I needed to reconnect with nature and inner peace of mind so much. It was the second time around that area for me, and this time I visited Vigo, Islas Cíes and Finisterre (Fisterra in Galego).

Vigo was initially meant to be only a stopover location on the way to Cíes Islands, but I decided to stay longer. Partly because it is an absolutely non-touristic location, partly because it offers extraordinary foodie experience and last but not least, its industrial history fascinated me.

As a city of slightly over 300 thousand inhabitants, it offers e.g. four gourmet star restaurants. Besides such a luxury, one can afford a very decent quality of life, however, the problem is that well-educated youth is leaving the city quite soon. Nowadays it seems empty and derelict at times, even though it has some good technical universities. Located only about 100 km North from Porto, a rising star of the European innovation scene, I bet it may become an interesting hub in a few years as well.

After visiting Vigo, I was anxious about the ferry trip to Cíes Islands. It offers only seasonal connection by ferry (from May till September) and as it is a natural park, one have to apply for the permit to land from the Galician Government in advance.

I was told about these mysterious Atlantic Islands close to the Spanish coast by a friend who used to live in Portugal and summarized it as a truly paradisiac destination (cielo in Spanish means ‘heaven’, hence Cíes Islands means ‘Heavenly Islands’). Since I’m craving for remote places, it was quite high on my priority list of destinations to visit.

I’ve chosen to spend a whole day hiking around the island – in between climbing up the rocks, I also rested at the empty Caribbean-like beaches. I have to admit though that at times, this was far from a remote place. Even though May is only a start of the season to visit and I can imagine the peak of the tourism happens later in the summer.

Still, the government does its best to limit the number of visitors and prevents from destroying the natural habitat of the island. I was reminded many times, by squeaking seagulls, that these islands are primarily their home, not humans’.

In the pictures above, it is made quite clear, how many of them are nesting on the Heavenly Islands and how easily it is to destroy their homes. I always travel being respectful for the others earthly creatures, and try to limit my impact on their development.

After visiting this heavenly place, I took the road alongside the Western shores of Galicia aka Costa da Morte, towards ‘The end of the World’, Fisterra in Galego language, or Finisterre in Spanish.

The end of the world is the Westernmost Peninsula that attracts plenty of pilgrims and reflects on the Medieval symbolics of the end of the earthly lives. Back in a day, they believed that behind the dreadful waves of the Atlantic Ocean, there is a place that devilish creatures live.

Avoiding the brutally commercialized town centre, I focused on exploring the particular architecture and romantically derelict villages. I discovered the meaning of hórreo – a popular granary raised above the ground on mushroom-looking pillars that prevented rodents from stealing the crops, typical for North of Spain and Portugal. They prevailed till now and are often kept in the gardens, not only as a decoration.

Another peculiar thing observed at this relative end of the world is the cemetery, designed by a famous modernist architect César Portela. Taking into consideration a location: not without reason named as Costa da Morte (Death Coast), its resemblance of the final destination, between the light of the sea and the sun, it inspired to place a project of a communal cemetery.

It is currently abandoned, even though it won a prize in 2003. I was very moved by the philosophy of the light and location of the project and hope it will come to life one day.

At the end of the old world, Europe’s lunge into an immense sea of freedom, I felt very alive. Pensive, thrilled by the views, sounds and tastes I discovered in this one week, I am fully recharged and ready for the summer madness to come.

 

 

 

 

Ilha de Faial – encounters in the middle of the Atlantic

Travel

This month I would like to look back at the island which attracts thousands of wandering sailors in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean: Faial.

It’s located in the central archipelago of Azores and it takes roughly half an hour to get there from Madalena on the island of Pico. If you are lucky, you can see a disapperaing tip of the volcano as you cross to Faial. Or dolphins and whales alongside your boat!

I spent a couple of days on Faial, namely in its capital: Horta and on the North-Western tip of the island in the romantic bay of Valadouro, known for its natural lava pools, lonely lighthouses and dramatic coastline leading to the Capelinhos volcano.

Since this is an island of encounters, as a solo traveller I had so much luck meeting extraordinary people in various parts of the island, mostly while hitch-hiking. Digital nomads from Poland, refugees of the hi-fi civilization reconnecting with nature and living the life in accordance to minimalism/simplicity philosophy, sailors seeing the land for the first time in weeks or retired Azoreans returning from life-long migration in Canada or East Coast of the USA. I also had a chance to bump into some of my fellow travellers hopping the islands like me, only in a different order.

During the time I stayed in Horta, there was a local festival called Semana do Mar, one of the most attended festivities on the archipelago. There I witnessed the relativity of what’s exotic: one of the most surprising attraction was to watch Slovakian traditional dances, something I found pretty surreal to see in the middle of the Atlantic. Everyone else seemed pretty amused though.

Horta offers lively bar nightlife, with its famous gin & tonic at Peter’s Bar – a legendary sailor’s spot for encounters in the middle of the ocean. To be honest, its gin & tonic tasted exactly the same like anywhere else on Faial, the only difference was the spirit many sea life stories or adventures which are told on a daily basis at it’s counter.

However, the cruising ship’s marina is not to forget. Thousands of paintings on its piers, done by the sailing crews from all over the world tell stories of distant travels, sea adventures and their original destinations. It was very emotional to me to see Berliner, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish or Brazilian paintings being so far away from my ‘homes’.

Porto Pim in Horta offers a wide, white-sand beach and plenty of bars or restaurants, and is a great place to chill out after a whole day of (hitch)hiking and gin-tonic tasting.

Unfortunately, I haven’t made it to the great caldeira – a crater in the middle of the island, given that I lacked not only time, but also food and water necessary to complete this 20 kms hike. I went on alongside the Westernmost coastline to the Capelinhos where one can walk at the verge of the volcano remnants and go underneath an impressive and interactive museum dedicated to… volcanos, lighthouses and planets, alongside with the geothermal history of Azores. I found this combination interesting at the beginning, but later it all made sense to me. Maybe it should be called a Principezinho (port. ‘Little Prince”) museum.

At the end of my stay, I met various artists from the local Sociedade Filarmônica preparing for the annual parade in Horta. They all spent long days practicing their repertoire and choosing the clothes representing their local communities. I was very impressed during the whole journey, how important was to preserve local music, dances and craft on these remote and distant islands.

After spending a few days on Faial, my longest journey was about to set off: I was boarding a ship which goes only once in 2 weeks during the high season to the paradisiac island of Flores. It was delayed and the storm was kicking in. The last chapter of my Azorean journey in 2017 will be continued in 2018…