Goodbye, hello

Personal

Be careful what you wish for. Or otherwise, be grateful for whatever comes your way. I am not really in a mood to comment on the reality, summarizing 2020 or opening 2021 with big thoughts, as I really, truly don’t know how to put it in words, or what to expect. Instead, I would like to share some reflections from the past weeks when I took time off and spent it among the people I love.

First of all, my mom managed to arrive to Malaga safe, sound and with a negative PCR result, of course, while I have imposed on myself self-quarantine about 10 days prior to her arrival. Comparing to the gloom, cold, and loneliness she would face in Poland, as due to COVID-19 she has not seen a single friend nor family member in 3 months, we both decided that the weighed risk is worth taking, within keeping all the possible safety boundaries. In this 3 months’ period of time she had also suffered an unfortunate accident, broken a few bones and managed to recover fully which made me so proud about how brave and strong she is. We cried with joy as we met at the airport, and we were not singled out. I believe who decided to travel, did it for the well-thought reason – still, we were filmed by the local TV news when hugging at the airport.

We spent a week together, mostly enjoying long walks in the sun, cooking together with my boyfriend, staring at the sunrise every day (for my mom there have been weeks she has not left the house and has not seen the sun, November and December being the most gloomy months in Poland) and having fun. On the day she left, the vaccination programme started in parallel in various EU countries, so our wish was that by the next time we meet, she will be fully immune. Weeks after, this is still a question mark but I still hope for the best.

December and January marked also a big come back to our participation in cultural life of Malaga. One day, listening to Puccini, I cried thinking about the losses for artists around the world, and also personally, how the lack of cultural life affects my creativity, and happiness. To my surprise, on the same day, I looked up various concerts of Malaga Philharmonic Orchestra and a flamenco band offering special Christmas, and New Year’s events. I had not expected much, and left the beautiful Teatro Cervantes crying with joy. I am not a big flamenco enthusiast, but with an open mind, I was completely charmed by the show of Alejandro Zambomba and his guests. Even though the voices, strings, guitars and the dance are usually the elements that people watch out for in flamenco, I got especially blown away by the percussion section and the palmas. The other day, in a completely different musical context, watching the Philharmonic Orchestra, their team work and happiness of the spectators, I understood how much I took for granted, going out to concerts, DJ sets or galleries almost every other week back in a day.

For the New Year’s Eve week, again to my own disbelief and joy, my very best friend managed to come over from Berlin. We spontaneously invited her over a few weeks before, just in case the travel is possible and if her PCR goes OK. Getting properly tested these days is a separate horror story which I would prefer not to cover. We had not seen each other for almost 18 months, except from quick meetings when I have been in Berlin for business or in transit. I was so much looking forward to spending time with her, with no huge plans, other than taking good care of ourselves.

No plans turned out to be our every day’s surprise. On that week we cycled almost 150 kms on bikes, got nice haircuts, and visited Marbella from a completely different, peaceful angle. My friend admitted that Marbella’s Old Town was such a positive surprise, knowing the city from the news’ taglines about millionaires and their affairs. We strolled around the Golden Mile, though, overlooking the sun setting over Gibraltar and Morocco, ourselves blissfully low-key and relaxed to the max. Quite atypical to watch the nature, quiet sea, just being ourselves and talking about silly things. What we needed. We came back to Malaga, with the sun setting over Africa, and spent a lovely evening with my boyfriend, who did not manage to get his holidays for this period. He enjoyed his creative output though, trying to make the most of this situation. For the New Year’s Eve dinner we ate delicious food (including 14 grapes each on midnight, as I cheated!), laughed a lot, listened to good house music and played Azul game, only to give up after 3 rounds where we cracked the tactics and were not stimulated by it anymore.

We said goodbye to 2020 – a year worth forgetting and remembering for the humanity at the same time, enumerating events of the year that made us very happy at the end of the day. I know my experience is very special and I have been incredibly blessed and lucky, but also responsible, mindful and realistic. We welcomed 2021 in style, with no huge expectations, as the next days rightfully showed. Not to sound pompous, we live on a thin ice. Surviving this crisis is good enough and it is time to learn to enjoy small moments every day and be compassionate, with yourself and others.

I’m on the road again

Music, Personal, Travel

These days I wake up with the sun and go to sleep with the curfew, embracing my sleep patterns and natural rhythm when the world calls for patience. At the same time, I realized the usual things I took for granted in the past life prior to 2020, like seeing friends, going places grow to enormous happiness when they finally happen. 

Until yesterday I was confined to Malaga capital municipality due to the temporary movement restriction due to COVID-19, which comparing to March-May confinement was ‘light’ and indeed, I was lucky to be able to go out to the museum, concert, eat out or even see my friends. I chose to do so, whenever possible, staying outside, cooking a BBQ together, or working in an urban garden, El Caminito thanks to my friend Rosa. This way the month of November went flying and actually, there was no ‘boring’ weekend. But somehow, I missed riding my bicycle for 50-60 km, as I got used to during the sweet period prior to the 2nd wave. 

Although Malaga has a long way to go to accommodate the city and its surroundings to the level an ex-Berliner is used to cycle around, I can’t complain. I’ve actually spent some hours with my Berliner friend today, who also decided to settle in Malaga, blessing each other for our recent relocation choices. First of all, the weather is mostly fantastic all year round. Secondly, I understand the limitation of the urban design – while Berlin, Amsterdam, or London are mostly flat cities, Malaga is surrounded by fairly steep mountains and the sea. Also, riding a bike seems to be either a very relaxed, family leisure, or hardcore triathlon activity. Nothing in between, unless you choose to leave shortly after the sunrise and return when everyone else is still eating out. Otherwise, bear in mind there will be a lot of families with children on the bike lanes and general ‘congestion’. 

Going slower has its joys, too. On the Westward way, it’s got the wildlife and migrating birds around the Guadalhorce basin, fun chiringuitos in Torremolinos, and picturesque bays of Benalmadena. To the East, one can spot Nuestra Senora del Carmen chapels in the rocky coastline, and on the other hand, there is a treat to brutalists/minimalists, listening to atonal sounds of Fábrica de Cemento de La Araña. 

Reminds me a lot of Deepchord’s production from 2010, as I couldn’t find proper footage of the industrial sounds produced by this massive concrete plant, for which I often stop by around the Penon del Cuervo beach. At the end of the day, techno is an ode to an industrial revolution, and working class cities, like Detroit, Berlin, and surely, Malaga.

As you go East from Cala del Moral, and Rincon de la Victoria, you are literally experiencing spiritual awakenings every now and then. This is where I usually stop by to have a coffee, watching the waves crushing by the empty shore. Today, I experienced a group nearby meditating on this beautiful day. My meditation is slightly different, but we all agree, Sunday 13th December 2020 under this hemisphere has been tremendously beautiful. Some others decided to paddle surf taking their dogs onboard. Chapeau for the dog!

Spotting rare flowers or aloe vera on the way is nothing strange, even in December, in this ever-green climate. As the weekend fades away, and so is the year 2020, I feel nothing but gratefulness that I managed to go through it healthy, with a fulfilling life and job, and the amazing partner by my side. Not sure if this is my last post of 2020, but if it is, I wish you all a better, less dramatic, and bipolar year. In the meantime, I will praise what I feel and experience in a mindful way. 

 

I left my soul there,
Down by the sea
I lost control here
Living free

Nerja – the abundant source of charm

Personal, Travel

 

Located about 50 kms east from Malaga, Nerja can be reached by various means of transportation, including a bike, which has lately contributed to great source of my well-being and happiness, while the times and the reality around us in the whole world are so uncertain. Although the path to Nerja is uneven, it may be reachable within a couple of hours’ drive, passing through various coastal towns which I can highly recommend.  

Nerja, under its Muslim name Narixa, meant an ‘abundant source’ and I could agree it has a lot to offer on various levels: culturally, naturally and culinary. It has been my third time visiting this coastal town, this time at the brink of the third wave of COVID-19 in Spain, during a long weekend of October. 

Famous for its caves, where multiple events, such as concerts and dance festivals have been taking place, Nerja spans along a rocky coast of Maro Natural Reserve, reachable by hiking from the steep rocks, or by sea with the use of the paddle surf or kayak. We opted for the second one, and been incredibly lucky to see some corals, and the underwater sea life. 

The Caves of Nerja were discovered accidentally by the local group of speleologists in 1959 and span across almost 5000 m, where only one third can be currently seen by the external, rookie visitors. Visiting the Hall of Nativity, the Hall of Cataclism, The Hall of Ballet and The Hall of Phantoms leave you with goosebumps. Being so close to spectacular formations, as well as the evidence of human presence from over 30000 years ago, is hard to describe in words.

One obvious mental connection to this experience is the architecture of Gaudi’s La Pedrera and Sagrada Familia – although it is possibly pretentious to compare, the closeness of  such a beautiful natural phenomena immediately triggers the same response as participating with great art. This is when my boyfriend and I realized how much we miss art, venues and this transcendental feeling. 

Nerja’s old town, including its famous Balcon de Europa was possibly different and quite empty due to first restrictions of COVID-19’s third wave. There were not too many people visiting, although it has been a national-wide long weekend, usually producing a lot of interest in visiting places like Nerja. We even chose to stay in an adult-only hotel, thinking of avoiding large families with children and this was a very good call for someone willing to rest well, after all. The real meaning of an adult-only hotel remains a mystery to me though which is a possibly a different topic to discuss. Possible features of such a hotel include interesting lightning in the room, set of jacuzzi and sunbeds on the rooftop (priceless in the warm October nights) and mostly, Instagram-influencers-looking couples spending most of their time posing to their stories, showing off their ‘fresh’ tattoos, bikinis or muscles (that’s not me, currently not in a possession of any of the mentioned features). 

From the culinary perspective, Nerja has a few spots offering not only fantastic Spanish cuisine, but also as exotic as Nepalese or Polish food, for which we have to thank to our Spanish teach, Ricardo, for pointing us to this direction. I would love to repeat the visit time and again, on bike, not knowing how far we’ll get to and where we’ll stay. This feeling of the careless freedom of being outside is growing strong, although I know we need a bit more time to come back to whatever the new normality will be.

Montes de Málaga

Travel

Málaga is associated primarily with the sea, and a gateway to the ‘Sunny Coast’ known as Costa del Sol. Nothing more misleading: its province is by far the tallest in Spain, containing of some of the youngest, and highest mountains in the country.

You can easily experience their scope already while approaching the landing at the airport, especially if you take some additional turns around the province. One of the first trips I’ve done when I moved here, was to hike around countless trails of the National Park of Montes de Málaga, just a few kilometers away from the city centre, and within the public transportation reach. I learned though that hiking in June is already too late – it’s too sunny and too dry to truly enjoy it.

Instead, I visited the historical Botanic Garden, home to abundant and exotic flora and fauna. This stunning scenery can be found in the Northern part of the city and is also accessible with the public transportation, followed by a 15 minutes walk. The garden hosts shelter to various bird houses: if you are patient you can spend hours looking at their nesting areas and spot interesting species. It is great that Málaga has made this garden available to public, especially that the city itself lacks green spaces.

Another destination worth mentioning is Mijas Pueblo, a little village located in Costa del Sol, about 45 minutes drive from Málaga and again, accessible with public transportation. It is one of the typical white, Andalusian scenic villages with castle ruins, beautiful town hall square and breathtaking views over the coast.

Also the trip through the winding road can take the breath away, if you are sensitive. I think that the village itself is as touristy as Ronda, and it takes its toll. I was particularly saddened by the use of donkeys for the touristy rides. I escaped the crowded trap quite soon and wandered around the hilly streets followed by eating lunch at an inexpensive, unpretentious place far away from the masses.

I enjoy the little escapes around Málaga, even without having a car for now. I am conscious that the best places are out of my reach for now, but I am trying hard not to own a car – driving though is a good skill to acquire when living on Costa del Sol and is a different story. Looking forward to bringing you more tales from the trips I will take in 2020, to be honest I have not planned anything and have no idea where my imagination will take me.