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.

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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!

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.

 

Branco e azul – impressions from Tel-Aviv

Travel

White city – or the city of light is the name we often hear when speaking about Lisbon. This time, however, I would like to travel back to the Middle East, to Tel-Aviv I visited just a week ago. Apart from the colours, the link between Lusofonetica and Tel-Aviv is not so obvious, but given the cosmopolitan nature of this city, I have heard Portuguese not once on the streets, as well as all sort of other languages.

IMG_3963 IMG_4053

Tel-Aviv combines the flair of the Mediterranean cities like Barcelona (or better: Malaga), with the European influences. Established at the beginning of 20th century, Tel-Aviv was influenced greatly by the Bauhaus architects that fled from the Nazist wave. Hence the emblematic style is set in white, matching greatly the blue sky.

Opera House of Tel-Aviv Neve Tzedek neighbouhood

As my local friend put it, there is no checklist of places to see or things to do in Tel-Aviv. I was very happy to hear it, as I love just to wander around, sneak into bars, cafes, talk with the people and live the moment in the new places instead of rushing to tick the boxes on the sightseeing list.

Hotel Cinema - great Bauhaus example Tel-Aviv-Yafo beach

And there is probably no better place to experience the long days and nights than Tel-Aviv. Truth is, I did not choose the safest moment to visit this place on Earth, but in the end I felt pretty safe. Even though one could literally breathe the tension which lives within the society.

Tel-Aviv Opera Tel-Aviv centre... one of the numberless cafes

If tomorrow is uncertain, then why not simply enjoy the moment – I have heard about this mindset long before I came to Tel-Aviv, but living it on my own was a totally different thing. Strangers becoming this proverbial friends-of-a-lifetime, appearing in half-private parties just because you hear some great jazz music, eating out breakfast after sunset, finding urban art treasures on the least expected corners, or bathing in the warm sea, even though you can clearly hear the F-16 flying above your head.

Habima Square - conference centre Colourful fountain and Bauhaus buildings - the essence of Tel-Aviv

The mix of the exotic, and the cosmopolitan – the tiny bubble of Tel-Aviv has it all within a walking distance – makes this place very special. I was there very shortly, but I know I want to come back, and experience more with a bit less naive sight.

Habima Square Mobile Library  Neve Tzedek neighbourhood Neve Tzedek neighbourhood

Funnily enough, despite the sunshine weather, Tel-Aviv reminded me greatly of Berlin in some places, not only for Bauhaus influence, but also for the dramatic setting, laidback attitude, and last but not least: hipsters! So even though I was far away, on my own, I felt so much at home… Just like in this Karaoke Kalk records’ song, my lifetime nomad anthem.