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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Flores, Azores – a Ilha e o Mundo

Travel

The title of my last blog entry (for now!) about the Azorean archipelago comes from Pedro da Silveira poem’s title ‘The Island and the World’, picturing perfectly the remoteness of the island of Flores.

Só isto:

O céu fechado, uma ganhoa
pairando. Mar. E um barco na distância:
olhos de fome a adivinhar-lhe, à proa,
Califórnias perdidas de abundância.

 

Flores is one of two islands in the Westernmost part of Azores, and it was the last stop in my last year’s journey around the archipelago. To go there, I chose to sail on a cruise ship, operating every two weeks from the main island: São Miguel.

It stops at all of the islands of the archipelago and it’s prone to late arrivals, due to sudden, tricky weather conditions. When I boarded the ship in Horta (Faial Island) it was ‘only’ a few hours late and it took all night to arrive in Flores. The sea ride was rather shaky, but the inconvenience was well rewarded by arriving on the island exactly when the sun was rising! I can’t pick any words how beautiful was the view and the feeling of the remoteness of the island that appeared out of blue, in front of the ship.

 

Those who arrive by ship usually land in the coastal town of Lajes, which is the main industrial port of the island. Lajes is also the Westernmost county of Europe, the next land at this latitude is Canada.

 

I stayed at Residencia Matheus in the picturesque village of Fajã Grande, again the Westernmost spot of the island, infamous for difficult sailing conditions (for instance, RMS Slavonia is still wrecked close to the rocky peninsula nearby). It was close to various trail paths, within a walking distance from the lava beach, surrounded by the waterfalls and thousands of bird species which not surprisingly choose Flores for their nesting period.

 

I was discovering the village in awe and was offered a very complex tour around the island with the local guide, Armando Rodrigues from Experience OC, who gave me some extra tips about not only natural wonders, but also places to eat out and enjoy the sunsets at the tip of the European continent.

 

Flores is famous for its lakes, situated at the top of the mountain ranges, and is one of a few places on the planet Earth where there’s an excess of potable water. I managed to see all of the lagoas and admire the remote landscape from above, as the only other island spotted on the horizon is Corvo.

 

And this was also the only failure of my stay on Flores; I planned poorly and did not manage to visit the neighbouring island of Corvo. The boats operating between Flores and Corvo offer very limited seats and can be sold out easily, especially if there are any festivities taking place (and it’s usually a case during the summer season).

 

Instead, I took some time to discover the island on foot, and walk to the ancient and currently uninhabited village of Cuada, where there is a restaurant with a descriptive name: Por do Sol (Sunset). It offers the dishes typical of Flores, such as erva patinha – something I’d describe as algae ‘falafel’.

 

After dinner, I contemplated sunset in a bar Maresia looking at the Atlantic depth with a glass of local wine, listening to great music played live from vinyls at the end of the world.

 

In the night though, the only sound that one can hear are the chants of the Azorean squeeky bird: cagarros. Some like it, some freak out for the first days.

 

Apart from the wilderness, the capital of Flores is Santa Cruz and it’s divided by a landing stripe, bordering the old town from the French quartier, established by the military stationing on the island since the 60s. The landing stripe is in use for the local SATA airlines, connecting Flores with Corvo, Terceira and São Miguel.

 

I took some time to explore the local museums and was very impressed by their content and how many facts I’ve learned about the history of Flores and Corvo.

 

On my last day, I was wandering around the town, waiting for the plane and looking at the depth of the Atlantic. I realized, many other travelers do the same, as the airport’s check-in area is accessible within 5 minutes walk from the beach. I was wondering about my fellow travelers where are they coming from, what they are, where are they going – quoting Gaugin, only that set in the Atlantic, and not Polynesian paradise.

 

During the take off returning to Terceira, I had a chance to look back at most of the islands I’ve visited during my trip, and eventually managing to see the peak of Pico. I promised to myself to return, for much longer and I’m convinced I will keep my promise. Obrigada, Azores!

 

 

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…

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.

 

Lisboa does not love?

Personal, Travel

First of all: this post is all about love. My everlasting love for Lisbon.

Secondly, it is about sustainable tourism, gentrification and all the negative things that make me think if I should continue writing this blog ever more.

Lastly, it is about the sadness about losing the authentic touch for which I initially fell for when I decided to move to that city, and re-visit almost each year.

So what happen this month? I had a chance to travel to Oporto where not so much changed and then spend a couple of days in Lisbon for the Lisb:On festival and visiting my friends and favourite places.

While I’m very interested to see the rising number of people talking about Lisbon’s unique atmosphere, as well as observing the interest of the investors in the start up scene out there that make the city a living entity attracting expats and creative workforce, I am very worried about Lisbon’s entering solely commercial path.

I’m tired about being bothered by street selling, exactly the same like in Rome, Barcelona or Venice, being approached by tuk-tuk drivers (what does it have to do with Lisbon anyway?!) or being treated like a tourist anywhere I go. Even if I know the city well and speak Portuguese. And don’t act out like a prototype tourist. Website Lisboa-Does-Not-Love.com lists the reasons why massive tourism is destroying the city and its morale and acts as the code of conduct while in Lisbon, but will it stop the massive tourism craziness?
I had to spit out my frustrations about the changing landscape of one of my beloved cities, and pose an open question: should we advertise for places we think are unique? Of course the sole act of visiting will not destroy the well-kept secret, but the scale of reach out via travel/lifestyle blogs may actually lead to it.
That’s why with mixed feelings, I’d like to leave you thinking about which direction can Lisbon take to prevent from becoming another tourist-fuelled city like London, Barcelona or Venice? I care too much about Lisbon to simply never visit again, as this replicates the scheme for which I moved out from Barcelona and hope never be forced to relocate from Berlin.
I love all Lisbon, much as I do love Barcelona and can’t keep falling in love with Berlin. What I’m just pretty sure about is that they don’t love massive tourism.

After the rain comes sun in Porto

Travel

It’s definitely high time to re-visit the city of Oporto, or o Porto in Portuguese (and hence the English name, I guess). My Lusofonetica project has been running for over 2 years now (can’t believe it flies so fast!) and I simply can’t believe that I haven’t found time to share my impressions about this beautiful place.

I’ve first visited it in 2007 during my Inter Rail trip around Europe combined with taking two weeks off in the Beira Alta region to sample a live of a volunteer-archeologist in the tiny and extremely hot village of Coriscada which I guess this deserves a separate post itself. I traveled to Porto via very spectacular train ride alongside the Douro Valley which I’d recommend everyone to take. Since then I paid three more visits in Porto, but unfortunately they were mostly related to connecting flights so literally ‘flying visits’.

During these short stays I managed to soak only a sample of the city’s atmosphere and indeed, to feel the glorious difference between the North of Portugal and the South. Contrary to the famously changing weather, I always got a very warm welcome from the bar or restaurant owners, and I made very good experience with the people from Porto whom I’ve met all over the world.

So almost in one week from now I’ll be in Porto again, this time for 2 (!) days, hoping to compare my impressions from the previous stays, eat delicious francezinha, wander around the wine cellars, and potentially hit one of their clubs in search of the electronic music originated from ‘the London’ of Portugal.

Why is it so? As I mentioned, it rains here much more often than in the other parts of Portugal, and the light/style of the city somewhat reminds England. It’s also due to the historical presence of the British entrepreneurs which were involved in setting up the most famous port wine companies in this region, that the city has this vibe.  It has long history of influence by the industrial architecture (like Tour Eiffel of Paris), and been a centre for economical development of Portugal. It’s also been an important cultural centre – and a good example of it could be an impressive Casa da Música.

So I hope to come back with a fresh set of thoughts and observations, hopefully on the sunny side this time: até logo o Porto!

 

Stay True – Boiler Room in Portugal

Music

In my last post I mentioned a lot about how Afrolusobrasilian culture is present in Lisbon. You may also have noticed that I am getting regularly inspired by the Portuguese capital when it comes to sound searching.

I am very happy to confirm that in September I’ll be visiting LISB:ON festival, where I will have a chance to see Brazilian artists like Marcos Valle or Azymuth, not so easy to spot at the concerts these days. This festival, being a part of a summer project called Jardim Sonoro (pt. Sound Garden), will also attract other ambitious electronic music producers such as Matthew Herbert or Dixon, and here is why I would like to dedicate a short paragraph to electronic music in Portugal.

Since currently I’ve been living in Berlin where electronic music can be heard even in grocery shop, no other place on Earth can compete with DJ line ups and a density of EDM producers per square km. However, world can definitely be grateful to Lisboa – Luanda connection for bringing in some truly crazy rhythms to the dancefloors.

Lately, I have taken part in the music production showcase with Dengue Dengue Dengue who were also hosted by the local Boiler Room edition Stay True. More of the inspirational sounds can be seen from its archive:

Stay True: Portugal edition took place a month ago and besides the Dengue Dengue Dengue duo hosted Buraka Som Sistema as well as DJ Marky  whose Boiler Room back in Brazil is already unforgettable classic of its kind.

I am definitely looking forward to re-discovering Lisbon (I can do it anytime anyway at anytime) at my own bpm pace, simply enjoying the musical and cultural diversity.

I hope that thanks to the initiatives like Stay True this city will get even more visibility for the music aficionados.

 

 

All…garve pt.3: Barlavento

Travel

May is already here, summer is forthcoming soon (even in Berlin!), and I am still not done with describing one of the most charming locations in Europe: Algarve in Portugal, where I was lucky to travel and live for a while.

So far I have dedicated most of the entries to the Leeward, Eastern side of the Southern Portuguese coast, given my sympathy and know-how of Faro and Olhão regions as well as Formosa river’s natural wonders.

The other side of this wonderful 100-km coastline stripe: Barlavento (eng. Windward), on the West, has been traditionally recognised by the surfers, beach testers and festival-lovers (famous festival Sud Oeste, taking place: as the name says: in the South-West Portugal). Infamously, this part of Algarve has been also known as the land of the massive tourism and disappeared child called Maddie few years ago that made this region a pretty bad press. With or without the scandal’s impact, I would avoid places like Portimão or Albufeira which are huge beach resorts with soulless architecture for rather lazy, all-inclusive kind of tourism. Sad places to see in such an authentic country like Portugal.

Coming back to the wonders of Barlavento, I would name a few: coming there outside of the season would be probably the most beautiful experience, since massive rocks and strong winds, while few people around create altogether a very dramatic and picturesque atmosphere.

My to-do list would include wandering around little towns with rich history, such as Aljezur, Lagos or Sagres (famous also for being a name of one of two most popular Portuguese beers!). For the romantic spirits, I would absolutely recommend facing the sunset at the most South-Western tip of Europe: Cabo de São Vicente. Whereas villages like Raposeira or Porto das Barcas would be on my surfing paradise list.

Last but not least, even in the surroundings of Lagos, one can find very particular beaches – among the numberless and funnily-shaped rocks. Beware that Barlavento: as the name indicates is the land for wind-loving people, but if you do, you won’t be disappointed by the natural diversity of this coastline.

 

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.

All…garve part one: far out Faro

Travel

It’s been over 5 years ago I made an experience of living almost literally by the Atlantic Ocean shore in Faro, where the South-Western European continent ends. It was a pretty stress-free life of an Erasmus student in what we used to call ‘Iberian California’, even though at the end most of us had to come back to some sort of adult life. I was lucky enough to host my parents and friends from Poland, Chile, UK and Spain during these months which made it even more special.

Lately some friends who are going to drive through South of Portugal asked me to describe my favourite places I collected and saved in my memories during these couple of months. I have to say that going through my photo collection evoked strong, beautiful freeling and  that even though time has passed, Algarve stays in an important place of my heart.

First of all,I’ll describe the major town of Algarve: Faro, principally known for the international airport where most of the tourist arrive and reach their resorts. Boring, distant from the sea and pretty catastrophically planned – this is how it seems at the first glance. Well, having lived and studied there for a good couple of months, I started to love it in a very special way.

It was definitely the smallest town I’ve ever lived in (around 100K inhabitants if you count in students of the University of Algarve), so this was an interesting experience itself. You could literally recognise everyone on the streets, and get to know local ‘characters’ very easily, which can be an interesting thing to live for a city person, like I am.

Good thing was that it was very convenient to discover inland, leeward and windward Algarve, taking EVA buses (yes, they are monopolists in Algarve with all of its characteristics, but they can get you pretty much everywhere), trains (if not on strike which was a thing to often do in 2011 at least) or the best way: your own car or bike. Portugal, especially in the South has still a very strong ‘driving culture’ , which may come as a shock to people used to commute by bike everyday (again: like I do). And the breathtaking views of the coast and neighbouring Alentejo simply calls for a bike ride!

Tiny, but picturesque city centre of Faro is full of cafeterias and bars, some of them back in a day were still pretty local, and inspired by the students culture. Remember that Thursdays are typical days for Portuguese students to go out and ‘sentir, viver, cantar a noite linda‘ (to ‘feel, live and sing the beautiful night’ – no other words could describe better the wit of it!).

If you are careful, among the typical Algarvian architecture you’ll notice places with patios and terraces with life music, jazz jams and poetry evenings, and world-class street art pieces. There is a beautiful park where you can chill from Algarvian heat, and if you are lucky, you will meet a peacock waving its tail, as if he wanted to cool down the air.

Last but not least: you should visit the Island of Faro, where the beach is, as well as take a chance to discover the Formosa river’s lagoon, with the plethora of fauna and flora (and flamingos!). Which leads us to the chapter no. 2: Leeward Algarve, to be continued soon.