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.

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.

Pais Vasco – ozeano, janari eta kultura

Travel

In search of the Atlantic Ocean, nature and culture this month I was lucky to visit Basque Country. Until the very end I was not sure if the trip will be possible, due to COVID-19 still present in our lives.

With all the precautions, I decided to take off and landed in sunny (!) Bilbao. I planned this trip in advance as a part of anniversary and birthday celebration with my boyfriend, knowing how much he loves the green landscapes of the North of Spain. As well, that Basque Country is one of the places no foodie can miss!

Travelling by air was not as dreadful as we expected – Malaga airport was almost empty on that day and we almost dreamt that air travel would look like this everyday. People being respectful and keeping the distance, simple as that. Similarly, the streets of Bilbao were spacious and only with some notion of tourism (people who were, unfortunately, the only ones not wearing masks). 

Bilbao anyhow is a living example of perfect rejuvenation of the post-industrial landscape. Awarded with the ‘urban Nobel prize’ in 2010, this city is perfectly friendly to breathe, walk and enjoy life. The sidewalks are broad, the road signals signs are melting ideally with the surroundings – to the point that at the back of them, you can find a depiction of tree leaves shapes!

We were very lucky with the weather, which is mostly rainy and windy throughout the year, and thus it is so beautifully green. Coming from Costa del Sol, where the climate is probably the sunniest and mildest on this planet, but largely affected by deforestation, green spaces are more of an oasis than regularity. 

We visited a few bars and restaurants in Bilbao and regardless of the pricing range, the experience was exquisite. There is no such thing as mediocre food, nor wine in Basque Country! As long as you are flexible and let yourself be surprised – most of the dishes contain fish or seafood, which is the zero Km dish there. We dream of pintxos for breakfast until today.

We also went to the famous Guggenheim Museum, where we visited permanent exhibitions, including the magnificent works of Jenny Holzer and Richard Serra, as well as some interesting temporary exhibitions of Olafur Eliason (the light!) and Richard Artschwager (the useless piano!). 

When talking about culture, it is hard not to mention the very separate language if the Basque. I’ve been fascinated by it and tried to grasp as much of it, as possible. Since my mother tongue, Polish, is often referred to as one of the most difficult languages to learn, why not trying to pick some Basque? My favourite word spotted in public space was probably komunak. I absolutely loved the idea of naming public toiler as a common place to go to, when needed.

Apart from the city, we took some time to visit the coastal town, even though we didn’t have too much time to wander about. Thanks to my colleague, we went to a coastal town Mundaka, famous for its picturesque landscape and one of the longest and strangest waves forming at its Atlantic shore, due to sedimentation of the river floating to the ocean. This attracts surfers from all over the world to practice. On the way, you can visit the town of Guernica and the natural park of Urdabai.

We needed this break, although the times are not perfect for any further travel. We are fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful countries full of diverse cities, cultures, languages and landscapes to choose from, close and far. Even if we are confined again soon, we will have pictures to come back to and travel back in time. 

 

 

At the Sierra’s feet: Jerez del Marquesado

Travel

New month, new updates from Spain and particularly Andalucia: amidst the pandemic, however in the ‘new normality’ tomorrow, we will be allowed to enter so-called Phase 3. Apart from the freedom to leave home anytime, go to the beach and enjoy the nature, one can also gather up with friends at a safe distance. Hoping for discovering new, remote places nearby, I’m reminiscing a day in Jerez del Marquesado, a charming village at the feet of Sierra Nevada.

What brought me there? A recommendation from the local tourist guide I asked earlier on in Guadix, where to spend a relaxing day as well as hike around without a necessity of renting a car. There was no such place in Guadix opened on that day anyway. Jerez currently counts less than 1000 habitants and this number is sadly, steadily declining. On that day the streets of its beautiful old town were completely empty, apart from the cats laying lazily in the sun.

I took my time to wander around the town, drink tinto de verano in the bar Los Cortijillos. Unlike in touristy places, the drink was followed by a huge portion of migas tapas, famous in this region as high-protein leftover food. The owner must have thought I would be hiking all the way up to Pico de Jerez, while I only took a famous Chestnut Walk all the way to a millenial tree, which could shelter up to 4 adults. 

The mountain range surrounding Jerez is particularly steep and was a place of a US military plane crash in the 60s, where thanks to the brave help of the locals all the crew members miraculously survived.

After all, I spent half a day hiking in Jerez and it stole my heart completely. Blossoming chestnuts, vivid streams and creeks, and a green forest oasis on this Spanish ‘Route 66’ will stay on my mind as one of the perfect days I lived.

Cinematic dreams of Guadix

Travel

After spending almost 50 days fully confined, I have to admit my imagination leads me to the places I’ve visited even more often. Since yesterday, I have been allowed to go out for a walk or exercise during certain hours nearby, and this makes me already very contented. Although I know the pathway to the ‘new normality’ will take some time and who knows how long it will take, and how the new world will look like.

My imagination today takes me back to Guadix, a very special town I had pleasure to visit last year, touring around Andalucia. After months of intense work, I was craving for a remote, desolated place surrounded by stunning nature. Curiosity and a random cinematic guide brought me an idea of renting a few nights in a ‘human cave’. Houses underneath the soil were very popular in this part of Spain, especially during the great migration of mining and agriculture workers. Almodovar’s ‘Dolor y Gloria‘ depicts this period of time very accurately.

Upon my arrival, what surprised me more, is that Guadix used as a film stage for other movies I’d never think of! ‘Indiana Jones’ being probably the most famous one, and ‘Karol, un uomo diventato Papa’ about John Paul II – the most surprising one. Not sure if Guadix staged as Vatican City, or Wadowice – provincial town in Poland, judging by the looks: could be both.

It does not surprise when you get to know Guadix a bit more: the town consists of various neighbourhoods, varying greatly in their architecture, wealth and even: light. The ‘cave’ neighbourhood is full of red rocks and sand contrasted by the while houses, and scorching sun, while downtown is rather shady and full of winding, narrow streets with stray cats on every corner. There is also an impressive castle and cathedral in between.

This is why Guadix can pretend almost any Wild West, Roman or provincial town. I like it most for being Guadix though. Surrounded by stunning Sierra Nevada and deserts, the sunrise and sunset shed thousands shades over this special place. As you can see below, I could not help but stare and capture the most of its beautiful light.

I found peace there. Spending a few nights in the cave (thanks to renting it from the local owner, named Maria) made me realize about how important it was to design such a place to shelter from heat in the day as well as during freezing nights. Also, how spacious the caves are and how sustainably one could live in such a close connection to the nature.

I hope for discovering more gems in Andalucia at some point later in the year, when I might be able to live the city. For now, I am lucky to have lived the authentic, Guadix experience and stayed there longer than initially expected, doing absolutely nothing.

A sentimental journey back to Sevilla

Personal, Travel

Seville, known as ‘the prettier sister of Malaga’ is probably one of the most beautiful cities in the world. This year, confined at home since over 4 weeks due to the devastating pandemic worldwide, and at the same time, very grateful to be healthy and safe, I am reminiscing some of my getaways to this charming place.

Sevilla (as I prefer to use the original naming convention) is the 4th largest city in Spain with the largest area of Casco Antiguo, the old city centre, and plethora of architectural gems coming from various centuries: from ancient times, romanticism to modern influences.

Famous for its oranges blossoming throughout the year, flamenco, unbearably hot summers and religious traditions, Sevilla attracts its spectators especially during Easter, for Semana Santa processions. I have never chosen this time to visit Sevilla, but instead, went there a couple of times in the colder months to live and breathe the city staying in the least touristy neighbourhoods.

Walking around the city is incredibly pleasant, as it offers a lot of shadow in its parks and is very green as for a city in deforested Andalucia, as well as there is plenty of tavernas and peculiar restaurants or bars, such as church-themed Garlochi. Cuisine is very varied and apart from traditional Spanish tapas, there is a lot of healthy options as well as Latin-American or gourmet options, such as Abantal. This restaurant is based on local ingredients only and uses a lot of symbolic, including the NO8DO ‘No me deja-do’ – the loyalty for the city.

Sevilla, apart from being a monumental testimony for the Spanish crown, is also very lively nowadays, and its modern architecture and art is very intriguing, including the Setas installation as well as the neighbourhood built for the Expo 1992. There are various guides to discover Sevilla by its azulejos picturing the scenes from the old times and referring to universal topics like death, festivities and changing seasons.

And even for a non-religious person like me, the mysticism of Sevilla makes me shiver down the spine. As I accidentally witnessed the procession of Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación carried by dozens of men and followed by a local orchestra, I was in awe for cultivating such a beautiful tradition for ages.

And this is Sevilla for me, really. The beauty of the sunshine in the day, and the unbelievable light of the night, with mystical secrets almost in every corner, mixing up with more ludic traditions and customs.

I am grateful to be living in a vicinity of such a different city only 2 hours away and today I reminisce the fact how much I love exploring the region I am lucky to be currently living, Andalucia.

Día de Andalucía en Córdoba

Travel
Today’s a very special day for all the women and human population anyway. Last week though it was the region of Andalucia that celebrated its Day. 28th February fell on Friday and thanks to that, I could getaway for a long weekend to one of my favorite cities nearby: Cordoba. 

Why Cordoba is so special? Dating back to Ancient Roman times, it was one of the most developed cities in the world: home to philosophers, scientists and artists. Till today one can really ‘breathe’ the air of this place.  

For centuries, it was a melting pot of Jewish, Arabic and Christian culture, until the history took drastic, turning points. Fortunately, the presence of all these is palpable in various parts of the city. This time I decided to indulge myself in the remnants of the Caliphate culture by staying in a stylized Arabic livelihood, visiting Hammam and even eating out at the restaurant inspired by Andalusian cuisine from 14th Century: Noor. 

The ingredients used for the creation of the menu at Noor consist of typical dishes from the region and 0 km food. Also, to pay tribute to the Andalusian Caliphate, the chef, Paco Morales decided not to use any of the ingredients coming from post-colonial times, e.g. tomatoes, potatoes, avocado or chocolate. Thanks to that he and his team achieved a recreation of the cuisine from the very special period of the Arabic reign in Cordoba. 

Cordoba’s monumental Cathedral: La Mezquita is probably one of the most beautiful and mystical religious sites I’ve ever been to. I remember visiting it in 2011 when there was still a place to contemplate the details and the big picture with its surroundings, nowadays it’s way too crowded to my taste. Apparently in 2019 the number of visitors surpassed 2 millions annually. 

This is why currently what stole my heart were the tiny streets in less crowded parts of the city. Some of them have rather peculiar names, such as ‘Where are we heading to’, ‘Images’ and other descriptive ones. The narrowest one, Calleja del Panuelo, is one of the cutest, although not recommended for people with claustrophobia. 

Cordoba boasts the tradition of houses with flowery patios, offering shade during crazily hot summers when the temperature rises up to 45 degrees Celcius. In May there is even a Festival of Patios when proud owners offer visiting their beautiful gardens. In February orange trees blossom and the smell around the city is simply magic.

I could not choose a better way to celebrate the Day of Andalucia, and I wouldn’t mind returning there time and again.

Sierra de las Nieves

Travel

February = springtime at its fullest in Andalucia. It is probably one of the best months to experience hiking trips in the Malaga province, and this post is dedicated to describe a gorgeous hiking trip in Sierra de las Nieves, aka Snowy Range near the picturesque town of Tolox.

I was encouraged to take part of this hike thanks to the nature- and outdoor-activity loving community from the tech world of Malaga. I love to meet new people and also get to know them while doing things I enjoy: breathing the fresh mountain air while working out over a moderate 12 km route with over 600 m ascension/descend.

The route starts at the Balneario of Tolox – and in this part of the year is very green. The scent of the forest, multiple birds and water creeks are present throughout the first 3-4 kms. My hiking boots survived walking around the ice trails on Svalbard so I was not worried about their condition.

On the way you can spot at least three waterfalls: the first one is great for taking an actual leap on warmer days, the second one can be noticed from afar – taking winding curves and thus making it the highest waterfall in Andalucia. The last one you are literally walking over a tiny bridge. Unfortunately, as the land is quite arid, it dries out for most of the months. We were very lucky to see it, but we could also be unlucky if it’s too humid: the trail might be slippery when not properly dried out after springtime rainfalls. As in Andalucia rain is rare, when it happens, it is torrential.

After 13 kms the descend starts towards the picturesque village of Tolox, one of the emblematic ‘while villages’ of Andalucia. On a Sunday afternoon, it is the oasis of tranquility. After a straining hike, resting in the local bar overlooking the various mountain ranges, up to El Torcal and Sierra Nevada while eating tapas was the best reward.

To top it up, Tolox is full of actual art, depicting the local art inspirations, naive art and poems of Pablo Neruda. I can’t help falling in love in a place like this.