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.

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 ❤

 

Autumn scapes in Segovia

Travel

I love the fact how fast you can travel around Spain. I am very privileged to be currently living in the city with a high-speed train connection with most of the country, Malaga. Even though it is one of the Southernmost cities in Europe, within 2,5 hours ride you can be in the centre of Madrid, in a completely different setting, and this time of the year, it is especially visible.

For years I’ve been dreaming to escape the European wintertime and November gloominess, and darker, shorter days. What I miss though is the change of the leaves and how they dance in the sun.

That’s why, and for a few other reasons for the November 1st long weekend weekend we have chosen to travel to Segovia near Madrid. I have already visited Toledo and Segovia was recommended to me like its Northern sister, beautiful and charming in a different way.

On the way to Segovia from Madrid you pass through one of the longest mountain train tunnels in Spain, and at its opposite end, seasons and landscapes completely change from Castilla to León. As we descended from the Ave train, the difference in temperature between Malaga and Segovia was more than 15 degrees Celcius!

Our first impressions of Segovia was its elegant sepia colour, matching the surrounding rocky mountains of Castilla. Even if Segovia’s historical sites date back from Roman times to Baroque, it seems this colour keeps the continuity of the story behind the city. We stayed at the Parador, which is monumentally overlooking the city panorama where you can obseve eagles on the treasure hunt.

On my first day I hiked around the surroundings of the Parador, in the valley of Eresma river. There are plenty of monasteries nearby, adding to the mistery of this neighbourhood. There is also an interesting numismatic museum called Casa de la Moneda, showcasing the story of the Spanish capital.

From afar, one of the most impressive buildings is the Roman aqueduct, still in use, providing potable water to the city and its surroundings. Everywhere you go, you can see the water flowing from the wells or fountains. As I followed the hiking train around Eresma river, I fell in love with a sleepy neighbourhood of San Lorenzo where you can eat out at local bars, trying tortilla de escabeche and wine early in the morning, and spot a sculpture of the laundress.

Multiple churches from early Gothic to Renaissance times are complimenting the monumental Cathedral of Segovia which is the last type of Gothic cathedral build in Europe. As for the ever-present monasteries, in the former Convento de Capuchinos nowadays you can eat out at the Restaurant Villena, probably the most hedonist place I’ve ever been to. Serving the local treats like cochinillo in a very creative ways with the local wine pairing, it is literally the heavenly pleasure.

Last but not least, in the Western part of the city, there’s the impressive, medieval Alcazar castle, where Isabel I was crowned as the Queen of Castilla and more trivially, it inspired Walt Disney for the depiction of the castle in the Cinderella tale.

Segovia is a dreamy, quiet place, surrounded by impressive mountain ranges and green fields. The autumn colours mixed with its architecture in sepia colour makes it probably one of the most romantic sites in Spain to visit during this time of the year and contemplate the time that passes by, like the seasons every year.

Viajeros romanticos de Ronda

Travel

I feel unbelievably lucky to live in the cradle of Mediterranean and Spanish culture, Andalusia. In the past weeks I’ve been quite busy discovering the Malaga region and I’d like to dedicate today’s entry to Ronda.

 

Located about one hour away from Malaga, Ronda is one of the most picturesque towns of Spain, and a known destination since 19th century. This is when, upon the raise of the industrial era, wealthy class representatives and intellectuals formed the group of ‘romantic travellers’, trying to find a way to the roots of the European culture, visiting the emblematic Spanish, Italian and Greek land- and cityscapes. The idea of travel was born and inspired generations of writers, painters and music makes, tired of the smoggy, dirty and dehumanized big cities of the industrial era.

Ronda remained its romantic charm until today, however, overtourism is again taking its toll here. Forget about a peaceful walk around the canyon, you will end up in one or the other organized tour, queuing to see the most picturesque spots. Instead, it is best to roam around much more quiet old town, or visit Casa del Rey Moro, a (literally) breathtaking castle-house of the Moorish kingdom, situated inside one of the giant rocks, all the way down to the canyon river level. As you go down twenty floors from atop, you can visit chambers that used to serve for keeping the slaves, armour and secrets.

Being located in the middle of the Cordillera Bética, one of the highest and youngest mountain ranges in Spain, Ronda is surrounded by incredibly romantic gradient of sharp edges, equally stunning at the dawn as at the sunset. Even though I have heard there is not much to do in Ronda for two days, I enjoyed myself simply staring at the horizon, dreaming, observing colours and reading about the useless, romantic travellers from the past and their crave for the great, classical beauty in this life. It is one of these places that words are needless to describe more, so I will let you simply look at my photos instead.

 

Asturias – Costa Verde

Travel

August is undoubtedly the hottest month on the Iberian Peninsula and I feared that at some point I won’t be able to bear with it. Apparently, Malaga was not as bad as the rest of the continent, especially thinking about how global warming has been affecting Europe in the past years. The most unpleasant days were around the second week of August where the famous Terral wind started to blow. I’ve never experienced a wind which is as hot as 40 Celcius degrees with the speed reaching 40 km p/hour – it really felt as if the air was coming out of a hairdryer.

August is also a month when the most (in)famous festivity of Malaga takes place: La Feria. It is about 10 days of celebration of the local folk tradition, including bull fighting, horse riding, and most importantly: flamenco dancing and Cartojal (sweet, strong wine) drinking. This attract millions (!) of national and international tourists every year, making Malaga allegedly unliveable. This also turned out a myth, since the festivities were distributed around the whole city, and not only the city centre, while the municipality of Malaga made a special effort to keep the whole area very clean and vigilant for common vandalism. Not knowing about these two happenings of the month were not as bad as the word of mouth, I decided to escape for five days into the North of Spain: the green coast of Asturias.

After visiting Basque Country many years ago, and Galicia last year, I was the most curious about the coastal hiking in this mostly rural and unspoilt region of Spain. Landing in Asturias, I already felt the change: it was probably 10 degrees less than in Andalucia, and I got almost dizzy with the fresh air coming from the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding woods. Quite a change after the hairdryer Terral just a few days before.  I was not too ambitious when it comes to the scope of discovering the region: since I only had 5 days, and no car, I focused on the western part of the region, leaving the higher mountain hike and the eastern routes for some other occasion.

On purpose, I stayed in a very small village nearby a more popular, touristy town of Cudillero when I only visited when in need (of food mostly). Due to its rough coastline, to visit the town, I had to descent about 700 m down with the slope of about 90%. Not to mention coming all the way back uphill. What helped to achieve this, is definitely the local food: Spaniards warned me about the size of the portions offered and they were indeed large and tasty. I’ve eaten probably the biggest and most impressive mariscada in my life in the restaurant called simply El Pescador in Cudillero, boasting a Michelin recommendation this year.

Another hiking highlight was the route called Senda Costera from the picturesque village called Muros de Nalon until the river port San Esteban de Pravia. It takes a few hours to walk through a path throughout the Atlantic forest, with a possibility to descent into the wild, Atlantic beaches.

Asturias is not only nature though, it’s also a maritime and industrial patrimony, visible in the cities like Aviles or Gijon. Although the focus of this trip was mostly on hiking (and eating out!), I managed to visit both cities – the most interesting is probably the cultural centre of Oscar Niemeyer, the architect of Brasilia and simply admiring the difficult charm of the long, post-industrial sites. To finalize the visit, on a last, rainy day in Gijon, I tried the Michelin start restaurant situated in the green Asturian park: La Salgar, run by the chefs Esther and Nacho, offering amazing experience for relatively reasonable price. Overviewing a typical, Asturian horreo, tasting the local food with the creative touch, I decided I will return to this mysterious, strangely beautiful part of Spain one day again. Who knows if not to retire.

 

Málaga, martini del mar

Personal, Travel

I have been living there for almost two months and instead of writing too frequent updates I have opted for hand-writing my daily notebook while updating my blog on a monthly basis.

 

So what have I been up to? Definitely discovering the new city and its earthly and more sophisticated pleasures. Málaga offers incredible quality of life which is a sum of simply having the most pleasant climate on this planet, and being situated in between exciting coastal and mountain range. With its origins dating back ancient times, Málaga was at a crossroads of the cultures and it all is reflected in its exciting architecture and traditions. It’s a heaven on Earth both for foodies and for sportive folks (if you can manage to do both, the better).

The city promotes its cultural heritage a lot, and this month I have contemplated the Spanish paintings from Museum Carmen Thyssen, as well as the exhibition around the female representation in art called Perversidad. I was impressed not only by impressionists like Sorolla, but also by the realistic paintings from 19th century, picturing the everyday lives to the very detail.

 

I still have over 20 museums to check out and will be reporting back on these. There is also a lot going on in the local streetart scene. I especially like to bump into the poems, including the one I love the most: Kawafis’ ‘City’. Some of them feature Málaga, the others: topics like machismo and 3rd wave feminism.

I am so happy Málaga is welcoming LGBTQI+ too, and is embracing slowly but surely electronic music scene. It is hard to compare Berlin to any new place, but at least with La Térmica open air parties I found a friendly and musically open-minded crowd.

Last but not least, this month I earned my very first sailing license, so will be able to spend more time on the water. Sailing gives the freedom to escape from the crowded beaches, mindfulness of listening to the waves and wind. It’s been a while I have been hooked up on something that much!

In August I will be facing the famous Feria de Málaga, but to be honest, will be escaping most of its part all the way up to Asturias. Will keep you posted here, as I mute again most of the other known social media channels and indulge myself in the sea and sounds.

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.

 

Málaga, olé!

Travel

Similarly like a year ago, I’ve travelled to Spain in January to take part in the annual Berklee College of Music Career Days. This year I decided to extend my stay to travel along the South-East coast of Spain aka Costa del Sol to appreciate the beauty of the spring-like winter in this part of Europe. Clear, deep-blue coloured skies made my body react with shock due to the vitamin D overdose at first.

Interestingly enough, upon the arrival in Málaga, I have heard it’s been quite cold this year, and I remember how much the perspective is different when you live in the South or North of Europe. To me the getaway to Spain was nothing but a bliss.

Nevertheless, it’s been my third time in Málaga already, having previously visited during the acclaimed Semana Santa (Easter Week) in 2012 and Navidad (Christmas) in 2016. It’s not that I’m religious, quite the opposite, however the decorations and festivities are very impressive and would recommend anyone to experience. This time I’ve discovered how much the city has developed in terms of the infrastructure (it’s all under construction though!) and how many opportunities for tech companies have emerged in the meantime.

Málaga, apart from being the City of Light given its sunny location, leaves and breathes the beauty: both culturally and naturally. I spent some time hiking around multiple parks and botanic gardens, Gibralfaro Hill and Paseo de Reding, amazed by the variety of plants and bird species. Such a retreat in the centre of the vibrant city!

I also discovered a few culinary highlights: plenty of Moroccan-origin and vegetarian restaurants and brunch options have populated in the city landscape. To top it up, I’ve managed to book a table at a renowned, Michelin-star restaurant of José Carlos García in the beautiful port: Muelle Uno which was not surprisingly an exquisite, white-glove experience.

Without a doubt, I revisited El Pimpi, the most famous, quirky and spacious bar/restaurant in the city centre, with a rich cultural and culinary heritage including the most popular wine and food selection of the region (croquetas!).

I am pretty sure that the history, art and climate shape the environment. For sure, Málaga with its fantastic location, historical and contemporary music and art scene, ever-tempting hedonistic earthly pleasures (food and wine in particular!) and international visitors is a great place to visit, and re-visit every time.

With that, I have nothing more to say than hasta luego! 

Mirando a la Palma

Personal, Travel

This a post about a short getaway to a beautiful island but most importantly about the friendship that never ends. Last month I was very lucky to meet with my crazy bunch of people I love.We stayed together throughout various great and tough times and it is important to celebrate that we have each other in our lives. Regardless of the distance that separate us nowadays as we live in different countries, we care about making our regular getaways happen.

I am glad that it looks like since last year we found another spot for our get togethers: Palma de Mallorca.

One of my best friends, Olga, relocated there last year and I already knew this will be a great place for her: for the love of the Spanish language, sunny days and plenty of opportunities to practice for her crazy sportive activities. There were also other changes that happened, not all that easy, but they turned out to be positive and made her grow a lot. As soon as I learned that she had settled down for good, I called our friend who currently lives and works in Dubai, to find a date for us to meet. Since I only started a new job, I didn’t have much time off, but with a regular 2-hour flight connection from Berlin, spending the last weekend of November felt like a bliss. Empty, but still warm and sunny spots and lots of laughter, and meaningful conversations and affirmations recharged my batteries for the long winter to come.

We repeated our get together in June and this time it was a full of chilling at a beach or small calas during the day, and enjoying the warm nights at delicious restaurants and rooftops in Palma. Wallowing in the warm sea for hours, and our insight jokes and simply living la vida loca, we had tremendous time together.

I can’t really complain at the summer in Berlin, probably the warmest and longest we’ve seen in years, however it’s not all about the place, it’s also about the people. Among them, fantastic women who travel and are not afraid of taking difficult decisions. I also need the sea, as Pablo Neruda once said, it teaches me. Looking back, I am so grateful for this time we have spent. In the meantime, my life will continue to be divided between various places on Earth where I left a piece of my mind, heart and soul together with my dearest friends. The price for that abundance of love in the world is occasional melancholia that tears you apart, but also drives you to continue to explore, learn and grow as a human.

This post was prompted today as my special thoughts go to Weronika who is staying at a hospital and I wish her a speedy recovery. Hope to soon spend some good time together, vecina from Poznan, Barcelona and these days, Berlin.