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.

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.

Saudade algarvia

Travel

This year I have decided to focus on discovering the Iberian peninsula mostly by train or public transportation, to reduce the carbon footprint. Still, I have a feeling I have been travelling a lot as for such turbulent and changing times as moving from Berlin to Malaga. This month I had a pleasure to revisit the South of Portugal for 3 days, taking advantage of meeting a befriended couple on holidays in Algarve. It was a great experience to walk around the old places and compare the changes, while discovering the new.

 

For the first night and morning after, we stayed in Faro where we were waiting for our friends to pick us up. As a matter of fact, the flat owner was somewhat related to the University of Algarve where I used to study in 2011 and we even had some friends in common. He was extremely friendly, even though we arrived at 2 am! In the morning, I took my boyfriend for a long stroll around the rundown streets of Faro, a student town with a difficult charm of being partly ruined, partly chaotic and partly ugly. We had a breakfast consisting of tosta mixta, coffee and orange juice in Seu Cafe – a cult place opened for almost 24/7, making it legendary for the local student scene. I couldn’t resist the famous pastry from Algarve: chocolate salami being the sweet of choice.

After our friends joined us, I had a plan of having a laid-back picnic at the Pego do Inferno which proved to be the saddest part of our journey. Apparently, thanks to travel blogging and related (I find myself to be blamed too), this place is completely destroyed. The crystal clear waterfall waters are nothing more than a stinking pond, and the green path around it is destroyed by fireplaces – probably the global warming effect, or even more probably: the effect of stupidity of tourists…

Not to worry, we went to the Praia da Marinha, a typical Algarvian beach surrounded by the rocks and coral reefs. Our friends were very well prepared in the body boarding and snorkeling equipment so we had a lot of beach and ocean fun. I finally convinced my boyfriend to buy a floating unicorn (even though we avoid buying plastic…) – which made our stay at the beach hilarious.

The next day we decided to go to a more surf-type beach near the Praia Grande/Praia dos Pescadores where the waves and wind were perfect for all types of surfing and nearby, there was a birdwatching place, but unfortunately we did not manage to spot any flamingo out there. In the evening, we booked a fantastic restaurant in the town we were staying: Cabo Carvoeiro, located directly on the rocks.

On our last day we tried to book Atlantic kayak activity, but the ocean was cruel to us: unfortunately the trip was cancelled due to the ocean’s unrest. We spent our last day on the rocky Praia de Benagil.

It was sad to leave this beautiful place behind, and most importantly: our great travel companions, the reality though is that I had to come back to work. I am still grateful that living in Malaga offers me so exciting weekend getaways within the reach of 4-5 hours drive, regardless if I am on holidays or ‘just’ taking advantage of the weekends and the proximity of many amazing locations. We are already planning to return, especially off the main season and off the beaten track next time.

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.