Back to Menorca… West Coast: Cuitadella, Cala Blanca and Cala Son Bou

Menorca has so much to offer that going there just for a weekend getaway does not simply cut it. You need a week or maybe even a fortnight in order to see all the charming places brimming with things to do, photos to take, and specialties to taste. On the westbound reading train, today we will stop at only three places, but I owe to tell you that the Western coast has so much more to offer… gorgeous beaches, such as Cala Morell, Cala en Bosc, and Cala en Forcat, just to name a few.

Contrary to the busy and noisy capital Mao (Mahon), in the peaceful and colonial Cuitadella, time does not fly and the atmosphere is calm and lazy. You can stroll through medieval cobbled streets that wind up and down, and around. Let you mind wonder and tune your nose to the fine smells coming from many fish restaurants and bakeries. DSC03645The town has had a interesting history and came under attacks many times: the most severe and bloody being the attack by a Turkish naval unit some 500 years ago. Over 3000 people were enslaved and most of the town plundered.

Treat yourself with an ice cream as you slowly continue towards the town’s port, situated right next to the breathtaking Placa d’es Born. Apart from many souvenir shops and cafes, visit the town hall (in the picture below) and other palaces made of that golden sandstone that serves as a natural building air conditioning.

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Cala Blanca *the white bay* is located only 4km away from Cuitadella and it boasts brilliant white sand beach, framed by the green backdrop of a pine forest of trees. The water is crystal clear here and you can follow schools of fish as they circumnavigate around you as you swim.

There are many bars and cafes in this area, so stick around till the sunset since the view is amazingly romantic!

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Romantic sundown at the Cala Blanca

Platges Son Bou is the longest sandy beach of the island with nearly 3km of heavenly golden sand. It is an ideal place for families with children, with small playground and good showers and toilets. You might also want to stop by and see the remains of a the Basilica de Son Bou which was erected in the 5th century AD. Again, highly recommend is to watch the sunset from the Son Bou beach…it is phenomenal!

Playa Son Bou
Playa Son Bou

‘Song for Night’ by Chris Abani

Critical Appreciation of Song for Night by Chris Abani

http://www.chrisabani.com/book/song-for-night/

I read this novel a few years ago, while I was doing my Master’s at the Universidad Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, Spain. The story is so powerful and so intense that I could do nothing else on that day, but read and read, and read. After I had finished the novel, I felt nothing, and everything. The critical appreciation underneath is the original essay which I wrote on this topic.

“Tenderness and fear, as well as kindness and love can never be voiced; they have to remain hushed and unspoken. The terror of war does not recognize words and does not speak a language. War orders, pushes around and throws onto the ground. War devours. In my opinion, the worst thing about war is not all the houses that get burned down or the people who get killed; for me, the malice of war lies in the absolutely frightening fact that it eats souls; it rips humanity out of people. Can you still call yourself a person if you are soulless, if you, catching a sight of yourself in a mirror, see but an animal hungry for blood?

This novel is so much more than just a novel. It is a unique treasure – it is a dictionary of war. The entries are not death, kill or opponent. On the contrary, Abani chooses the sweetest and dearest words to explain: imagination, soul, mercy, mother, home. Moreover, he does not just describe the words, he paints them. The images are so strong that they carve into the reader’s mind as a memory remembered. We do not read about his pain, we feel it. It transcends the words and pages; it is not yet another story. Song for Night is yet another proof of the absurdity of war and the effect it has on people. It is a warning against the atrocity and madness.

The narrator of the story is a 13-year-old boy caught up in the midst of violence. It seems as if My Luck stands for all the boy soldiers used in the Biafran War in Africa, but at the same time, he speaks for all the children and adults alike who have found themselves in war. His narration is sophisticated, poetic and smooth. He is not trying to impress us, or to amaze us. After the death of his parents, My Luck is recruited into the unit of the army that defuses the unmapped mines. The mines are scattered all over the area just as the corpses will be scattered later. The unmapped mines, the unmarked graves. On his journey through the territory, My Luck stumbles on dead bodies both on water and land. In the middle of that madness, he has not lost his humanity and sense of morality, we can see that the narrator has a great respect for the human kind; he buries some bodies, and tries not to disturb the others.

As all the other children who were mine diffusers, My Luck had his vocal cords cut out. The army did so in order to prevent the others from getting scared after hearing a scream of a dying child. Those children cannot have a voice, they cannot speak since there is no one they can turn to; there is no one to hear their cry. Moreover, no one cares. One of the causes of the Biafra War was the British organization of the country of Nigeria; it was convenient for them to have all the black community organized in one country. The people did not just belong to different nationalities, but to different religions as well. With the discovery of oil in the region, human greed took the war over. And, as My Luck says, after some time, you get used to seeing death and torture. In big wars, small people do not exist. We tend to remember the big names, the big treaties and big victories. To collect all the stories of the people who took part in the war or, even more disturbing, of all the ones who were killed in the war would be impossible to digest. In his famous “Anthem for Doomed Youth” Wilfred Owen, commenting on the atrocity of the WW1 compares soldiers to cattle dying in the slaughterhouse of war. In Song for Night, Abani’s narrator repeats that all they did was sleep, kill, and eat. A life of an average predator. They are animals, cattle. My Luck is different because he has not lost his sense of humanity, he loves and hurts; he remembers and longs; he cares. He is still human.

This novel is a journey. Deprived of his childhood, his parents, the narrator has no sense of identity or belonging. He got lost somewhere along the way. He travels through his memories to regain himself. Reclaim his identity. The novel is short – his life is short. His song for night is the sky full of stars which gives him light and shows him which way to go. ‘You have all the light you need inside you,’ the light is kindness, love, empathy.”

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After reading his other works, I simply wrote an email to the author, expressing my love for his books, and he responded!!! He thanked me for the essay (I also attached that) and the kind words. Such a great man!

This is not an easy read, not just another little book that you can pick up and put down just like that. It is a great novel, and it will make you cry. But is probably one of the greatest postcolonial novels ever written.

Falling in Love with Faro and la Ilha Deserta

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In today’s post I am taking you to the southern coast of Portugal – the Algarve region. Known for great food, picturesque countryside and juicy oranges, it is also a magnet for many tourists… Beware! Get ready for the most amazing beaches in Europe, lots of caves and waves, mouth-watering specialties, and the most friendly people I have ever meet.

To kick things off, I will take you to Faro, the most important town on the southern coast. It has had a dynamic history, as has the whole region. In fact, it was precisely from here that the Portuguese ships had set off in search of new continents, peoples, and, well, fortune. The moment your captain says that you have begun landing, glue yourself to the plane’s window and enjoy the view… sandy beaches as long as your eyes can see, rocky cliffs, lush green golf courses, and to top it all off, the delta of the Ria Formosa Natural Park with numerous islands scattered around, many of which are completely deserted. The airport is relatively small and well organised, so get yourself a rent-a-car vehicle and your Algarve adventure can start.

To get to know more about this amazing place, go to http://www.faroportugal.org . My best friend and my partner in crime, Ronny, and I drove directly to the port of Faro, where you can find a spacious (and free) car park, and after a few minutes walk, we found ourselves in the busy streets of the downtown Faro, with crowds of tourists everywhere around us and wonderful examples of architectural mastery in the midst of rows of orange trees.

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Faro Cathedral
Faro Cathedral

A company called Animaris (http://ilha-deserta.com/) offers boat trips to the Ilha Deserta (the Deserted Island), as well as private guided tours of the Ria Formosa Natural Park. This uninhabited island boasts 11 km of pristine beach, as well as unique biodiversity and ecosystem typical of the entire delta. After a comfortable and chilly boat ride, we arrive at the island and we take the road on our right. DSC05356A tiny hiking trail forms an inner ring around the island. You might see examples of rare species, such as the birds called Sacred Ibis or the Brant Geese, but don’t be surprised if you see some Humpback whales swimming around. Time and time again we stop to take pictures, but finally we sit our small bums down. Believe me, hours mean nothing when you are there, stretched on that soft sand. An occasional seagull or a big wave break the silent magic that will wrap you up, warm and relaxed. And the best thing is… no people in sight. If you are the kind of person who enjoys sunbathing naked, well, here and now is the chance! I cannot confirm we did that, but neither can I deny it 😀 !!!

On the way back, we stop at the only building on the island, the Estamine restaurant and enjoy sipping on a espresso latte, while waiting for our boat to take us back to the civilisation.

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You do just walk in the sand, you wade :D
You do just walk in the sand, you wade 😀
Can we please just live here?
Can we please just live here?

Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts

http://www.amazon.de/Lost-Dogs-Lonely-Hearts-Dillon/dp/0340919205

Yes, my first book review is a chick-lit novel about pairing lonely and unhappy people with equally lonely and unhappy dogs! I know, if you have a degree in literature it is not a kind of a read that you want anyone to see you reading on the train or in your office during the lunch break. But it is all kinds of great! The author Lucy Dillon, has written 6 books so far, and according to the Goodreads reviews, you might also want to check ‘The Ballroom Class’.

Imagine the following: you are flying to Tenerife for a ten days holiday and you have only half of an afternoon to pack… You put your swimsuit, then another one, a few cute dresses and some sandals, and think…well, that’s about it! No book in sight. Luckily, the hotel we were staying at had a ‘take it or leave it’ book shelf going on, so naturally, I was all over it! Among the ominous crime stories and the non-fiction history books and alike, my choice was either this or  something in German but then I would have to open my dictionary on every page…. No, no, no… Give me that dog story!!!

Do not get confused when you start reading the book and in each chapter there is a different protagonist, because pretty soon, their faiths intertwine. Rachel, a London-based business woman, finds out that her strange aunt had died and left her an estate in the countryside. Moreover, Rachel also got a boarding kennels and a dozen of dogs. To make things even more complicated, Rachel had just got out of a 10-year affair with a married man, and she also left her job. But soon a tall dark stranger enters her life and turns it upside down, which is exactly what she needs. The tall dark stranger is her late aunt’s favourite dog called Gem. Other lonely hearts include a handsome local doctor (I cannot recall his name), a sweet couple trying to have a baby, Natalie and Johnny, and lastly a single mum with two young boys, called Zoe. And guess what? All of them get dogs! Yes. There is this pairing up skill runs in the family, aunt Dot had it and Rachel seems to have it. Based on a few questions and their own gut feeling, they can tell you what dog breed would make your best companion.

A cortado con hielo, Playa Enramada, and two book worms
A cortado con hielo, Playa Enramada, and two book worms

To be honest, I would not have liked the book that much if it wasn’t for the fury friends. Truth be told, the characterisation was great and the storyline is solid. Especially the complex relationship between Natalie and Johnny, a happy couple that is trying to get a baby, is moving and emotional. I also enjoyed that little touch of mystery as well, when Rachel starts disentangling her late aunt’s complicated past by reading old letters and looking at old photos. These scenes were described with such a dedication to details and were a joy to read.

The book’s got a 4-star rating on Goodreads, and though I would not pick it up at a bookshop, I enjoyed reading it. I have always loooooved dogs and it bothers me that we have a ‘No pets’ policy in our building. This novel has made me think about volunteering at a local dogs’ rescue center. But I still wonder what dog would I be paired up with?! Hm….

A weekend at the Lake Constance (Bregenz and Lindau)

There is nothing like a weekend getaway, especially if it involves camping at a lake with someone special. Lake Constance, or Bodensee, as they call it in German, is smartly located near the Alps. Yeah, that sounds crazy, and it is. The lake was formed by the Rhein glacier during the ice age. The water collects there from all the snow-capped Alpine peaks, but don’t worry, it’s not freezing cold. Somehow, it is always sunny at the Constance lake, and the atmosphere is quite Mediterranean, with orange and lemon trees, lots of tourists, and all-around fun and relaxed atmosphere. You can get to the lake from one of the three countries: you’ve got the German side with gorgeous places such as Lindau, Friedrichshafen, Meersburg, and Constanz, of course; but, mind you, half of this city is situated in Switzerland, as well as other lovely places like Rorschach and Romanshorn, and the smallest part lies in Austria with the stunning city of Bregenz.

It was in June and the sun was high in the sky, scorching hot but still welcoming. As I said, it was on a Friday in June, and we were on the Autobahn, but so were loads of other people. You see, on that Friday, or that weekend, it was a bank holiday in Germany – Pfingstferien. Originally heading to Lindau, we were met with endless queues of cars with trailers in search of a camp site. One ‘belegt’ (full), another one full, and another down, and another one bites the dust… My boyfriend is not the most patient man on Earth and he was desperately in need of a dip in the lake. So, we ditched the original plan and just continued driving – over the border, into the Austrian territory, through the city of Bregenz and towards the camp sites on the left bank of the lake (there are a few camp sites and you can surely google them in a sec).

Sunset in Bregenz
Sunset in Bregenz

Luckily, they did have a few spots left, and we were happy to put up a tent right next to the fence, face to face and feet to, well, hooves, with a herd of friendly-looking cows. All good, people, all good! Further down the road was a nice little cafe that serves typical fast food, such as Pommes (chips/fries), Currywurst, Rote Wurst, Bratwurst (I will not pretend to know the difference between all these sausages, but I do know my favourite one is die Rote Wurst) and other specialties. From the bar, it’s a 100m walk to the the beach, a small and crowded pebble beach. Not too shabby, let me tell you. The view is amazing, especially the sunset, and people actually gather there at around 9 to watch the magic happen. Highly recommend comes a walk along the Bregenz promenade, and a visit to the (free entry, but you do need to pay to watch a play) Festspielhaus Bregenz. The building is an architectural masterpiece located partly underwater. It was also featured in a few Hollywood films, one in the Bond series, I believe.

Just imagine watching a play here - the Bregenz Theatre (me: readjusting the straps on my sandals)
Just imagine watching a play here – the Bregenz Theatre (me: readjusting the straps on my sandals)
Use the cable car in Bregenz and enjoy the view of the lake
Use the cable car in Bregenz and enjoy the view of the lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the weather is nice and the sun is shining, pack you hiking shoes and head to the Hausberg Pfänder; a cable car that will take you to a quite popular viewpoint located at 1064 metres above the sea level. From here, you can see all three countries surrounding the lake, some famous mountain peaks and a great deal of the lake. There is a small but pricey restaurant, and a few shops, as well as a souvenir stand. At the lower station that is located in Bregenz city you can pick up a map of the upper station and surrounding area, as well some recommended routes and practical tips for hikers. Due to high temperatures and general laziness, we did not go hiking, but bought a beer and just enjoyed the view.

the magical Pulverschanze view point
The magical Pulverschanze view point

From Bregenz you need 15 minutes to Lindau, and then: ah, Lindau… Words do not do justice to this place. The town itself is partly on an island, or a peninsula (it is an island connected by two bridges to the mainland) and partly on the mainland. Our first stops were the Pulverschanze and the Pulverturm view points. Make sure your camera is fully charged, since the view is simply stunning. Locals bathe in the lake, using stairs attached to the outer walls to reach the water. No beache, though. Turning left, you will come across one of the coolest shops ever, called Wiedermann Decoration. Chairs, coffee tables, and lots more make this place an all-things-interior heaven.

Wiedermann Decoration
Wiedermann Decoration

My advice is to use the bridge to cross the train tracks from there and tune your ears to the noise of the busy port. Sailors, tourists, locals. Fish, salads, cakes. Aperol Spritz. Friendly waiters. Bayerische Löwe (the Bavarian Lion) and the Neuer Lindauer Leuchtturm (the New Lindau Light Tower) look onto the ships entering the port, and, let’s be honest, look amazing on pictures. Treat yourself to a cold drink and some local fish, possibly a cake. As we drive back to the mainland, the bustling town on the island calms down and the dusk colours the island orange and red. These words escape my mouth: ‘You are one pretty little town, Lindau!’

The Lion and the Tower, the Port of Lindau
The Lion and the Tower, the Port of Lindau
This is what happens when you give me Apperol Spritz!
This is what happens when you give me Apperol Spritz!