Catching Up (IV/IV) – Surf’s up!

26 09 2010

Gee… now I was highly motivated to blog on after the summer, but still it took me another 5 weeks to complete my quadrilogy of catching up, with more things happening in the meantime that deserve further up-catching… another indication that time does go by much too fast in general.

But ok, here goes: the last big summer episode was a fantastic six day trip to stunning Portugal, the south-western corner of which to be more precise. As it is never to late to try some of your childhood dream fascinations I had decided to learn to surf – the wave riding thing, no sail, no kite, just a board, the ocean and me! When checking with Verena, a good friend of mine who is as close to a surfing pro as anyone I know she sent me to the village of Carrapateira where I arrived on what italians would call the “Ferragosto”-weekend in the mid of the month. As I had not been able to secure some accomodation beforehand I tried my luck knocking on doors around the village, getting a bit desperate already when I happened to find the bio-farm of an Austrian-gone-Portuguese who offered me a spare camper parked on the side of the field.

The Magic Bus

The Magic Bus

I nicknamed it “The Magic Bus” (see it on Whotube) as I was already thinking that a small miracle needed to happen in order for me not having to sleep in my car and as a reference to “Into the wild”, one of my favorite movies of the last years. Anyway: I very much do recommend Klaus’ hospitality and to advertise also his “real accomodation business” here is the link to his apartments!!

So all is well that ends well and after two days I was supplied with a room in the house of a lady in the village where I stayed for the rest of this short holiday. But a very special thanks and mention here goes to the supplier of this room: Edoardo, owner and fantastic host of Pensao das Dunas (Link!!)

Seriously, I have travelled a fair bit in my life so far but the hospitality encountered here stands out very distinctively! Edoardo goes out of his way to help his guests and even people he can not accommodate for lack of space in his cozy pension which is not too big. So whoever gets a chance to go to this area, don’t miss to go there. And book well in advance!!! The link is up there, Edoardo speaks around 5 languages, his wife even 10 more, so no worries that you might not be understood!

To finish up I want to say that meeting people with open hearts has made this trip so memorable. Maybe that area attracts such people in particular. To be mentioned – besides Edoardo, his congenial partner Victor and Klaus from the bio farm – are the surf camp students from all parts of Europe, the Danish family who have a house at Bordeira beach (can you imagine!?), the accountant-goes-rock-musician and his family from Lombardia, the teacher ladies from Barcelona and a very special note: thanks to Malgorzata from Poland for your company during my last breakfast on this holiday and even more for inspiring me to get back to writing this blog. 🙂

Portugal impressions
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Catching Up (Episode III/IV) – Mountains, cheese and chocolates

4 09 2010

With summer reaching its peak and the offices of the Italy-based company emptying up due to August retreats of its inhabitants, time had come also for me to leave Vienna and go see some of the world, to relax, to meet old friends and new acquaintances.

The first week of doing so I spent in Austria’s neighboring country Switzerland, to pay long overdue visits to friends who had moved to work there – to be more precise in Bern and Neuchâtel. The first thing you can notice about Switzerland when you travel from Vienna is that supposedly no one travels there, at least not for leisure. This can be derived from the fact that in the airport bookshop you can find travel guidebooks for some very exotic destinations, but none for Switzerland. The second thing you might notice is how organized that country is. Getting a half-fare card for the swiss train system plus a ticket from Zurich Airport to Bern took me roughly two minutes (!), including a brief wait in line, filling in a form (done by the SBB official) and the payment. And the trains themselves have a no-nonsense approach to punctuality: if it says 18.27 then it is 18.27, and not 18.26 and definitely not 18.28… scary, kind of! 🙂

So what is there to do beyond the obvious sightseeing

Downtown Bern

Downtown Bern

(e.g. the city of Bern, nice!): Certainly enjoying the nature in its different aspects – the most fun one being a boat ride in a rubber boat down the Aare river from Thun to Bern, in Captain Jörg’s very own river yacht. This turned out to be a favorite day out for quite many people, as we arrived on the departing point there were already a lot of other boat crews getting ready for the ride. And as pointed out previously also there organization Swiss style prevailed as there was a guy offering “inflate your boat with my compressor for a couple of Swiss francs”. The only obstacle on the otherwise quite relaxing float are the rapids near Uttigen, called the “Uttiger Schnelle” or “Uttiger Welle” by locals. Maybe the same locals who suggested us to pass it on the very right part, which we ultimately decided to ignore as the waters where really white there (right) but not on the left… the reason for this being – as we were soon to find out – the fact that on the left where we tried to pass there is an upstream current. Which took us around in circles, until we managed to row clear of it and went straight through the middle of the fun – wet, but ultimately happy! (I am giving this detailed recount as I was not in a position to shoot pictures or movies during the action, sfortunatamente. 🙂 ) Get an impression on some other guy’s video below:

The second part of my visit then brought me to the French speaking part of Switzerland, namely the quaint city of Neuchâtel where I was very nicely hosted by Judith and Magali, who took me on the first day up a little natural marvel in the Swiss Jura mountains: the Creux Du Van,

Creux Du Van

Creux Du Van

a massive cliff in an otherwise gently hilled landscape. Other than that experiences featured my first cheese fondue (yum!), a bike tour of the three lake country (beautiful!) a hike on the foot of Eiger, Moench & Jungfrau glaciers (fantastic!)

Glacier Views

Glacier Views

and swimming in the Aare river (17.5 °C, by free will, not by boat accident!) as well as Lakes Neuchâtel (refreshing) and Morat (summerly bathing temperature). And to fill train and plane traveling times I read Dan Brown’s latest “The Lost Symbol” and got quite disappointed by the ending. But anyway. OK, and if you have been patient enough to read to here than you may also want to take a look at the picture gallery for sake of completeness.

A trip to Switzerland – August 2010