Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Continuing Andalucia: Tarifa, Gibraltar, Ronda, Malaga, Cordoba

At the beach of Zahara de los Atunes the fresh morning wind woke us up (29.08.) and upcoming rain made us leaving quickly. And 10min later the rain started, just in time^^
We went to see Tarifa Andalucia's southern most spot and Europe's closest point to Africa. Unluckily the small town looks just like a dirty forgotten place. Two signs with "Atlantico" and "Mediterran" indicate that at this place officially the Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea are separated. The weather was too cloudy to see Africa, so after visiting the small Castillo we went on to see Gibraltar. On the way the clouds dissipated and we could see mountains of Morocco :D
In Gibraltar a trafic jam awaited us... the British were to check the passports/IDs... did you forget its Shengen you morons?^^ "The rock" is a stunning view... we took a drive around the peninsular and enjoyed the vistas. Unluckily we were a little too late to enjoy the upper national park... and unwilling to pay 50eur for a half an hour visit :/ So we continued from Gibraltar to Ronda, a white town inland and uphill.
Ronda seemed a laid back but extremely lively little town. Great views from the hill and streets filled with shopping people at 8 o'clock :D We enjoyed a small dinner and continued to Malaga to sleep at the cities less nice beach.
The next morning (30.08.) we enjoyed a quick swim before we went to see the city of Malaga. A nice small old town with a harbour that looks good from far :) Unluckily the old town is surrounded by industrial buildings. The Alcazaba gives the best view over the nice parts of the town^^
Next we went towards Cordoba. The students city of course is quiet during the summer break... but most interesting was the Mezquita-Catedral, a fromer magnificent mosque into which a huge cathedral was built in the 16th century. Absolutely amazing to see a mix of a mosque and a cathedral in one building... the most important parts of the mosque remained... the cathedral is bright and the feeling is simply from another world... there should be more places like this... after all both religions obey the very same god... they just struggle about the ways how to hallow the lord^^

the cliffs around Gibraltar

a mosque infront of "the rock"

views from Ronda over Andalucia

view from the Alcazaba over Malaga's port

the choir in Mezquia-Catedral

Monday, 29 August 2011

The Algarve, Sevilla and western Andalucia

From Lisbon (25.08.) we made our way down to the Algarve having a sunset stop at Arrifana beach. An amazing coastline with raw and rough cliffs. And a good place to forget your towels while having making dinner... quickly gets dark after sunset^^
We then continued to infamous Lagos... party town was announced... first we were disappointed by all the teenagers running around. But after a couple of beers we found the right bars and at 2pm we met a midwife lady Portugese lady with her two daughters who invited us for the biggest beach party in town... free VIP entry is a good start into a party :P We quickly lost our entrance fairy and got lost in the half naked party crowds... awesome :D At six they were closing, we took a taxi to our car/beach and enjoyed breakfast at sunrise before having a sleep at the beach. Later we woke up, the beach was filled with sunbathing people. We packed our sleeping backs and left to with a hangover to pick up our forgotten towels^^ Back at Arrifana beach we enjoyed brunch and picked up our towels before we went to see Cabo de São Vicente, the southwestern cape of Portugal. More amazing cliff views... unluckily we couldn't fully enjoy them with the hangover^^ We then continued to Faro and strolled through it's peaceful little streets before we went to sleep at the tourist beach of little Altura. The next morning (27.08.) we enjoyed a swim and a sunbath before we continued to Spain.
Later the day we arrived in lovely Sevilla. Unluckily we struggled to find a camping spot and so had to postpone sightseeing to the next day (28.08.). A gorgeous city with many little streets, great squares... everything looks sooooo Spanish here :D The first city with an arena for bullfights... the spanish tradition. Unluckily bullfight months are only April, May, June and September. Hence we couldn't visit any yet :( But Sevilla has enough to offer to spend a couple of days here... but there is so much more we want to see on the trip :P The stunning cathedral and the amazing gardens of the palace (Alcazar) are the topping before we left for Cadiz.
Cadiz is interestingly located on an island before the mainland (you should check on Besides it's interesing location it offered streets off the tourist track and a good place to enjoy some seafood before we spent the night at Ancalucias west coast at Zahara de los Atunes.

The coast near Arrifana beach

"our" beach at Lagos at sunrise

Cabo de Sao Vincente - stunning cliffs

gorgeous streets in Sevilla

Garden of Sevilla's Alcazar

Sevilla's great cathedral

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Lisbon - what an amazing place :D

We arrived in Lisbon at evening (21.08.) and our couchsurfing host Marco welcomed us. Showed us the place and we went out to see some of the city. Within 1h walking through the city centre we were offered hash and coca 20 times. After visiting Lisbons city mark, the placa do comersio, we went through the bar district of Bairro Alto. After some bar hopping we couldn't resist to smoke a joint, that totally blew us off before we went home. The next morning (22.08.) we went by Tram28 to visit Alfama, Lisbons old town. Overlooking the city and visiting the less spectacular castle, we then arrived home and a CS family dinner was waiting for us, as Marco had about 10 couchsurfers staying at his place. Great food, nice stories and too much fun crowned by another bar hopping night at Bairro Alto. The next day we were totally wasted and stayed home until the next CS family dinner^^ 50% of the people changed as some where leaving and others coming by... the food was even better and we had even more fun. We partied at Marco's place until 3am before we went for a bar/club until 7am in the morning. Antoher day to wake up wasted, we went to see the hill town Sintra. A lush place, great to walk around and overall a nice getaway from Lisbon. Unluckily we arrived late and couldn't visit the castle, which is supposed to be a great one. Then we visited Belem, Lisbons version of Bethlehem. A charming place and we even could see the remnants of the sunset :P
From Belem we had a great view to Lisbon's version of the Golden Gate bridge (similar to the San Francisco one) and the Cristo Rei (similar to the Rio de Janeiro one)... yea Lisbon has it's own versions of famous buildings :P Back at Marco's place another CS family dinner was waiting... German night today, unluckily we came a little to late and only could help to prepare the dishes. It didn't take long until everyone was laughing again... 4 days of training for cheeks and liver :P
We said good bye (25.08.) to everyone and after 4 days we left Lisbon (initially we planned to stay 2, but Lisbon caught us like in an amazing trap^^)

Praca do Comercio

Praca da Figueira - and the castle overlooking it

Sintra's palace

Belem's monastery

Monday, 22 August 2011

Porto, Coimbra and Tomar

At the evening (20.08.) we enjoyed dinner in Porto. Seafood followed by an awesome cake and port whine was a perfect start into Porto. The next morning (21.08.) we enjoyed a great breakfast with cakes, pastries and coffee. I love the Portuguese cakes, so delicious. Totally stuffed we took a walking tour through Porto ending at the river front for another coffee and internet^^ Best combination :P While strolling through Porto's streets you always hear the sound of seagulls... a nice city, but it didn't catch up with the expectations we had after we read all descriptions.
We then continued to Coimbra, Portugals oldest and biggest university. After a sleep at the nearby camp site, where we disturbed everyone :P, we went to visit the city (21.08.). But as well our expectations were not met. Probably because we had university cities like Heidelberg, Cambridge or Oxford in mind... but Portugal is not famous for it's university traditions, unlike UK, Germany and France.
Next we went to visit Tomar, a world heritage site. And indeed that was an awesome place. A little castle with stunning palace inside. And in the middle is a huge church, unexpected from outside a beautiful big room enfolds inside. A great stop before we finished our day in Lisbon...

Porto's charming streets with the famous old Portuguese trams

Riverside view of Porto

A lot of stunning squares

Coimbra's main square, the best place in town

Tomar's world heritage site

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Braga and Guimares

After a sleep near praia de amorosa rich in mosquitoes we continued to Braga (20.08.). We drove up hill to Bom Jesus. A lovely place and we drove all the way up, having breakfast overviewing Braga and welcoming the tourists who climbed all the way up :P We saw how jealous they were us, hahahaha :D Great views and an awesome staircase leading to the lovely church.
Later we visited the centre of Braga, which was charming as well. Good place to eat some grapes in the park.
Such great cities welcoming us the first two days in Portugal :)
Next we payed Guimares a visit before we ended the day in Porto. Guimares is another charming city which stands in the shade of Braga.

Bom Jesus stunning baroque staircase

best place to have breakfast and coffee :P

awesome location

the centre of Braga is lovely as well

Guimares - another charming town in Portugal

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Santiago de Compostela and the arrival in Portugal

After we woke up (19.08.) at the camp site, we enjoyed a warm shower and checked internet before we went to see the famous Santiago de Compostela. As the finishing spot of most of the Caminos de Santiago (Ways of St.Jacob) it is a popular tourist destination, especially at this time of the year. When walking through the streets we saw plenty pilgrims who wandered the Camino de Santiago. The town is amazing with its historic centre... filled with awesome buildings whereever you look. Crowned by the Cathedral de Compostela, the place where St.Jacob is supposed to be buried. But all the tourists make the place less holy... the great cathedral loses its charme when it is simply too loud and huge queues are waiting to see the grave. Thus we didn't stay too long and continued our way towards Portugal.

The first stop was Ponte de Lima, a picturesque small town which simply is how I expected Portugal to look like: charming, lovely :D
We simply enjoyed to stroll along the streets and river before we continued to Viana do Castelo. Students were playing music at a square... a nice town as well, but not as great as Ponte de Lima^^ We went to the huge Praia de Amorosa to enjoy sunset with a picnic. Then wild camping near the beach. What a start into Portugal :)

cathedral de compostela, filled with pilgrims

stunning neighbouring church was empty^^

picturesque streets in Ponte de Lima

idyllic little town

students playing music in Viana do Castelo

sunset picnic at praia de amorosa

Friday, 19 August 2011

Rias Atlas - Spains dramatic northwestern coast

Pics first, text later^^

Cliffs near the Lighthouse

quite a way down^^

stunning vistas

freely running horses around

superb coastline

what a view... couldnt get enough

woohoo... so awesome^^

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Oviedo, Aviles and the Praya de Silencio

From Santander we continued to Santillane del mar (17.08.). It is the village of three lies, as it is not holy (santi), flat (llana) nor near the sea (del mar). It looked like a friendly village, but big caravans of tourists were there waiting to go to the nearby cave. So we decided no to stay here for. Instead we continued straight to Oviedo.
A lovely town we spent some hours strolling through the city, getting lost (as it was much smaller than we expected, hence we walked out of the area our map covered^^). Finally we got our hands on internet to get some news and answer some mails...
After Oviedo we went to see the new Centro Niemeier building in Aviles. Unluckily the building is not very pleasent. A huge square made from beton missing any charme. But that is what Brasilia is infamous for...
So we continued to Praya de Silencio, which was supposed to be an awesome beach. And indeed, the setting was great. We arrived late, enjoyed a bbq and went to sleep in our tent. Unluckily the next morning when we wanted to enjoy a swim, it was raining and temperatures dropped a lot. Thus we left to see the north-western coast of Spain.

chilling Oviedo

New opened Centro Niemeier building in Aviles

Praya de Silencio

Good morning view after leaving the tent :D

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Castro Urdiales and Santander

After a good morning swim in San Sebastian (16.08.) we left early taking the coastal road towards Castro Urdiales. On the way we stopped for a brunch. Quite some great views along the coast.
Arriving in Castro Urdiales the next Fiesta waited for us. The centre of the small town was filled with people and tents. They seemed to be grouped by T-Shirts sharing the same tents. They didn't intend to sell anything but just enjoy their party at the docks.
Everyone seemed half naked, texts written all over the body, mixing 50 litre pots of Sangria - simply enjoying an awesome party :D When the needed a refreshment, they simply jumped from the docks into the water... a rescue boat was waiting there, just to be sure^^ As well as 5 ambulances around the docks. I guess they know why they need it :P
Everywhere BBQs... Grills filled with steaks and spare ribs, yummy :D Water was cooled in the huge Sangria pots, where else?
But we just had a short stop here to enjoy the folks and then continued on our road towards Santander. Famous for it's bank the city is much more sophisticated. Quite stiff compared to the partying cities before. But we found a convenient spot at one of the plenty beaches to spent the night. Unluckily we forgot about the truck renewing the beaches every night... so that one woke us up... but we just turned around and continued sleeping :P
The next morning a refreshing swim waited for us before we continued to Oviedo.

BBQ at the coast :P

Party folks in Castro Urdiales

Banko Santander

Good morning swim after a night at the beach

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

San Sebastian - the Basque Country

When we arrived in San Sebastian at late evening (14.08), a huge firework was waiting for us. The biggest I've seen so far.
Later we were told that it was the beginning of Fiesta, a one week city fest hold in spanish cities in summer :D Lucky us^^
The streets were filled with people, young and old. We walked along the beach promenade towards the city centre... all the streets were filled with people singing, dancing, drinking, eating... what a party all over the city.
"Dos grande cervezas, por favor" (2 big beer please) - a sentence we repeated plenty times that evening hopping from bar to bar. Musicians were playing in the streets, even a concert near the docks. At 7am we went to sleep on the beach, the party was getting quiet slowly.
The next midday we woke up on a busy beach with people chatting, sun bathing (tho there were many clouds) and swimming :D Good timing to take a morning swim in the Atlantic :P
After we recovered at the beach we went sightseeing through the town at early evening. The streets were filled (still or again?). A hike up to San Sebastian's Jesus statue gave us a great view over the city. Tho San Sebastian is not a huge city, the centre seemed like millions of people were living in that city :D
Next we went into one of the Basque Country's famous Tapas bars and enjoyed the delicious pintxos^^ Not only the streets but also the bars and even the cathedral were full. Where did all that people come from?
We saw a lot of young people wearing stickers shouting for a free Basque Country. But now it was Fiesta, everyone simply wanted to enjoy the huge party.

View from the hill after the fireworks

View on the surfer beach from the Jesus statue

Tapas bar :D

busy cathedral