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Azulejos of Portugal

Decorative building façades composed of thin-glazed ceramic tiles are considered a national art form in Portugal with a long historic tradition dating back to Arabic times. In Português they are called “Azulejos”, most probably stemming from the Arabic “al zulaij” meaning small polished stone. In fact the technique was adapted from Moorish decorative art in the early 16th century and gained popularity quickly in the aspiring Portuguese architecture of the time. Still today many houses as well as churches are decorated with these beautiful works of art produced over time by many tile maker workshops in different parts of the country (and in other Portuguese speaking countries around the world like Brazil). Probably there are almost as many patterns as there are Bacalhau receipts, but maybe that’s slightly exaggerated  😉 Interestingly though their use is not purely decorative in nature but the tiles also have practical gains as they help to control the temperature within the covered buildings.

I didn’t get to photograph all of the tile houses I passed by as that would definitely be a lifetime task (someone out there is attempting I am sure), but some of the artwork caught my eye while living and traveling in Portugal in the beginning of the year. I will post another collection with Azulejos specifically from Lisbon, the following are from all over the country (Porto, Coimbra, Aveiro, Guimaraes, also Lisbon etc.).

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Of Land and Sea: Nature of Portugal

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Most travellers of Portugal know Lisbon, some go to the Algarve in the south. Mainly for classic beach vacations in holiday resorts. Not as well known though is the natural part of the country.

Laying open to the grand Atlantic Ocean, the Portuguese coast seems endless with steep cliffs and beautiful sand beaches. As the sea is in the west, the sunsets are especially beautiful and vivid. At this time of the day sailing ships tend to roam the horizon, even enhancing the kitschy scenery. Probably you will have a companionship of seagulls around you, they seem to enjoy the sunsets as much as the humans.

Even less known is the “hinterland”. Especially the north of the country offers a lot to the backpacker with high mountain ranges and magnificent castles. The weather tends to be a bit cooler in these regions, perfect for a hike in the evening. So what are you waiting for? The adventure awaits!

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Photographing Lisbon Pt. I

A few months have passed since I left Lisbon. I stayed there for the past autumn and winter working and traveling. As much as I could I used the weekends for photography, roaming the busy streets of the Portuguese capital trying to capture it’s spirit on film (well not really, on a SD card).  Life has moved on, but the buzzing trams and friendly people of this great town seem still close to me.

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On a Farm in the Midst of the Sea

In the midst of the Atlantic Ocean between the land masses of North America and Europe there are some sprinkled islands of volcanic origins called the Azores. If you want to find them on a map you probably need a pair of glasses. While they seem to disappear in the vast blue surrounding them, the inhabitants are there withstanding the forces of the ocean for many hundred of years already, living mostly of agriculture carried out on the rich volcanic soil of the islands. Products from the Azores like milk and cheese are well known for their quality in mainland Portugal, to which the nine islands belong politically. Also there is some tourism. Since 2015 Ryan Air is operating flights to the islands from Lisbon and Porto. Together with a friend we seized the opportunity and took a flight to the main island of São Miguel. We travelled the island by bike and by public busses mostly. Cruising through green landscapes and passing by cattle, visiting small villages and meeting friendly people. Always on the canvas of a vast endless ocean.

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Discovering Cyprus

Last time Cyprus was featured it was all about a divided island. Though the political situation is complicated for sure, I recommend to visit both parts of the island. So I won’t differentiate between the Turkish and the Greek parts in the following gallery. The pictures 5, 6 and 7 need some background: After the Ottoman conquest of Cyprus former Gothic Cathedrals were converted into Mosques. Interestingly some where not destroyed and just minor changes were made (like the destruction of angel figures due to the ban of images in Islam) and the altar was displaced within the church, so the believers would be able to pray in the direction of Mekka. According to Ottoman traditions the former Cathedrals were equipped with carpets and the inner church was painted white. Though inside as well as outside you still see the Christian heritage. The clean and bright style of Islamic religious decoration combined with the dark and serious Gothic style makes for a thouroghly fascinating combination.

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