Amazing Azores

A travel on the Azores is a stun­ning adven­ture. It´s the per­fect mix­ture of old towns, pro­tected nat­ural reser­va­tions, hiking and hitchhiking infra­struc­ture, camp­ing sites and of course hos­pi­tal­ity. Wow, the peo­ple there are wel­com­ing wan­der­ers like me with an open heart and a home­made glass of wine. A travel on the 5 islands of the Azores Archipelago: Sao Miguel, Terceira, Sao Jorge, Pico and Faial.

Travel logs

At my last station in Horta. Here in the small cafe in front of Porto Pim, peo­ple just pass by for a quick cup of cof­fee, before going to work. 30 years ago it was used as the har­bor for whale fish­ing. Now it has gone quiet, except for the emi­grants who come back in sum­mer telling sto­ries about their life back in the US. Only a few tourists and some sailors find their way here, espe­cially in one of these rainy days like we have one now. On the right end of the har­bor there is the old fortress, which was some­how pro­tect­ing the bay from pirates, on the left end there is the left­overs from the fac­tory, where they made oil from the whales. Back then it was impos­si­ble to go swim­ming because the bay was bloody and many sharks were look­ing for left­overs around here.

A cou­ple stands by the har­bor wall and look onto the hori­zon, it seems more rain will arrive in the com­ing days. It is the sec­ond day of Euro­pean sum­mer, but it feels like win­ter espe­cially for the many sailors who arrive here from the Caribbean, before the hur­ri­cane sea­son starts over there. But the charms of this small bay remains and the church on “Monte guia” behind the whal­ing fac­tory is cov­ered in clouds. It is another per­fect day for some writ­ing and pos­si­bly the best day for reflect­ing the last month, that I have spent trav­el­ing these islands.

How it all began

In the begin­ning it was just a quick call from my friend Matthias, who send me the pro­mo­tion offer by SATA air­lines to go to the Azores for an incred­i­ble air­fare. I was hun­gry for some time­out, so it did not take any longer than an hour to book the flights. Until my depar­ture many things hap­pened that gave me more food for thought and heavy soul meals to digest. My grand­mother died just a week before I went, and it was hard for me to real­ize, that one of the most beloved women in my live had gone. Sad­dled in sad­ness but mounted with hope I took off to Munich, from where my flight would depart. When I jumped on the train I was alone, but since then never again. The first night in Munich I spent at the house of Jan, the brother of Matthias, it was like back in the days, when we were still at school, but now with style: Schwein­shaxn, Cham­pagne and good talks. The next after­noon the plane to Ponta Del­gada, Azores was expect­ing me. In my back­pack was not much, but a newly acquired tent, sleep­ing bag, a mat and some more clothes in cot­ton bags (which turned out to be great pil­lows later) among a bunch of books about love & mind, which I have not fin­ished until today. When check­ing in, it was the short­est row ever. Only one other back­packer was right next to me. On-board we real­ized that it was a very few peo­ple going on this kind of jour­ney. Some­how it felt like a soli­tary retreat right from the begin­ning. The only thing I had pre­pared was a place to stay at in the first night: the youth hos­tel in Ponta Del­gada. Both of us took a cab and the taxi dri­ver not know­ing much to say in Eng­lish, except to point out that his Mer­cedes has served him for almost one mil­lion kilo­me­ters and runs only on five cylinders.

Anton from Dres­den, as I learned on the check-in in the youth hos­tel, was about to do some Woof­ing on Flo­res. But the first night on Sao Miguel was made with hot dogs and beer, which to our sur­prise and joy was quite tasty, cold and inex­pen­sive. In the next morn­ing at break­fast I met a girl eat­ing alone in the empty din­ing room and sat with her, we exchanged our ideas on what to do and hers sounded invit­ing, as well to Anton who arrived later to break­fast. So we went on a hike up to the moun­tain lake “Lagoa del fogo” on the very first day. It was nice to have some­one with a plan already and just hook up. We also met another swiss girl so our first trek team was of four and did not dis­ap­point any of our efforts. Because the lake was just amazing.

One month and five islands later, the rain is get­ting stronger and every­one who still coped with the lit­tle drops of heaven now fled from the ter­race to the inside of the cafe, except two grand­fa­thers who seem to have seen worse than this. Soon the heavy rain becomes a lighter one, only the smooth sound of the waves has got­ten stronger as again the wind has gained in speed and strength. I walk out of the cafe to see some more of the scenery around here and in the waves I find a face. A woman is swim­ming there like a mer­maid, div­ing into the water and com­ing up again. She surely enjoys the rain­drops from above while being in the fresh water. Then as I con­tinue to walk the sun makes her way through the clouds and soon it gets hot and humid again. I can feel the water on my skin form­ing a layer of extra glu­ing mate­r­ial. The sun invites my feet to go to the har­bor again and work on my photo series about the sail­boats and sailors. On the way I pass by at the house, where I am stay­ing at to refill my bag with some food and get rid of some extra clothes, which are obvi­ously unnec­es­sary as I now have a nat­ural extra skin.

The Marina Bars

Back in the Har­bor I am start­ing to take pic­tures again — like all the other days, nicely ask­ing the peo­ple I meet whether I can take a shot of them too. Some say yes and only a few no. Most of them want to know what I am doing and I always take my time to explain. Then one woman sends me to a nearby skip­per who is about to show his yacht. So I take off my shoes and jump on board, not with­out wet­ting my socks because I was unaware of the water on deck. Below deck I am amazed of what this newly acquired yacht looks like and it surely fas­ci­nates me. Every inch of space is effi­ciently used and beau­ti­fully designed at the same time. I stay a while and talk to Emidio. He invites me for a cup of cof­fee and soon in the marina bar he intro­duces me to all kind of sailors. Beer, cof­fee, sand­wiches – it´s impos­si­ble to leave. Some of them are sail­ing with kids and for sev­eral years now. We con­tinue until the soc­cer game, which Ger­many even wins vs. Greece with 4:2. Although I am the only one cheer­ing for Ger­many, nobody really looks mad at me. After such a com­pelling game I am bit tired but not tired enough to check out Peters Cafe Sport. The Pub was full of peo­ple and the stage was just about to get pre­pared for some Live Music. When order­ing my first drink at the bar, an elderly man asked me: “Do you like to take my pic­ture in a proper out­fit?” It is Jean Pierre, who I have met ear­lier but I did not rec­og­nize him at first sight in his evening out­fit. So we spent the night drink­ing beer, talk­ing about love & life. He said when he decided to leave Bel­gium and go to the Azores peo­ple asked him: “But what about your pen­sion? If you stop work­ing now…?” Now, 12 years after mov­ing to Horta he runs a suc­cess­ful yacht repair service.

On the next day I meet Emidio and Jean-Pierre again and it feels like see­ing old friends, although I try not to stop by to early but take some pic­tures before I move into the sailor bars again. I also meet James from the UK who turns out to be a great man in terms of com­pelling sto­ry­telling. It seems that this island is about meet­ing peo­ple who can give me guid­ance, because they have lived their lifes freely, fought for their dreams, made mis­takes and then con­tin­ued. This is my last sta­tion before fly­ing back to Ger­many and I am becom­ing very aware of the fact, that it is inter­est­ing to meet peo­ple who do live their very own lifestyle and make their dreams come true, although most of the times they start just with an intu­ition.

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