October 8, 2005

The last weekend, Albufeira! ...

...was really fun Image

One of the greatest weekends I had in Portugal was definitely the one when I went with other trainees, and my friends from back home Irina and Miruna, to Chico's place in Algarve.

It was a blast! Irina, who's my classmate from highshool, and Miruna her colleague from university are doing a year of Erasmus here, studying architecture, and had just arrived two days before. We got there friday night with the bus and check out the wonderful place where we would spend the weekend.

Chico has a villa in a hotel's yard, among with other villas and a great pool which looked really tempting also at night even if i wasn't allowed with balls in the water :p. So after some pillow fighting and portuguese typical music, like 'quero cherar teu bacalhau, Maria', we put the end to that day.

And what a better way to start a saturday if not with a relaxing swim in the pool?
Afterwards we went to the beach, which is just marvelous, with amazing warm water for the start of october. And because all that swimming made us hungry, we had a great lunch/dinner in the villa's living room, in the great portuguese style, like 3 hours meal, with porto wine and interesting pasta recipe which i came up with given the ingredients. Very tasty though, or at least that's what they've told me :p.

Of course, the 'nutella' fight afterwards came in as naturally as it could because we had to wear off the effects of the vodka and porto wine in some kind of way, right?

And to make sure we won't gain any unwanted weight after the meal, we had another pillow fight...

We ended the night wondering through some bars and discos, and i remember struggling with a huge icecream.

Sunday went on in the same coordinates, I got to explore about half kilometer of ocean shore, really nice composed of red soil with pine trees and lots of cliffs and trails that ran through them...

Chico drove us back to Lisbon in the evening... The memory of this weekend will sure keep me through the cold winter that awaits me after I get back home. Thanks Chico for the royal treatment Image

October 2, 2005

The weekend in Fatima...

And there was the IRW in Fatima and the great escape to the Ocean, last weekend, but first things first.

The IRW organized by the LC Catolica, was a hit :D , although I would have expected more people to show up. It was Marcos, the polish people, Lokesh, an indian trainee from Coimbra, Zsuzsi from Tg Mures and Tiago and Bia from the LC who were later joined by Eduard and ...a Jacob from Mosambique(not sure though). We arrived there saturday morning and got to check out the location starting with a picnic. We then checked in at some kind of hostel where I saw a room with the shower inside. It was the first time I saw the shower inside the room itself, like 1m away from the bed, thank God they didn't put the loo there as well. Then we saw the sanctuary and the surroundings which consist mainly of shops full of kitsch religion-related stuff, like led covered crosses and golden frames of Virgin Mary portraits, and lots of hotels and other accomodation buildings. That place was barren field 100years ago.
Now it's too comercial if u ask me, they're now building a huuuuge Cathedral which resembled an antiatomic bunker, it's loosing much of it's mystical charm. Also a piece of the Berlin wall was there.
One of the things I liked best about Fatima was the walk along the road along which the three little shepherds had their visions. Really pitoresque stone paved road and landscape, with olive trees and stony ground. As the sun set, it spread warm hues all over those soft sloped hills.
We had a great typical dinner in which u choose what u want to eat from plates in the middle of the table. Dinner in Portugal is the main meal of the day and people take their time in long talks. I llllove it!
The restaurant was in the countryside, on the outskirts of Ourem, the town nearest to Fatima. We went there after dinner, in really nice bar on some kind of artificial pond, with nice live music and a terace (brrr, chilly night though).
We also checked out this disco 10 km away from Ourem, in the middle of the forest, really weird, but they didn't allow it in the town because of the noise or something. Nice place, 3 rooms, live music, latino, and the biggest, house stuff of course... Not so many 'undressed' girls as you would find in Romania, and not that crowded as well.

On Sunday we went to see the Sanctuary's Church. I was impressed by the voice of a lady who was singing, amazing!!! Had lunch in a place called "Joan Paul the IInd", really unappropriate for a restaurant, if u ask me, and then left for the castle in Ourem. Mostly every town in Portugal has a castle, I would so like to see them all. This one was amazingly beautiful, on top of a hill, with a small community inside the outer walls, an old church whose bells were singing as there was a funeral taking place. All the people seemed so apeasead in that place which seemed so timeless. We went for a coffee in a very nice bar, with massive wood tables and chairs, and the bartender offered us a glass of almond liquor, delightfull drink. They also had 'jinjinha' or something like that, visinata pe romaneste Image. Afterwards, narrow streets going uphill led us to the castle itself, with a magnificent view of the surroundings. Inside the castle there was this plain surface covered with grass, like an inner square, with a monument in the middle. It was really enchanting.
Had to leave for Lisbon with the 6 o'clock bus. It was great Image

September 13, 2005

A perfect Day!

Last sunday (11 sept) is the day I'm writing about. It was my first trip to Sintra, my first because I plan to go there again before I leave. Chico was too kind to take me, Renata and Salome(hope I spelled the name right) to that wonderfull place with his car and show us around.

Sintra is simply packed with palaces and mansions, centuries old, and all the buildings are simply adorable, but the most impressive are the ones on top of the hill guadring the town. There's a moorish castle, mostly ruined, more than a millenia old, and Palacio da Pena which is almost surreal, like cut out of an old story book, dating from the XIXth century. Great detail and a combination of styles out of which I could recognize the arab arches and the typical european towers. You don't need to be an architect to be thrilled by the beauty of this castle... it's just too nice. And the rooms inside were preserved with the furniture and decorations centuries old which were also incredible(but we weren't allowed to take pictures there)

Before getting to the castle though, we wondered through the streets of Sintra, which were home to a whole week festival that was about to end. There was a contest of the most beautiful decorated street in town and there were a lot to choose from. Through time polished stone steps and narrow streets going on incredibly steep slopes my eyes were overwhelmed with so many details as the locals did their best to make sure their street is the most eyecatching.

The vegetation that grows on the hill up to the castle is incredibly lush and green given the severe drought in the rest of the country. It is amazing to walk through ancient graves and ruines more than 1000 years old, remains of the Moorish Castle, covered in green.

After seeing the castle, we went to Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point in Europe, and an impressive landscape also, being on a high cliff above the ocean. We got there just in time to see the sunset in the ocean. Unfortunatelly, there were clouds on the horizon, as you can see in the pictures. The wind was quite strong there, but as some romanians I met there told me, this was nothing, compared to the really strong winds that blow there.

And to end the day in a superb way, we took the road back to Lisboa along the ocean coastline, as the moon was rising above the still ocean. It was a lot of fun, and a perfect day...

September 8, 2005

Mariza, simply increivel!!!

I can barely find the words to describe the extraordinary concert I attended last night when Mariza, the actual image of portuguese fado, performed live at Torre di Belem with the symphonic orchestra of Lisbon in open air. The atmosphere was incredible, not only the music was great but also the entire scenario. It rained for the second time since I'm here (and it's almost two months), but it was a really light rain, which added a special extra vibe to the twisting curves of fado music. Mariza has an amazing voice full of unimaginable strength considering she is so slim you fear she may bearly whisper, and she masters it so skillfully that she can turn in a second from the loudest cry to the faintest whisper creating sharp strinking vibes. A diffuse longing accompanies the intense grief and sometimes happiness transcending from her music that would stir up even the most petrified of souls.
As you cand probably see, I was deeply touched. But you have to see the live event in order to feel the same. No recorded reproduction can match the actual 'being there'...

August 30, 2005


Can't really belive it's more than a month since i'm living in Lisboa. Time passed so quickly as if i had got here yesterday.

I could say that enough time passed for me to catch a glimpse of life in Portugal.
There are a lot of similarities between the Romanian and Portuguese cultures, way of being and life in general. But one of the most distinct differences is that people in portugal are a less stressed than back home, most probably because of the higher life standard. And the less stress you have, the calmer you take life in all it's aspects. Work begins here at around 10 in the morning. Perfect hour if u ask me, because I hate to get up early in the morning. It finishes late in the evening as late as 8 sometimes, but during that time there's the lunch break of one hour or so, and many other coffee brakes. And actually it's good mostly in the summer, staying in the cool, air conditioned office.
Most of the homes don't have air conditioned and in some hot days it gets difficult to live even at night. But this past month has been rather cool, rarely temperatures over 30 degrees. One saturday night i went with Marko, a colleague trainee at my company, from Slovenia, to other trainees' house for a barbecue which was really great. The house had a nice terace where they had the grill and a table with drinks. But it was sooo, cold, in the middle of july I could have sworn it was october. There were a lot of brazilians there, really friendly party people.

Another weekend I went in Alentejo region with Orlin, a trainee from Turkey, having bulgarian and turkish citizenship. His boss at the company he works for took us there. She's Chantal, a former aiesec-er from Canada, in her 40s, living in Portugal for 10 years. Really great person. She was such a young person, unlike most of the people her age, she seemed up to date with all the stuff, and had such a natural approach towards us, I mean not treating us like kids, or with a certain superiority as most older people do.
The beach is called praia do Malhau, a wonderfull portion of impecable sand betweend two cliffs entering into the ocean. Agua de un meravilhoso azul, and pure white foam of the waves stretching for a good couple of meteres on the wide beach, due to the noticeable tide of the Atlantic... it was almost surreal. There are such great places all over the shore of Portugal.

And the Alentejo region was incredibly pitoresque. Small fisherman villages or little port towns with carefully white painted houses with blue stripes at the bottom and windows, like in some disney cartoon. And distinctive chimneys all over the rooftops. This region was well preserved in front of the foreign tourist invasion, because most of them go further south in Algarve. Mostly portuguese people spend their holidays or 'feiras' here, and I understand why. It's so peacefull and calm. Vila Nova de Milfontes is one of these small towns of Alentejo. It's where a river (don't know it's name, but will update when i find out) meets the ocean, and it has a really beautiful medieval castle on the river's bank, with the moat and all. Too bad it was dry, and the crocodiles probably died a long while ago :p
Along the narrow streets of the town you would find a beautiful white church with a distinctive entrance, also typical to the region's architecture. In a roundup, I would say the whole town looked like a small pearl, so simple and yet so beautiful.

August 19, 2005

The IRW in Tavira

Last weekend I was with the trainees in Tavira, on the south coast of Portugal, in the Algarve region. It was a really nice weekend although there was enough place for it to be better.
We left on friday evening with two cars passing through the nice Alentejo region, where I was introduced to the traditional local food which is similar to Transylvanian food. It was a very heavy dish for dinner, with boiled pork parts(like in 'racitura') and fat sausages, blood sausages and boiled cabbage. Also a lot of different types of honey displayed all over the restaurants in nicely decorated pots and jars.

We got to Tavira at 3am and had a water taxi(that was new for me) to the island where we would spend the weekend. Nice thing with having water taxi. I thought we were going to stay on the docks until the morning. So, we finally got to the beach, pitch dark, no moon that night. On phone lights we managed to get some blankets and sleeping bags(I didn't have one the first night) and we slept on the beach. It was really nice, the sand, the sound of the waves and the stars. Maybe a bit cold in the blankets that I had. In the morning I realised that the sand wasn't as clean as I thought with lots of cigar leftovers and other plastic coverings and all.
Saturday at noon the other aiesec-ers showed up. There was only one other trainee, Elif from Turkey, that wasn't from Lisboa, and that we didn't know...She has her traineeship in a small town near Porto where I heard nothing really happends and also she has no ppl to hang out with. Now that is pretty sad. We invited her to pass by Lisboa in the weekends.

The beach was really nice, and the ocean surprinsingly warm. Probably because of the mediterranean influence and the fact that it was more south. During midday it was too hot though. The island, more like a sandstripe between the lake and the ocean, was nice, a couple of bars and restaurants, nothing fancy, fit the picture perfectly. And a camping where we were supposed to stay, but had no more room :(. So for the second evening we remained at the same spot. This time i got a sleeping bad fortunately enough, because I kinda' fell asleep on one of the greek's towels and they were kind enough to suggest a better place :p. So I kinda mixed drinks that night. Started with a nice sangria then cachasa, beer.

We had dinner at one of the restaurants on the island. Really great, I had grilled fish which was really tasty. Went perfectly with the sangria. Not much aiesec activities though, actually nothing really that would remind me of the stuff going on back home. It was good that there were no conferences, boring meetings and all, but maybe some planned activities would have been nice.

The second day was also nice, but the salt which was all over me(especially in the hair) and the lack of showers, the heat and all, made it a bit less exciting than the previous day. Not to mention that at lunch we had to wait for 3 hours for the damn chicken or 'frango' which in the end wasn't even all chicken 'cause the waiter missunderstood 40 dishes with 14.

That evening we came back to Lisboa, just in time for the U2 concert which started at 10 in the evening :((. I didn't go because I really didn't have 250E to pay for the streetprice of the ticket

July 28, 2005


This is the beginning of my blog, from sunny Lisboa, the place where my aiesec traineeship is currently taking place.
More news will surely follow.