Meeting Dalí: Surrealist sculptures in Marbella

Salvador Dalí must be the epitome of the eccentric artist-genius if there ever was one. And eccentric, mind you, in a good, no, freaking brilliant way. The Catalan artist melted hearts and stirred the art world´s pot with his unconventional, surrealist ways. I was fortunate enough to visit his thought-provoking “Casa Museu Dalí” in Figueres, close to the French border, a while ago – a place where giant eggs sit enthroned on the claret colored rooftop and sultry lips as well as a nose act as surprising pieces of furniture and decor. It is an inspiring place, to say the least! 

Dalí´s work traveled far and wide, and a part of it somehow ended up in a place the celebrated artist didn´t really have that much to do with during his lifetime – in Marbella, Southern Spain.  While the creative genius spent most of his life between cities such as Barcelona, Madrid or Paris with a longer stay in New York, some of his outlandish sculptures have found a home in the beautiful, notorious coastal city 45 minutes from Malaga. 

There are two places in Marbella where you can soak up the Mediterranean sun and marvel at the famous painter, artist and sculptor´s
work at once. One is located at Puerto Banus, playground of the super-wealthy, where even Arabia´s billionaires leave their yachts in the port and come out to mingle. Located on the Cristamar roundabout at the end of Avenida Naciones Unidas, a several tonne heavy rhinoceros dressed in lace greets its onlookers with a detached (or is it cheeky?) demeanor.  

Rhinoceros sculpture Dali Marbella
This well-dressed rhinoceros was created by Dali after he made a crazy movie called “The Prodigious Adventure of the Lacemaker and the Rhinoceros” in 1956. Photo by Manuel 
González Olaechea y Franco/ Wikimedia Commons.

For a wider array of artwork, head to Marbella Boulevard, to so-called Avenida del Mar, which is located right in the pulsing heart of the city, between the endlessly charming old town with its flower-patios and narrow winding, white-washed streets, and the gorgeous embankments along the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean ocean. 

Here, where a salty sea breeze fills the air and the sun warms every pore of your skin, five quirky sculptures await your interpretation. The first one depicts Greek mythological man and hero Perseus, caught in the act while cutting lady Medusa´s head off. Remember Medusa? Yep, it´s that feisty female with snakes instead of hair and a pretty chilly gaze – so chilly, in fact, that any man gazing upon her would turn to stone. It seems somehow understandable, then, that Perseus would do such a drastic move. But wait, isn´t he already cast in stone? This is kinda confusing. I mean, what´s the point? Anyway, moving on.

Apart from Perseus, there are two sculptures that showcase a more direct connection to Dali’s life: One of them is named “Gala Gradiva” after the artist´s wife, the other is a depiction of her looking out a window. As you can gather from these sculptures, this enigmatic, Russian-born woman played a central role in Dali´s art and life. He adored her with as much heart and soul as only artists can adore their creative-life-giving muses. As a testimony to this and to the powerful effect of love on art, let me close this post with a quote by Dali himself, revealing his neverending affection for Gala as well as the overall quirkiness of his character:


“I name my wife: Gala, Galushka, Gradiva; Oliva, for the oval shape of her face and the color of her skin; Oliveta, diminutive for Olive; and its delirious derivatives Oliueta, Oriueta, Buribeta, Buriueteta, Suliueta, Solibubuleta, Oliburibuleta, Ciueta, Liueta. I also call her Lionette, because when she gets angry she roars like the  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lion”

 

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Peel-Region: Hanging out with Australian wildlife

Australia is a destination without equal in a lot of aspects. 10.685 beaches? Check. World class-cuisine in an array of cutting-edge coastal cities? Check. Landscapes and vegetation that ranges from the tropical rain forests of Northern Queensland to the immensely vast red outback deserts of the interior? Check. 

If there is one thing, however, that sprang to my mind before visiting Australia for the first time back in 2011, it was its unrivaled array of quirky wildlife. Once I told my European friends that I would move Down under, there was a unison:” But what about the animals there? Isn´t it dangerous??” Well, theoretically, yes. But practically and with a tiny bit of common sense, no. Yes, there was a deadly red-back-spider in the shed of my former home South of Perth, as my partner nonchalantly pointed out when I stepped inside with no shoes. And yes, there were a few Shark-related incidents on Western Australian beaches. But for the most part, the animals in Australia are to die for, not to die from. 

Need some proof here? Alright, I´ll take you to a very special place in Pinjarra, to a small animal sanctuary otherwise known as Peel Zoo. Sounds good? 

The unique thing about this place is that you get a possibility to really get up close and personal with the resident cuties here, and not in that “Come really close”-PR-kinda way, where you are still 50 meters away from the action.  Buy some feed and venture into a part of the sanctuary where you can encounter endearing Alpacas, deer, and curious chickens.

You can also hang out with some kangaroos, feed an Emu, assist a snake expert talk and demonstration and hold a snake yourself, or spend time in the amazing walk-through-aviary. I tried my luck at holding a snake and honestly, I loved it! I assumed somehow the snake´s skin would feel cold and slippery, but instead, it felt quite warm and almost lovely to the touch. Of course, I was still a little unsure when holding a snake for the first time. But with all the messages we get around these reptiles in the media, that was to be expected…So if you visit, do give this experience a go, it might just completely change your attitude towards this beautiful animal!

If snake holding is not your thing, but you´ve somehow always secretly dreamed of being a pirate, you´ll have the chance to make this phantasy, at least partly, come true. How on earth, you may ask? Well, when wandering through the Peel Zoo aviary, it might just happen that a cheeky parrot spontaneously decides to hang out on your shoulder for a while. Take that, Captain Sparrow! 

All in all, you´ll come away from your hours spent at this sanctuary an hour South of Perth with a warm and fuzzy feeling and with some new-found friends from the Australian Animal Kingdom. 

Have you ever interacted with Aussie wildlife before? If so, where and how did your experience go? Would love to hear from you. 

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Discover Street Art and cozy cafes in funky Fremantle

Fremantle – when a name basically contains the word free, it must be pointing to something good. Free as in freedom, not free stuff, I am not that cheap mate. Anyways, Fremantle holds a very special place in my heart, as I had the pleasure to call this harbor town located 30 minutes from Perth city center my home for several years.

Fremantle, that´s mind-blowingly beautiful beaches where dolphins stop by to play, stunning colonial-era architecture, an array of unique cafes and gourmet restaurants and a soul that´s as tied to multiculturalism as it is to art. There are many exciting focal points for art-lovers and creative mavericks in this town. One of it is undoubtedly the cutting-edge street art that can be found all over Freo, as the locals like to dub their home.  

To get a good feel for the distinct vibe of hip and hippie-haven Freo, a combination of viewing street art and hanging out in some of the town´s coolest cafes might just do the trick. One of my favorite go-to-places when living in the neighborhood was undoubtedly a little cafe called Duck Duck Bruce that exudes an undeniably Mediterranean vibe thanks to its whitewashed walls, its turquoise doors, and its many lush green plants.

Start your inspiring day out in Freo by indulging in a healthy brekky aka breakfast on the patio while reveling in some people-watching. Freo bursts with street performers, alternative healers, world citizens and the like, so you are almost guaranteed to watch an interesting crowd do their thing while munching on a meal such as “It´s not easy being green”, a mix of smashed avocado, minted peas, and more goodies.

Next up, head to Essex Lane and check out the cool urban art piece on the rear exterior of The Monk brewery and kitchen, created by local artist Straker. Continue on to the car park opposite the legendary Fremantle Markets, which are well worth a stop in themselves. A giant 25-meter Numbat mural painted by Belgian artist ROA is sure to grab your attention here. Linger for a while before strolling on, witnessing the vibrant vibe around the so-called Cappuccino strip on South Terrace, before heading to another one of my absolute favorite cafes in the whole world.

The Moore´s and Moore´s cafe, which is also a restaurant and, best of all, a quirky art gallery is a place I´ve spent many a blissful hour chatting away with friends or marveling at cool works of art, so check it out and have a drink or a bite to eat here.

Finally, stretch your legs again and head to two more places with outstanding street art: The car park close to Bathers Beach, just next to the Park and the gorgeous Norfolk Pine trees, as well as Cantonment Street opposite Clancy´s Fish Pub, which showcases several cutting-edge murals.

Finish your exploration at the out-of-the-ordinary cafe and restaurant Ootong & Lincoln in South Fremantle, a hip joint with unusual decoration (think: bikes around the ceiling) and healthy homemade dishes as well as yummy smoothies and organic tea blends.



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Rotto: Where animals are the true Selfie-pros

Perth and its surrounding areas have so much more to offer than cultural cliches might make you believe. In my humble opinion, there are a lot of spots here that come close to what heaven might resemble like, especially if that heaven was envisioned for Condé-Nast-travel-editors, National Geographic- wildlife-photographers or just intrepid travel lovers. Ok, now that the stage is set and your curiosity is sparked, let me introduce you to Rotto. Say what?

Rotto is local speak for Rottnest Island, an absolute chocolate-praline of an island located about a 25-minute ferry ride off Fremantle in Western Australia. Rotto is everything you think the Carribean might look like, plus Quokkas. Say what again? Well, imagine stepping off the ferry in Thomson Bay, being blinded by white sand beaches, greeted by incredibly clear blue waters sparkling invitingly in the sun and a sky the color of azure-blue confetti. Your gaze wanders around, your mood lifts from taking in all the picture-perfect impressions around you and then, something VERY unusual stops you in your tracks.

Is it an Instagrammed aka beautified rat? Is it a small kangaroo gone wrong? No! The small animals that like to wander around Rotto as if they own the place (which they kinda do) are called Quokkas. If a zoologist would explain to you what they are, he would probably say that they are wallaby-like marsupials about the size of a cat. Quokkas are a truly Western Australian phenomenon, as they can only be found on some islands off the WA coast and in the forest and coastal heath in the South-Western part of this vast state.

The Quokka is a true trendsetter by the way, as he/she prefers vegan food, and is furthermore also very photogenic. It´s no wonder, then, that Quokkas do fancy the occasional photo-shoot. Ah well, they might be slightly addicted. But who isn´t, in these times of social media mayhem? Sorry, I am wandering off. Back to your new found animal friend.

No matter whether you choose to explore the Rottnest Island nature reserve by foot or on a bike, you´ll see Quokkas all around. They will approach you if you stick around for a bit, so get that selfie-stick ready and put a smile on your dial. The Quokka usually already has one, that´s why it´s often called “The happiest animal ever” by its admirers. I would be happy, too, if a whole island was named after me!

Yep, the name ´Rottnest´is actually a weird sort of love declaration to the fun-loving furry marsupials, because, just like you, 17th century Dutch explorers didn´t know what hit them when they saw these cuties for the first time. They accordingly named the island after their perception of the Quokkas as cat-sized rats – Rottnest Island literally means rat´s nest.

Alright, let´s assume you are waiting for your Quokka-friends on this car-free island playground, ideally around the main settlement area in the late afternoon. Your new photo-co-stars love green spaces and grass (ahem, no comment), so they often hang out around the green space where the bakery is, according to insider sources on the island.

You could also choose to interact around Thomson Bay or see if a Quokka wants to keep you company at the Oceanside Pub. Anyways, Quokka approaches you, next up, get low to the ground and close to the Quokka’s level, and do not put your arm around it – you can do that with your Uncle Bill, but not with this wild and free Selfie queen/ king. Do not touch it all, actually. Think of it as a Kim Kardashian or a Sam Heughan in animal form. You wouldn´t touch them, either, if you crossed their path, right? Being starstruck and all.

To top off your Quokka-interaction- experience, continue on to the final step: Click that freaking shutter! Yeah, you´ve done it! And the best part: No need to Whatsapp the Quokka-mate the new picture. They have plenty already.


Practical information:

  • To get there, take a ferry from Fremantle, central Perth or Hillary´s Boat Harbour. There are numerous ferries available daily with Rottnest Express and Rottnest Fast Ferries. 
  • Do not touch the Quokkas, you or them might get unwell from that. Think of them as a Tinder-date with social anxiety.
  • Do not feed them, either. Think of yourself feeding them as that overeager aunt that always wanted to stuff you with food you didn´t want.
  • Bring a Selfie-stick to keep a decent distance between you and smiley Quokka. Remember, they are basically movie or TV stars. Keep your cool and don´t get hysterical. 

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China for beginners: Hainan

Excitement doesn’t even begin to cover what I feel when boarding Air-not-Africa in direction Hainan, China’s only subtropical island paradise. I wonder whether I am slightly high – no wonder, after a very restless night wandering the corridors of Singapore’s Changi Airport I am on a 24-hour sleep deprivation that’s just about to go weird.

Meeting Isabella from Haikou

Fortunately, there’s my new friend Isabella: a very dreamy girl from Haikou, Hainan’s capital city, who smiles non-stop and asks me straight-up whether I am up for a chat. Over the next two or three hours, Isabella shares fascinating insights with me that reveal a lot about some of the challenges that contemporary China and Chinese youngsters specifically are currently facing.

As opposed to most Western young adults, Chinese youth are heavily influenced and formed by their strict parents’ expectations and demands. Isabella, a name the 23-year-old chose for herself to facilitate interactions with foreigners who might struggle with pronouncing the Mandarin name, is no exception. Following her parents’ wishes, she is studying tourism in Singapore despite feeling utterly bored by it. She also hasn’t been able to catch up with her boyfriend in eleven long month due to her parents’ disapproval.

Isabella keeps telling me how hard it still is in modern day China to stand up to your ancestors and to choose the life you really want to live against all protests and odds. We end our surprisingly direct conversation by exchanging addresses and hugging each other goodbye. My first impression of Chinese people in China is definitely a great one! Let´s see if these positive impressions keep coming –  it’s time to set foot on the land of the rising sun.

The land of the rising sun

The people’ s Republic of China is home to over a whopping 1,37 billion people. The little island to the South is subtropical Hainan, one of China’s premier holiday destinations.

Passing the Chinese border control

Ah well, it´s ALMOST time to set foot on the land of the rising sun. First, a border patrol lady is questioning my motives of entering the holy land of consumer product creation. “Are you here for business?”, she asks me in a strict tone of voice. “No, visiting a relative.” , I answer slightly intimidated. “What is your relative doing in China?” At this point, I am inclined to answer with “He is an American spy. ”

I choose not to, however, flying back to Australia without even tasting some authentic dumplings does not sound like the wisest plan. The border patrol lady seems satisfied with the answer I actually give, and so I triumphantly leave the security area, pick up my bags and meet my relative at the exit. Fortunately, he is fluent in Chinese – seeing as out of nowhere, about five over-diligent cab drivers surround us and get a little too close for my liking. Hey, I am used to plenty of space now, living in WA and all! After discussing loudly in screamy Chinese, we get into a cab and drive to the hostel. There´s good and bad news awaiting me there.

haikou taxi

Haikou and a cab. I know it´s not the airport.

First impressions of the Haikou hostel

The good news: an in-house menu with delicious dumplings that I actually manage to eat with chopsticks! The bad news: the toilet is a hole in the ground… Then I remember that this is quite a common thing in Asia, and tell myself to be less biased, for f… sake. Flexibility is key regarding authentic travel experiences, and I plan on sticking to that mantra! The next two days in Haikou are spent discovering some intriguing sights, tasting authentic treats and ….almost eating a brain. Stay tuned for more details on my Haikou adventures! Have you been to China yet? What were your first impressions?

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Fiery food and fancy clubs in spectacular Singapore

My first trip to Singapore was a game changer – I was in Asia for the first time, after all! And I was ready for absolutely anything. Before even setting foot on the Lion’s city’s soil, I made sure to cover every last inch of my skin in pungent, poisonous DEET-Spray to keep any possible malaria-threat at bay.  In my mind, it was quite obvious that bloodthirsty anopheles-mosquitoes were patiently waiting around every corner just to get hold of my irresistibly delicious blood. My first Singaporean encounter was, however, not an out-of-control mosquito, but a lovely Indian guy working at the airport. Much to my amazement, he was quite delighted when he found out that I had just arrived from Germany. He gifted me a broad, beautiful smile and performed a little jump, mimicking a soccer-move in the air and enthusiastically exclaiming: ”Ah, Germany! Soccer!”

Singers Skyline

Admiring the Lion´s city skyline on a hazy afternoon

Stepping out of Changi Airport, voted the best airport in the world for the last five consecutive years, something quite distinct caught my attention. A bunch of mostly tiny white-haired ladies and gentlemen,  all in their seventies or eighties, were walking around full of determination and busy like bumblebees. Their sole task consisted in making sure that the taxis would swiftly drive up to their designated spot and that customers would be on their way right away, without any hassle or any tedious waiting in line. All in all, it took about two minutes until we were safely seated in the taxi. Quite efficient, right? On the way into town, I longingly pressed my nose against the tainted window, fully in awe of the amazingly lush, abundant tropical vegetation that lined the impeccably maintained streets. Gorgeous Banyan trees, palm trees, and orchids gave us a quick first impression of Singapore’s staggering 2200 native plant species.

Eat, eat, eat some more: Welcome to food heaven

Our cute hotel, Hangout@Mount Emily, was located only 3 km away from Chinatown, and we decided to make the most of the balmy, tropical night and take a look around. Luckily for us, the shopping malls, one of Singapore’s definite go-to-places and (almost) national treasures, were still open at 10 pm, allowing us to explore their amazing food stalls. With their array of colorful, mouth-watering specialties, Singapore’s hawker centers and markets are undoubtedly a piece of pure paradise for food-lovers.

 

singapore shopping mall

Enjoying one of Singapore´s countless shopping malls

One of Singapores´s many foodstalls

A busy food stall at Lau Pa Sat food market

Want some inspiration? If you love it hot and spicy, you should definitely give Singapore’s specialty dish Laksa a try. Laksa is a spicy noodle soup from the Peranakan/ Nyonya cuisine,  created by descendants of early Chinese migrants who settled in Penang, Malacca, Singapore, and Indonesia inter-marrying with local Malays. It consists of rice noodles with chicken, prawn or fish, offered in spicy soup and often times based on rich and spicy curry coconut milk. When I tried Laksa for the first time at fancy Lau Pa Sat Food market, I desperately attempted to eat a quarter of the normal sized portion for an eternally long seeming half an hour, skeptically ogled by the Singaporean soup Saleslady. I did not do so well, to say the least, despite basically turning into a fire-spitting ball of determination. So yeah, you better love your meals real hot!

Other delicious food-ideas to sample in Singapore pose less risk to spice-adverse stomachs and include delicious pink dragon fruit, Kaya toast and Milo for breakfast. Or tender satay, grilled meat served with rice cake, peanut sauce and cucumber-chili relish, for a light lunch. Singapore’s food is generally speaking as diverse and eclectic as its population, a fascinating blend of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, and Western influences.

 

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Pretty in pink: Dragon fruit, or Pitya, is grown and exported from several South East Asian countries. Its mommy is a pretty cactus!

Spice it up, non-food-wise: A wedding celebration and tropical nightlife wonders

My first stay in Singapore, a country that consistently scores top spots in the ”Best countries to live in” – rankings, obviously did not just (exclusively) consist of food indulgences. One of the undeniable highlights was attending a friend’s incredibly memorable wedding-celebration at luxurious Marina Bay Sands, an integrated resort fronting Marina Bay in Singapore. After a touching church ceremony downtown, the celebration took place in one of the many Skyscrapers overlooking the Singaporean Marina. And what a celebration it was! A delicious five-course-meal and two dress changes and appearances of the newlyweds, dramatically set in scene by a red carpet, Titanic-movie-style-music, as well as smoke from an authentic smoke machine (for real!), turned the party into an almost out-of-body experience.

Singapore

Stunning Singapore at night

After a mix of tear-jerking speeches and light entertainment, it was finally time to hit da dance floor. Singapore has quite a reputation for its great club-scene, including but not limited to the areas of Clarke Quay, Chinatown’s Club street and Holland village. For fans of nostalgic momentum: Check out legendary Raffles hotel and drink up that notorious Singapore Sling, though your purse might not thank you for it. However, your travel memory collection certainly will. Choices! In our case, we opted for something different that young and alluring night and decided to party on in one of Singapore’s stunning clubs with a view, CE LA VI, and to, later on, hit the clubs on gorgeous Sentosa Island. Hugely popular Sentosa Island is a true treasure chest, even though it’s not entirely what it seems to be… Do you have any handy, absurd, or exciting travel tips for Singapore to share? Feel free to comment below, and thanks for your time, fellow travel lovers!

 

 


Handy information part: 

Hungry at 4 AM? Go to: Lau Pa Sat Foodmarket, 18 Raffles Quay, Singapore 048582. You can eat around the clock here, so better bring those generously sized pants, mates. And they better be decent looking, financial district location and all. Just sayin’…

All jittery? Dance it off at: CÉ LA VI, 1 Bayfront Ave, Singapore 018971 

Tired much? Sleep at: Hangout@Mount Emily, 10A Upper Wilkie Rd, Singapore 228119. Phone: +65 6438 5588

Having an airport-crush? Spend the day prior to your arrival or departure in Chiangi-Airport, Airport Blvd, Singapore. Why? There’s enchanted gardens, butterfly sanctuaries, art installations, a multimedia entertainment center and even a movie theatre to keep you in non-stop-marvelling-mood.

 

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How to recognize real friendship in the digital age

Did you come across the fascinating revelations of Australian nurse Bonnie Ware a while ago? If you are a digital Native, chances are you did. Under the title The top five regrets of the dying”, the palliative nurse revealed what she had learned about some of people’s most significant desires, showing themselves in the form of regrets that people had expressed on their death beds while Mrs. ware was caring for them in the last 12 weeks of their lives.

One of the top 5 regrets was the following: “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

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The reassurance of physical touch

 

At first glance, it’s understandable to think ‘ oh well, staying in touch with friends has never been easier than nowadays through social media, mobile phones and media connectivity galore!’ And yes, this is definitely an advantage that previous generations were not able to enjoy. However, the patients questioned by Bonnie Ware emphasized that they would have loved to “give the friendships the time and effort they deserved”. Now this, in my opinion, is a key phrase. How many of us fool ourselves into thinking that scrolling through our Facebook news feed and obligatory liking the newest of our friends picture, leaving an encouraging comment on a good day, equals maintaining a friendship?

How convenient would it be, if real, lasting friendship could be maintained this way? Undoubtedly, it would save a lot of time if it was possible and if the friendships of former days just had magically transformed themselves into these  forms of human contact that merely needed a second of our attention every so often. Unfortunately- or fortunately – it isn’t this way, though.

How many ‘friends’ can we cope with?

The lines between real friendships and fleeting acquaintances have become blurred in the virtual world, not just but also because many Social media users showcase more than 1000 friends on their profiles, while the realistic maximum number of people we are able to maintain relationships with  lies at 150 people. Our brains are just not wired to cope with more, as evolutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar proves in his fascinating study.

 

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Social media: a world of possibilities and distractions

 

Many people don’t seem to know anymore what they can expect in and of friendships in times like these in which  so much of our social interactions are happening in an online world. In my mind, the current times require more than ever to not just increase our connectivity, but also and more importantly, to strengthen our conscious approach to communication and to our relationships. It’s an important task to establish for yourself what real friendship means to you and then create a conversation with people you consider friends, becoming clear on what your desires and values are in a friendship, what the other one’s consist in, and if and how you can bring those needs together or create compromises.

With some friends, this might never be necessary  -it can’t hurt however to have an honest conversation as we all have a limited amount of time and energy at our disposal, and our resources are best spent in alignment with our core values and needs and communicated in a respectful and compassionate way.

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“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”
Mark Twain

Are you in need of some inspiration as to what could define a real friendship? Ultimately, this is a thing just you can decide on, and something that might vary considerably from person to person. Here are some ideas though that work for me:

  • Communication is key: Keeping each other regularly updated on how your lives are going is crucial in order to not lose sight of each other, especially if your friend is a really close one. Just assuming that 5, 10 or 20 years of friendship are enough to trust into an eternal duration of your friendship can work for some, but to me has a very fairytale like quality and definitely doesn’t work for all friend pairings. You need to water a plant to make it grow or even just to keep it alive – give your friendship some attention in regular doses, let them know if your life is too crazy right now to write much or call often but that you think of them. As with everything in life, you generally receive what you put out! If you treasure your friend, don’t treat them worse than your pot plant.
  • Express your feelings– by the way, another regret that features in the top 5 regrets of the dying is that they wished they would have been more open expressing their emotions. Sometimes this is easier said than done of course, but to make any long-term relationship or friendship work on a prospering and enriching level, this is a crucial learning process! Your feelings and needs are such an integral part of who you are  -don’t shy away from giving them some space. If you admire something about your friend – say it! If you feel hurt or disrespected, discuss it. How often do people get passive-aggressive because they have swallowed their feelings one too many times? That type of emotional suppression is definitely not conducive to a fun, loving vibe in your friendship.
  • Self-care: Don’t expect anyone to fill your void. Heal and tend to yourself, and yes, let others be there for you, but do not expect anyone to be your saviour. That’s your role!
  • Talk, be there for each other, especially after a break-up, loss or other huge transformations, but also schedule in some fun times to let the inner child run rampant and just let go for a while! Life can be tough as it is – make sure you can enjoy yourself with your friend as well and not exclusively talk about problems.
  • Check in with yourself– does the friendship generally uplift you, or do you feel drained after a talk or catch up? I am not referring to times of crisis – they are perfectly normal and an essential part of life and growth in which a friend’s support can make a world of difference. However, if the general gist of your friendship is leaving you sucked and dry, and the person goes on and on about the same stuff without trying to work on it by themselves (be it through books, meditation, therapy or the like) – it might be necessary to call it quits or to at least reduce your interactions considerably. Limited time and energy, remember? There are plenty of beings you can shower with love, time, and compassion without feeling drained afterward!

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What is key in a real friendship? What are your no – goes? Looking forward to your insights below ! And also make sure to enjoy cultivating the probably most important friendship you can ever create – the one to yourself!

 

 

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Sensuality and Self-love

Being in a physical body equals having access to an amazing gift – well really countless gifts, but for the sake of this article and your and my attention span which  is nowadays apparently shorter than that of a goldfish let’s just focus on the one aspect for now.

The absolutely unique ray of sunshine and free limitless resource I am referring to  that could enliven your every day if you choose to invite it in is authentic connectedness and self-love through Sensuality.

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The beauty and delicate essence of flowers as sensual inspiration

Sensuality is a wonderful thing which in turns fosters mindfulness, a quality that has been in the focus of a myriad of scientifically validated studies for more than only one good reason within the last years.

Sensuality – enjoying life through our senses

So what do I refer to with the term Sensuality? It is something that we all can access, males and females alike, even though it might be even more important for females to consciously integrate this essential part of their beings in order to experience their innate feminine power and essence, to awaken to their inner source of joy, abundance and pleasure.

The meaning of Sensuality is theoretically quite easy to grasp: the focused attention to and enjoyment of the impressions we receive through our five senses(some might say six, but that’s another story): touch, smell, sight, hearing as well as taste. To me, Sensuality furthermore also corresponds to slowing down and honoring your Yin sides – basically living the opposite of what society is currently teaching us to do! The mentioned Yin side is referring to the Taoist viewpoint of all of life formed by the principles and interactions of Yang,  active life force, and Yin, passive expression of lifeforce.

Most of us are always artificially connected: here a quick Facebook update, there a Whatsapp chat while eating, and this type of almost compulsive superficial connectedness weaves itself through our whole day: be it waking up and first of all checking LinkedIn or e-mails,  meeting someone for lunch and at the same time constantly checking for new notifications… the list goes on and on. I often wonder how our poor minds and nervous system cope with the amount of unfiltered information that we so willingly seem to take in every day.

Artificial connectedness versus connection to our sensual experiences

Don’t take me wrong: I know from experience what I am taking about. However I am slowly coming to the conclusion that this constant availability and superficial connectedness comes at a HUGE cost: we are available to all this information input at the expense of our presence, our connectedness to ourselves and life in its variety of wonderful and unique sensual forms, we basically deny ourselves the pleasure of an authentic, real life experience and trade this present in for creating onesided images of ourselves in a virtual world, and for cultivating like- based “friendships” with our 500 plus “friends”.

Let me give you an example: When was the last time you prepared a meal while exclusively putting your attention on the task at hand? Do you really know how ripe tomatoes, fresh cucumber or spicey radishes taste like?

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Do you remember the gorgeous smell of lemon or the close up view of a strawberry? And all that without instagramming your meal afterwards?

Consciously preparing, tasting, smelling and connecting to your food, just for the pleasure of being alive, is only one of the myriad of possibilities that we have to live sensually and therefore increase our daily dose of enjoyment.

How to cultivate your Sensuality and Selflove in daily life

Here are 3 ideas to increase sensuality in your daily life and to  decrease distraction from sensual experiences:

1) Turn food preparation and eating into sacred rituals and disconnected media times

 

My Spanish grandpa used to say “Come y calla”/ Eat and be silent, whenever it was time for the pleasure of food. Even though this approach might seem a little old-fashioned and outdated, it does makes sense to practise mindful eating:  Studies show that eating your meal consciously, paying close attention to how it smells, looks and tastes and getting rid of distractions like TV, typing or reading, which interrupt the digestive focus and process, is undoubtedly healthy for you. As emphasized by the University of Harvard, mindful eating can help with eating disorders, weight loss and digestive problems.

Here a little exercise in mindful eating from Harvard Health:

Experts suggest starting gradually with mindful eating, eating one meal a day or week in a slower, more attentive manner. Here are some tips and tricks that may help you get started:

  • Set your kitchen timer to 20 minutes, and take that time to eat a normal-sized meal.
  • Try eating with your non-dominant hand; if you’re a righty, hold your fork in your left hand when lifting food to your mouth.
  • Use chopsticks if you don’t normally use them.
  • Eat silently for five minutes, thinking about what it took to produce that meal, from the sun’s rays to the farmer to the grocer to the cook.
  • Take small bites and chew well.
  • Before opening the fridge or cabinet, take a breath and ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” Do something else, like reading or going on a short walk.

2) Connect to Nature

Nature is our true home and offers an abundance of possibilities to connect to yourself and strengthen your Selflove through Sensuality: Do you remember how great it feels to walk barefoot through the grass or sand at the beach, to smell the salty ocean breeze or freshly cut grass, to bury your nose in a field of roses or to attentively listen to the birds singing in the woods? Consciously focusing on these sensations and taking them in as fully as possible brings you back to the present moment and can put a lot of things into perspective. Connect with the elements in a natural setting close to you, even if it’s just a little park around the corner, and recover your feelings of aliveness. No, that Candy Crush game can’t do that for you. YOU can though.

Try to intensify your experience of Nature by engaging all your senses. For example let’s imagine you are sitting in the grass in the sun. How does the grass smell like? Take it in for a few minutes. If your thoughts wander, just accept it gently, but direct them back to experiencing the smell of grass. After that, turn your attention to its appearance: which 5 things can you perceive in regards to its look? Again, stay focused on that. After a while, continue on to feel the grass: caressing over it, touching the soil beneath…Which sensations do you experience?

3) Schedule daily pleasure islands for yourself: 

How often do many of us live through the week barely hanging on and purely focused on the salvation that the weekend supposedly bring? There are better ways to honor your precious life time and connection to life, yourself and your pleasure.

Instead of just pushing through and exclusively relying on too much coffee or sugars to make it through your day, let me introduce you to your allies on the way to a more joyful life experience, your daily pleasure islands!  Most of us love to dream ourselves away from time to time to a beautiful island of our choosing, a place where we can just be, with no demands placed upon us, no thousand roles to play, and the cleansing air of the ocean washing away the old debris of previously encountered unpleasantness.

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Recharge your batteries daily by reconnecting to yourself, your Self-love and Sensuality

To create little islands of pleasure in your daily life, schedule in two or three-time slots of 20 minutes each throughout your day, for example in your lunch break, after work or at the start of your day. Make sure these islands are truly scheduled in and keep them as appointments with yourself, just like you would keep an appointment with someone else. And then fill these islands with sensual experiences you love and enjoy, time well spent that recharges your battery on a daily basis. Some ideas for your personal pleasure islands could be:

  • giving yourself a massage, for example an ear, hand, or footmassage, ideally with some oil of your choosing (sandalwood, lavender, or whatever tickles your fancy). You can read more on the healing power of touch here (in German).
  • put on your favourite tunes and dance all your stresses away. No inhibitions! Lock your door and close your blinds if need be. I strongly believe in the incredible power of dance to free yourself from imposed aspects of shame, emotional blockages or yes, of course physical tensions!
  • indulge in a bubble bath with candlelight and soothing music or put on a guided meditation while you are at it
  • practise mindful eating
  • Do a blindfolded exercise: At first, taste your food without a blindfold. Then, blindfold yourself, and see how the experience changes. This approach can also be applied to touching everyday utensils, furniture etc.
  • Get creative: dip your fingers in paint and create some crazy art, sing a nonsense song , impersonate your favourite actor…the possibilities are endless.
  • Reconnect with your partner or lover, fully focusing on the sound of their voice, their looks, their smell…
  • Practise breathing exercises
  • Do some stretches, a short Yoga session or some other forms of movement you enjoy
  • Whatever you do, make sure to remind yourself that you are allowed to enjoy yourself and that enjoying life makes you more vibrant, healthy, giving and even productive!

Do you have any other ideas on how to create more joy in your daily life? Feel free to share below.

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The power and Sensuality of dance

 

 

 

 

Categories: Amor und Eros - Love and sensual living, Posts in English | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bali Beach turtle rescue

It is late afternoon in Bali. World-famous Kuta beach resembles an overcrowded anthill: a messy mix of surfers, retired Australians with big bellies enjoying their Bintang beers on plastic chairs, partying youngsters and Balinese either socializing in the sand or selling all imaginable types of products. Some also offer up drinks from improvised mini beach bars as well as mobile Rastastyle hairbraiding services or massages.

 

The muggy and stifling heat of an average tropical day at the end of the dry season is finally easing up. Palm trees along the narrow beach promenade mercifully stretch out their long leaves to shelter the gathering onlookers who await the dramatic sunsets of Bali’s Southern Coast.

The Balinese Sea Turtle Initiative

In between all the hustle and bustle, a giant turtle raises its head and commands attention. It belongs to the Kuta Beach Sea Turtle Center, an initiative created by Balinese Mr. Agung and his wife Wayan in 2001 as a safe haven for sea turtle eggs, which are being laid on Kuta beach by the thousands each year. The programm’s  goal lies in protecting the tortoises eggs from threats in their original nesting locations such as high tide, tourist traffic, feral dogs or irresponsible human behaviour. In a safe and sheltered environment, hatching rates are increased.

It’s the first time for me to help in a Sea turtle program, and even though I have worked with animals of a much bigger size before, I feel quite excited and a tiny bit nervous. More than forty or even fifty people linger around the oval, sand filled open air container that harbors  the now hatched eggs and the incredibly cute baby sea turtles that left their shells just the night before and crawl around for the first time in their short lives. Agitated and expectant sounding fragments of Malaysian, Indonesian, English, French and Italian around me fuse into a motley hotchpotch  while we wait for Mr. Agung to give us instructions. Meanwhile, some trained volunteers carefully transport the sea turtles from their container to the point of first encounter between the baby sea turtles and us international volunteer – bundles of excitement.

Mr. Agung is, even at first sight and before commencing his speech, a joyous force to be reckoned with. Bursting with energy, the founder of the Kuta Beach Sea Turtle Program addresses the curious multicultural crowd with an incredibly infectious enthusiasm that makes you feel in your bones how deeply he cares about the cause. While connecting with us volunteers for the day with a smile that seems as warm as an honest embrace, he tells us all about releasing the baby sea turtles back into the ocean and reveals some insightful facts about the conservation project.

How to be a Turtle Ranger aka almost a Ninja Turtle

The work of the long-term volunteers consists in morphing into heroic Turtle Rangers who patrol the beach all night long on the lookout for mother sea turtles that come out of the ocean to lay their eggs. They then go on to protect the mother turtle during the nesting process. Once she is finished laying the eggs and safely back in the ocean, the task concludes with the eggs’ relocation from the beach to the hatchery at Kuta. Subsequently it’s time to wait 45 to 60 days for the baby sea turtles to develop and hatch. Once they come out,  it’s all about being quick, as the sea turtles should be returned to their natural habitat as soon as possible, ergo the day after their nightly hatching.

Mr. Agung tells us that their survival rate without help, with the eggs remaining at often chaotic Kuta beach, would be just 1 in 3000- not very convincing odds and a huge driving force for the Sea Turtle program to work relentlessly towards bettering the baby sea turtles chances. General survival rates for hatchlings, baby sea turtles venturing to the ocean for the first time, are just 1 in 1000. After getting instructed in how to release the turtle into the Indian Ocean and encouraged to give “our” little tortoise a name, the excitement continues.

Tending to turtles or to let go and trust the flow

My little turtle friend is handed to me in a small plastic container with a bit of water, and I need to keep a hand on top so it does not escape. I try to keep steady as I don’t want baby Grace to feel like in a rollercoaster and get motion-sick. I am hoping a name like the one I chose could slightly increase her chances to make it in the unpredictable environment of the gigantic Indian Ocean.

Once the huge crowd of volunteers is safely at the shoreline, Mr. Agung gives us the sign: “Lower them down now!”, he shouts out excitedly and in a voice of determination against the backdrop of the crushing waves. I gently lower the plastic container and let Grace courageously crawl onto the beach. She seems a little unsure at first, but then her instincts lead her into the wide open waters of the Ocean. We all cheer the baby turtles on with everything we got and watch them getting closer and closer to the sea, incredibly tiny against the vastness of it all, until they are absorbed by the waters, bravely defying the huge waves.

It might not be the final goodbye I fear it to be, as astonishingly the sea turtles that make it tend to return to the exact same beach where they were born, guided by the Earth’s magnetic field. According to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, most female turtles come back faithfully to the same beach each time they are ready to nest. Not only do they appear on the same beach, they often emerge within a few hundred yards of where they last nested. Grace, I don’t know to 100% if you are female, but I certainly hope so…Catch you later, sweet turtle friend, may we meet again, I whisper with an almost mother like feeling as I watch the sun set in all its splendor over Kuta beach.

Practical information:

  • Facts concerning the Balinese Sea Turtle release: Between 2012 and 2013 there were more than 50,000 eggs safely relocated to the hatchery, and around 80% of these were successfully hatched and released to the ocean.
  • Sea Turtle nesting season on Kuta Beach is from March to September each year.
  • Sea turtle hatching season is from April to October each year.
  • Nesting dates are an estimation only and the baby turtles will hatch naturally when they are ready.Early and late in the season the frequency of baby sea turtle release will vary.

For more information on the Balinese initiative and to contact the centre directly:

For more information on Sea turtles and their protection in general:

What can YOU do to help and protect sea turtles?

Check out defenders.org suggestions:

5thingstosaveseaturtles

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Posts in English, Reiselust- Hungry for travel, Reisen | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A monkey kind of day in Gibraltar

It must be a special kind of place if over 30.000 people of many different religions live around and on a massive Rock that once upon a time, in antiquity and Greek mythology, was thought off as the End of the World and the Portal to Hades, the underworld.

We know better nowadays than to mistake this intriguing melting pot at the tip of the Spanish peninsula and just 14km off the Moroccan coast for the last inhabited place of mankind. Instead, and despite its rather tiny size of 6.7 km2 (2.6 sq mi) it is nowadays known for being a great tourist destination, one of the most densely populated territories in the world and a much fought over geographical hot spot, claimed by Britain as well as Spain.

For me as a half Spaniard, it was a very unusual experience to “travel” the few metres that separate the British Overseas territory from the Spanish town la Linea de la Concepcion, passing a border control with slightly angry seeming Spanish frontier policemen and suddenly being emerged in a completely different world.

A journey to a distinct world of its own – British and then some

I didn’t expect it but Gibraltar truly turned out to be an absolutely contrasting place to Andalusia, the Southern Spanish autonomous community surrounding it. A town with its own character, architecture, a very unique vibe and interesting population. I also got to experience the worst food  and the best macaque shot I ever had…more on that later! Our adventure started with my friends and me hopping on the bus that conveniently stopped just off the entry point and brought us to the City Centre. Wherever I gazed upon: everything was suddenly labelled in English, and even the postboxes, yellow in Spain, denoted their British and in this case red identity.

When we got off the bus we were greeted by some canons pointing at us – well, not directly at us of course, but they were definitely showing off! Canons and other war memorabilia turned out to be an inherent part of the Gibraltarean cityscape – no wonder considering the role wars played in Gibraltar’s history.

Just to get a tiny insight: The origins of Gibraltar as we know it today lead back to 1704, when an Anglo-Dutch force captured Gibraltar from Spain during the War of the Spanish Succession (little side – note for the History geeks: this happened on behalf of the Habsburg pretender to the Spanish throne). The Spaniards did not realize in time how crucial Gibraltar’s extremely well positioned geographical location was to their interests and subsequently ceded Gibraltar to Britain “in perpetuity” under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Furthermore, it served as an important base for the Royal Navy during World War II. Got it? Awesome, let’s continue our little tale then.

The potato crime or what happened to glorious backed potatoes

Once we had walked around the picturesque historic centre of Gibraltar, admiring its unique architecture, statues and variety of churches – you can find everything from the Church of Scotland to Synagoges and mosques there- , we figured it would be interesting to try out some Gibraltarean food. It stands to reason that therefore we chose to eat in a British Pub close to the main square. Oh boy…I can just say these words: not -so – yum-at-freaking-all! Not knowing what a typical Gibraltarean food experience would be like, I helplessly ended up ordering a jacked potato. Little did I know then that it would be the completely massacred, tortured and unrecognizable potato cousin from hell, basically the black sheep sibling of my beloved good old yummy potato deliciousness! I actually still don’t know what that poor potato had done to deserve such a ferocious treatment. Managing to stuff a part of it in my mouth and to almost mask my absolute terror we then decided to flee the place of kitchen crime and find some solace in Gibraltar’s absolutely stunning Botanical Gardens. The beauty of its myriad of plants, cacti, and subtropical flowers flourishing in Gibraltar’s warm mediterranean climate immediately softened the potato blow.

The Rock of Gibraltar

To the back of the Gardens, the majestic Rock of Gibraltar overlooks the Mediterranean ocean and beckoned us insistently to find out its secrets. Luckily we found a smokey voiced earth mother – taxi driver willing to show us what was still accessible of the Rock on a Friday at almost sunset – and so the adventure mix of nearly peeing my pants on the one hand and sheer fascination and awe on the other hand began.

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The famous Rock of Gibraltar

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Pillars of Hercules, Rock of Gibraltar

While the long haired, intimitadingly assertive Gibraltarean women told us all about her hometown with her gin coloured Jazz voice, she drove in a slightly disconcerting speed up the Rock, with its narrow, naw rather super extremely narrow roads, and absolutely no freaking gate to protect a possible slight swerve ! I did not know what to focus on: the awe-inspiring beauty of the mediterranean ship and the closeness of Morocco, which seemed to challenge me  to take a dip and swim across, as the Mediterranean sea is only 13 kilometres/ eight miles wide at this point.  Or the at least in my mind very realistic option of an untimely death in this Gibraltarean’s possibly chain smoker’s car…At two points though we could luckily catch a break. At first, we stopped at the ‘Pilares de Hercules’, Pillars of Hercules, a monument describing how the Strait of Gibraltar was seen and called in antiquity. From there you can enjoy a mind-blowing panorama view of the narrow strait that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Europe from Africa. There is no other place where the two continents are that close! Even swimming the 14 km might be an option for some, or alternatively crossing over by pedaling on a giant manmade sea bike, such as Australian comedians Hamish Blake and Andy Lee attempted.

Hanging out with Europe’s only wild monkey population

We decided not to venture on to Africa this time, but to continue in our speedy taxi and visit the world famous Gibraltarean macaques, one of Gibraltar’s strongest allures, as it is home to the last free-range population of monkeys in Europe! Lucky for us, we had the top of the Rock, located in the protected Upper Nature Reserve, where the monkeys usually hang out, almost exclusively to ourselves.

The monkeys around us were very curious and absolutely unapologetic: they climbed on our taxi, jumped up and down and did all the things monkeys love to do, aka monkey mischief was the go! However, we did also find a very thoughtful seeming monkey doing its evening meditation overlooking the ocean…so no prejudices! Our guide managed to get an absolutely brilliant shot with one of these macaques:

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No, the Barbary macaque did not take a Selfie with its foot for Facebook. Otherwise she/ he would probably have smiled more.

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One of about 230 Barbery macaques that call the Rock of Gibraltar their home. This one was quite pensive- probably doing her/ his sunset meditation.

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Cheeky monkey checking out our taxi.

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Actor Jason Biggs did probably not read this.

Afterwards, she introduced us a bit more to them: there are approximately about 230 Barbary macaques on the rock, and they hold quite the significance for the place. As the legend goes, Gibraltar stays British as long as there are macaques on the Rock! When numbers seemed to diminish during World War II, Winston Churchill grew so concerned with the legend that he even imported more of the monkeys from the Atlas mountains in Morocco. Powerful little ones! So show some respect when you visit them- also as bites do happen. I mean, how would you react if your home got invaded daily by a hord of unknown nosy guests? Read more on how a Tampon could cause an attack by the monkeys on American Pie actor Jason Biggs ( common, it wasn’t even an apple pie!) or how the guitarist of the Rolling Stones tried to bond with the Barbary macaques over some LSD in the olden days and ended up in tears and completely distraught by their disapproval in the Guardian’s article on Gibraltar.

Just while the sun was setting it was time for us to leave the Rock and Gibraltar, including its peculiar airport strip, one of the most dangerous in the world, its peacefully co habiting mix of Christians, Moslems, Jews, and believers of other faiths, its distincly British and then some identity and its many more surprises to be discovered. We will be back though, you amazing Rock City!

What about you, have you ever been to Gibraltar? What are your favourite things to experience there? Share below if you like and thanks for reading!

 

Categories: Posts in English, Reisen | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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