Monthly Archives: December 2018

Ubud´s artistic hotspots

Why is it that there are places that just seem to have a certain creative and transformational power that others just don´t? Places that burst with a certain je ne sais quois, an almost magnetic force that draws visitors in like bees to honeycomb or like wild souls to seawater. Ubud in Central Bali certainly belongs to the list of seductive places that lure you in with their promise of healing and artistic delights.

It might be because Ubud is literally named after the Balinese word ubad for medicine, making reference to its function as a crucial source of medicinal plants and herbs. Or maybe Ubud´s mysterious attraction can be traced back to its founding legend which surrounds a Javanese priest by the name of Rsi Markendya. As the eighth-century legend goes, the priest chose to meditate at the confluence of two rivers in Campuan, Central Bali, which inspired him to create the Gunung Lebah Temple. Up to today, this site remains a place revered by pilgrims and seekers.

Be it as it may, there are certain places in Ubud where you can easily get a taste of its legendary creative charm yourself. Let´s start with majestic ARMA-museum, the Agung Rai Museum of Art. Founded by Balinese protector of the Arts and Culture, Agung Rai, it houses permanent exhibitions of inspiring paintings by Balinese, Indonesian and foreign creative mavericks. On top of alluring traditional and contemporary visual art by Balinese masters such as Ida Bagus Made or I Gusti Made Deblog – no, he wasn´t blogger to my knowledge, even though what a spot- on-name that would be- there´s a space dedicated to German painter Walter Spies.

Ever heard of this crafty fella? Well, don´t fret if you haven´t, his fame didn´t make it to a global level, but he did rock Bali´s world and had a major impact on the development of the arts on the island. Spies was an ethnic German born in Russia and the whole artistic package: a gifted teacher of music and painting, he also experimented with dance and excelled as a visual artist.

Spies, who lived an intense and short life, and kindred spirits Willem Hofker and Rudolf Bonnet were also real olden-day-celebrity-magnets. They came to entertain and delight global stars such as my beloved Charlie Chaplin, British Science-fiction-writer H.G. Wells or Austrian-American writer Vicki Baum, to name a few. And the foreign artistic groundbreakers also used their influence and popularity to gather the creme-de-la-creme of artists from all over to teach and train the Balinese in arts. This is actually what led to Ubud becoming the world-famous cultural center of Bali known and loved by so many today!

While you are at the ARMA- museum, don´t miss out on the magnificent tropical gardens: Let your newfound inspiration work its magic within you while wandering past orchid-lined water-ponds filled with lotus flowers. You´ll also pass by enticing traditional stone sculptures frosted in green moss and adorned with typical Balinese flower offerings. The soothing sounds of the picturesque fountains will create an irresistible auditive melange with the exotic Gamelan-music that can often be heard in these peaceful surroundings. You might even get a glimpse of children practicing their Balinese dance skills! This is due to ARMA also housing an outstanding center for performing arts which regular hosts Balinese-themed workshops, classes, and performances.

Practical Information:

  • The ARMA museum is located on Jalan Raya Pengosekan in Ubud.
  • Opening hours: Every day from 9 AM to 6 PM
  • Admission: IDR 80000, which includes a tea or coffee
  • Peckish? There is also a fabulous cafe and a restaurant on site.
  • Is there more? Yes, there is a stunning resort located on the compound, Cultural workshops to delight in, musical performances to attend…

Have you ever been to Ubud, or to any other place that for some reason really stirred your soul? Would love to hear about your experiences!

Photography: all rights reserved © A gypsy at heart

Categories: Posts in English, Reiselust- Hungry for travel, Reisen | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Balinese village life: Exploring soulful Lothunduh

Bare-breasted women graciously balancing heavy goods on their heads, looking just like those on the black-and-white-film-snippets recorded by Charlie Chaplin back in 1932. Exotic looking Bali cattle, descendants of mighty buffalos, plowing the soils of vast rice fields just before the rice seeds are planted. The happy squeals of local children, splashing and playing in the waters of the river. Enchanted looking, hidden away Hindu temples, exuding the whiff of the unknown.

My time in Lothunduh introduced me to a world which was far-removed from everything I had immersed myself in before. In a way, my 5 month-stint in Bali would prove to be so significant that it would divide my life into a “before” and “after”. The intricacies of that story are destined for another post, though…

This story aims to transport you to a Balinese village just a stone-throw away from trendy Cultural hub Ubud, and yet so far removed from it in terms of its deeply-rooted connection to its traditional essence and to a slow-paced way of life lived in harmony with the seasons. Spend a day or even a few hours in Lothunduh anywhere off the main roads, and you´ll get to look through a peephole into the island´s past. Watch rice farmers donning their traditional working clothes and hats while minding the paddies, observe devoted artists and craftsmen create their unique art pieces in one of the many art shops or workshops, or marvel at the Balinese goddess-women who perform their daily offerings at the many places of worship all around.

Something about Lothunduh and its inhabitants simple, yet deeply connected and magical way of life really stirred my soul. Especially the way in which the Balinese there and on the whole island honor and give back through daily rituals which express their gratitude to the Gods they revere creates a completely different atmosphere to what we are used to in the West. To believe in something outside of oneself and to cultivate awareness for the countless gifts we are given each day of our lives is an inspiration that I hope to keep in my heart.

You will be able to witness the deeply spiritual life of the Balinese just by keeping your eyes and hearts open while wandering along the roads of the farming village. Here are some more places to visit in order to get an authentic feel for what I am trying yet might fall short to transmit with my lines (there is only so much that words can convey, after all):

  • For beautiful artwork: You´ll be absolutely spoilt for choice here, you lucky girl/guy! As a good starting point for your exploration, head to gallery Semar Kuning on Jalan A.A.Gede Rai 8. Here, two Buddha figures and a big Ganesha-Elephant- statue greet you upon arrival and intriguing contemporary paintings depicting traditional Balinese motives await your visit. Keep wandering around Lothunduh-village and you´ll come across more galleries and workshops, as Central Bali is not only a place filled with rituals, myths, and magic but also home to countless skilled artists and craftsmen. Many Balinese wholeheartedly devote their time to honor their Hindu faith through their visual arts, woodcarving, dance, and other art forms.
  • For interesting Hindu temples: Even though you generally won´t be allowed to visit these places of worship, it´s still a beautiful experience to take in their charm and interesting appearance while strolling around. Head to Pura Desa Lothunduh or Pura Hyang Api, for instance.
  • For authentic Indonesian food: Check out Blue Bliss Warung and indulge in specialties such as Nasi Campur or Nasi Goreng, delicious rice (Nasi) based dishes.
Categories: Posts in English, Reiselust- Hungry for travel, Reisen | Tags: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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”

 

Categories: Reiselust- Hungry for travel, Reisen | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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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