One week of Hiking in Madeira for independent Travellers.

Madeira is a lush green island somewhere in the middle between mainland Portugal, Africa, and the Canary Islands. It is an ideal getaway for Europeans in all four seasons due to its mild Atlantic climate. Nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts love this rugged island. Although many elderly package tourists from countries like Germany or Britain come here, it is easy to explore the island on your own as an independent traveller using public transport. Madeira is perfect for a one-week-holiday and we are going to explore some of the best hikes for first-time-visitors to see the best of the island.

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Port of Funchal

Base yourself

The capital is the city of Funchal. Transport connections and shopping as well as dining options are best here, so it pays off to book your accommodation in the city and make day trips from here. Location is important in Funchal. The city is steep. The further down the better. There are different bus companies. One has its terminal close to thefunicular station, others stop at the main boulevard at the waterfront. Lots of restaurants line the pedestrian zones in old Funchal. Other than usual in smaller towns in Portugal it is no problem locating restaurants specialising in vegetarian and vegan cuisine in Funchal.

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Funchal

Airport

Major European airports offer direct connections to Madeira’s airport all year round. If there is no direct connection, you might connect through Lisbon. There is an inexpensive public bus leaving every hour or so to Funchal, taking approximately 30 to 60 minutes depending where you want to go in Funchal.

Hiking

1 Funicular and Levada dos Tornos

This is an easy trip for beginners to start your hiking adventure in Funchal. In order to spare you from climbing all the way up, just take the cable car from downtown Funchal up to Monte. You are offered intriguing views over Funchal. Visit the Igreja do Monte church and go back from here the hiking trail just walking west. There is one steep stretch. After this part the hiking trail runs almost even.

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Levada dos Tornos

Large parts of the trail you walk next to the Levada dos Tornos. Levadas are typical to Madeira and were originally used as irrigation channels. Nowadays walking along Levadas is part of the essential hiking experience in Madeira. On the way you pass the burned-down ruins of the Choupana Hills Hotel and you might have a tea, coffee, or a snack afterwards in the Hortensia Gardens Tea House. The next stop would be the Palheiro Gardens. A little further down you get to the main road and from here take any bus going back to Funchal.

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View from the trail over Funchal.
2 Nun’s Valley – Curral das Freiras

This trip again is an easy one although it is recommended to do it as a half-day trip. The mountains are majestic and the views are spectacular. We would suggest you to take bus #81 from Funchal to the Hotel of Eira do Serrada. It sits on the top of the valley and offers comprehensive views over the valley. From here you only hike down to the village in the valley. If you want more challenge, you might of course walk up and down here. Down in the village there are a few options for having lunch or a coffee break. From here you can take the same bus back to Funchal.

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Curral das Freiras
3 Ribeiro Frio to Portela

To experience the rugged center of the island we suggest to walk this comprehensive day trip. Take bus #56 or #103 to Santana and get off in Ribeiro Frio. The first part of this trip is very popular with tourists. From the bus stop at the entrance of the village you take a short walk to the spectacular viewing point of Balcões – the balcony over the valley.

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Balcões

After enjoying this view you take the same way back to the village, cross the road and start the long walk alongside a Levada through the lush green forests. The walk may be long, but it is not that difficult since there are hardly any steep stretches. The trail ends in Portela, a tiny village with a restaurant. From here take any bus (#20, 53, 78) back to Funchal. Plan ahead carefully. We would advise to walk this trail on a regular weekday. If you go on weekends or on public holidays, there are very limited bus services to take you back to Funchal and you might be stuck for hours. Sometimes taxis are waiting here, sometimes there aren’t any.

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Way to Portela
4 Pico Ruivo

The Pico Ruivo is the highest mountain in Madeira and the third highest in all of Portugal. You might climb all the way up and down, but we suggest an easier way. As in trip #3, take a bus from Funchal towards Santana, but stay in the bus until you reach the end of the bus journey. Either take an express bus with lesser stops, or take a longer one and enjoy the drive through spectacular green and steep mountainous landscapes. Santana is situated at the northern coast and is famous for its distinct style of traditional houses. There is also a nice choice of restaurants and cafes.

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Typical houses in Santana

Unfortunately there is no public transport up to the mountain, but you can take a taxi from here to the parking lot of the Pico Ruivo called Achada do Teixera. Tell your driver to come back in two hours to pick you up to get back to town. You probably need one hour or less to get up to the mountain, and much less to get down. There is a well-marked trail in a good condition to take you up. This hike is probably the most challenging one of the hikes suggested here and you will probably be sweating a bit, but it is certainly not really difficult. If the weather is fine, the views are amazing. And if you have enough of everything, you get back the same way you came up – same with the bus.

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Up to the Pico Ruivo
5 Peninsula of Ponta de São Lourenço

This part of Madeira is totally different from the others. The narrow peninsula offers a barren landscape bordered by the sea on both sides with a lot of exposure to wind and sun, but with a smaller probability of rain than in the interior of the island. Its beauty attracts a lot of visitors. From Funchal take bus #113 to Baia D’Abra.

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Ponta de São Lourenço

This is the direct starting point of the trail. It takes you up and down. You might skip the last stretch on the Ponta do Furado which is a bit steeper, yet offers fantastic views. To get back, you take the same way you came.

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Looking back at the mainland from Ponta de São Lourenço

And more

On other than your hiking days you might want to relax or stay in Funchal for shopping or sightseeing. Your week will be over quicker than you might think. For the frequent or experienced Madeira visitor there are enough hikes that are more challenging or show you more of the interior of the island.

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Funchal at night
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Castles, Palaces, Fairytales. Schlösser, Paläste, Märchen. Castelos, Palácios, Contos de Fadas.

I have already been to beaches in this vacation, so I opt for a culturally centered daytrip from Lisbon which leads me to Sintra. It can be reached conveniently from the Rossio Station in Lisbon by suburban train. The train is crowded. Right opposite to me there are two ladies sitting who I assume to be Portuguese. Only after half an hour or so half-listening to them chatting I realise they are actually speaking Swiss German. Understanding Portuguese probably would have been easier.

After arriving at Sintra’s station, many passengers look for the public buses to take them around since the town is a bit away from the station and all the castles and sites are not located within town but further away. I already know I do not want to wait in long queues for the bus and be squeezed among the many tourists. This little town is just overrun by tourists. Some people are walking as I do. A rather short walk along the road takes me to the town proper. I am there before the masses arrive and enjoy a quick breakfast. Usually I have an espresso, called bica here, and some small cakes or tarts. I love the pastéis de nata, and aditionally I get myself a little coconut tart.

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I have no real idea where to go. I just know I need to go way up high. One of the narrow roads leads me a bit out of town and I find the entrance to the steep path up to the Moorish Castle. It is actually a pretty nice path through the forests and the best thing is the absence of the crowds. Up at the castle’s entrance this changes again. I wonder if I should pay the entrance fee or just have a look from the outside. After all the Moorish Castle is very old and besides from the fortifications there is probably not much to see. So I just move on through the forest to the next sight.

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At the entrance of the Palácio Nacional de Pena there are enormous crowds. This is the place where I really need to buy a ticket as the castle is not visible from the outside. I just buy a ticket for the garden as I don’t feel like going inside anyway. The whole area is very large, there are several ways and viewpoints, up and down. The highlight is of course the colorful palace which looks like a surreal dream created by Antoni Gaudi or Hundertwasser. Little towers and decorative elements in red, yellow, and blue. It is not an ancient, authentic building, more of a fantasy decorative castle with lots of architectoral elements from different centuries, a bit like the famous fairy tale castle of Neuschwanstein in Bavaria. The palace is definitely a highlight of any visit to Sintra.

On the way down to town I take a scenic route, looking at the Moorish Castle from another perspective. I also go to other buildings around, one looking like a haunted Victorian castle, and then I get myself a coffee and a fancy vegan burger dish before taking the next train back to Lisbon.

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Da ich in diesem Urlaub schon am Strand war, entscheide ich mich dieses Mal für einen Kulturausflug nach Sintra. Der Ort lässt sich bequem vom Bahnhof Rossio in Lissabon aus mit einer Art S-Bahn erreichen. Der Zug ist ziemlich überfüllt. Mir gegenüber sitzen zwei Damen, die ich für Portugiesinnen halte. Erst nach einer halben Stunde halbherzigen Belauschens fällt mir auf, dass die beiden eigentlich Schweizerdeutsch reden. Wahrscheinlich hätte ich mehr verstanden, wenn sie portugiesisch gesprochen hätten.

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Am Bahnhof Sintra angekommen halten viele Passagiere Ausschau nach den öffentlichen Bussen, mit denen sie ins Stadtzentrum und zu den Sehenswürdigkeiten transportiert werden wollen. In Sintra liegt alles etwas weiter auseinander und vieles ist nicht wirklich fußläufig. Beim Anblick der Massen weiß ich jedoch schon, dass ich lieber nicht in der langen Schlange am Bus warte und mit ihnen eingequetscht sitzen möchte. Dieser kleine Ort ist wirklich von Touristen überlaufen. Manche gehen zu Fuß ebenso wie ich. Ein eher kurzer Fußmarsch bringt mich vom Bahnhof in das eigentliche Städtchen. Ich komme vor den Menschenmassen an und genehmige mir ein kleines Frühstück. In Portugal hole ich mir immer einen Espresso, den man hier Bica nennt, und etwas Süßes. Ich liebe die Pastéis de Nata und hole mir noch ein Kokosmakronending dazu. 

Ich bin etwas planlos, wo ich weiter hin laufen soll. Auf jeden Fall muss ich irgendwie nach oben. Eine der engen Straßen führt mich raus aus dem Ort und ich entdecke den Eingang zu einem steilen Wanderpfad hoch zur maurischen Burg. Der Wanderweg durch den Wald ist ganz nett und das Schönste ist die Abwesenheit anderer Menschen. Oben am Eingang zur Burg ändert sich das wieder. Ich überlege, ob ich wirklich das Eintrittsgeld bezahlen sollte oder mir einfach alles von außen ansehe. Schließlich ist die Maurenburg sehr alt und neben ein paar Befestigungsmauern gibt es wohl nicht viel zu sehen. Also mache ich mich durch den Wald lieber auf zum nächsten Ziel.

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Am Eingang des Palácio Nacional de Pena stehen schon die Menschenmassen an. Für diesen Palast muss ich mir wirklich ein Ticket kaufen, da er von außerhalb des Geländes nicht richtig zu sehen ist. Ich kaufe nur ein Ticket für den Garten, da ich mir das Innere sowieso nicht unbedingt ansehen will. Das Gelände ist sehr weitläufig, viele Pfade, Wege und Aussichtspunkte. Es geht immer hoch und runter. Das Highlight ist natürlich der farbenfrohe Palast, der einem surrealen Traum entspringen könnte, entworfen von Antoni Gaudi oder Hundertwasser. Kleine Türmchen und Schmuckelemente in rot, gelb und blau. Das Gebäude ist kein authentisches, mittelalterliches Gebäude, sondern eher ein dekoratives Fantasieschloss mit architektonischen Elementen aus verschiedenen Jahrhunderten. In dieser Hinsicht ähnelt es ein wenig dem Märchenschloss Ludwigs des II. in Neuschwanstein. Das Schloss ist definitiv ein Höhepunkt des Ausflugs nach Sintra. 

Beim Abstieg vom Schloss in den Ort wähle ich einen anderen Wanderweg, der auch sehr hübsche Ausblicke bietet. Man sieht auch das Maurenkastell aus einer anderen Perspektive. Ich mache noch einen Abstecher zu anderen interessanten Gebäuden. Eines sieht aus wie ein viktorianisches Geisterhaus. Dann hole ich mir noch einen Kaffee und eine schickes veganes Burgergericht, bevor ich den nächsten Zug zurück nach Lissabon nehme.

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Vasco da Gama.

Vasco da Gama’s tomb can be found in the Jeronimos Monastery which I have visited the other day. Besides all the historic places Lisbon has its modern sides as well. I have already seen the older Ponte 25 de Abril which looked like the Golden Gate Bridge. There is a newer bridge over the Tejo, the Vasco da Gama Bridge finished in 1998. It is now Europe’s second largest bridge after the only recently opened Crimean Bridge. I can see it from the oceanwalk close to the Oceanarium.

The whole area is a modern quarter near the Estação Oriente metro station. It is a huge transport hub and an enormous shopping center – the Centro Comercial Vasco da Gama. Too many people here. I prefer to stay outside. There are some military and police organisations with show stages and helicopter models trying to seduce young kids into becoming a good soldier later. This is again something I rather stay away from. What I really like however is the modernity of the oceanwalk, the sight of the futuristic shopping mall from the outside, the view over to the Oceanarium and the tourist cable cars. After enjoying a fresh breeze of the ocean I treat myself with a lot of frozen yoghurt and head back to the center.

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Die Grabstätte von Vasco da Gama befindet sich im Jeronimos-Kloster, das ich schon ein paar Tage zuvor besucht hatte. Neben all den historischen Orten zeigt Lissabon auch seine moderne Seite. Die ältere Brücke Ponte 25 de Abril, die aussieht wie die Golden Gate Bridge, habe ich schon bewundert. Es gibt aber auch schon eine neuere Brücke über den Tejo. Die Vasco da Gama Brücke wurde 1998 fertiggestellt und ist nach der kürzlich eröffneten Krim-Brücke nun die zweitgrößte Brücke Europas. Von der Promenade am Ozeanarium aus ist sie gut zu beobachten.

Das ganze Gebiet ist ein modernes Stadtviertel nahe der Estação Oriente Metrostation. Die Station ist ein riesiger Verkehrsknotenpunkt mit angeschlossenem Einkaufszentrum, dem Centro Comercial Vasco da Gama. Mir sind hier zu viele Menschen unterwegs. Da bleibe ich lieber draußen. Einige Militär- und Polizeiorganisationen haben draußen Stände und Helikopter aufgebaut, um junge Kinder zum späteren Ergreifen eines Militärberufs zu verleiten. Auch davon halte ich mich lieber fern. Was mir hingegen wirklich gut gefällt ist die futuristisch wirkende Promenade am Ufer, die Architektur der Shopping Mall, der Blick aufs Ozeanarium und die Seilbahnen. Nach einer frischen Brise am Meer gönne ich mir einen Frozen Yoghurt und kehre ins Stadtzentrum zurück.

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Up and down. Hoch und runter. Para cima e para baixo.

Lisbon is a city built on hills, similar to Rome. When looking on Google Maps which way is the shortest, it might trick you into taking a steep shortcut instead of suggesting the comfortable longer way around the hill. However now I really want to go up. Whenever I am in a new city, I love to climb up to a viewpoint. This must be a kind of primal instinct. Very close to my hotel I climb up the steps to the first viewpoint. The area is a bit run-down, full of grafitti. It reminds me of my hometown, somehow a similar shabby-chic. Not far, but high up I reach the Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte. It is a lively place next to a church. I can see large parts of the city, the river, and the Castelo de São Jorge. Close to this viewpoint another walk a little down and up I find the Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen. The view is similar and also very nice, especially around sunset. And down again I move towards the river Tejo through the picturesque alleys and streets. The Miradouro Santa Luzia offers a beautiful closer view over the river and the old Jewish and Moorish quarter of Alfama.

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I prefer to walk and I do not mind climbing some steps. The other day I take a stroll through the posh city center called Baixa with its high and elegant buildings. It is here where I see one of Lisbon’s most iconic sites – the elevator of Santa Justa. The elevator is 45 meters high, the queues are three times as long. I opt for just walking the way up and have a look from above for free. It takes me just a few minutes walking instead of waiting for hours. There are also funicular railways within the city. One of them is the Ascensor da Gloria close to the railway station. Again I just have a look and take a walk since it is crammed and queues are extreme. So you always have a choice in Lisbon: wait in queues in the heat for quite a while or take a quick walk. The latter seems more convenient to me.

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Lissabon wurde auf Hügeln erbaut, ähnlich wie Rom. Wenn ich auf Google Maps nach dem schnellsten Weg schaue, wird mir eine scheinbar schnelle Wegeverbindung suggeriert, die tatsächlich jedoch langsamer ist als der längere bequeme Weg um den Berg herum. Allerdings will ich heute wirklich nach oben laufen. Immer wenn ich in einer neuen Stadt bin, erklimme ich gerne einen Aussichtspunkt. Da kommt wohl ein Urinstinkt durch. Ich mache mich auf zum nächstbesten Aussichtspunkt und steige die Stufen hinauf. Die Gegend wirkt etwas heruntergekommen und ist voll mit Grafitti. Sie erinnert mich an meine Heimatstadt, eine Art Shabby-Chic.

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Nicht weit, aber hoch oben erreiche ich den Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte. Der Platz ist belebt und befindet sich neben einer Kirche. Ich erblicke weite Teile der Stadt und sehe über den Fluss und zum Castelo de São Jorge. Ein kleines Stück entfernt erreiche ich nach einem Marsch herunter und wieder hoch den Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen. Der Ausblick ist ähnlich, sehr nett, besonders bei Sonnenuntergang. Und dann geht es wieder hinunter in Richtung Fluss durch die pittoresken Straßen und Gassen. Der Miradouro Santa Luzia bietet einen wundervollen Ausblick über den nahen Fluss über das alte jüdische und maurische Viertel Alfama.

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Ich laufe gerne und mich stört auch der Anstieg nicht so sehr. An einem der nächsten Tage spaziere ich durch das edle Stadtzentrum namens Baixa mit hohen, würdevollen Gebäuden. Hier erblicke ich eine der markantesten Sehenswürdigkeiten der Stadt – den Fahrstuhl Santa Justa. Der Fahrstuhl ist 45 Meter hoch und die Schlangen wenigstens dreimal so lang. Ich entscheide mich für das Hochlaufen und kann ohne Eintritt von oben die Aussicht genießen. Der Weg dauert auch nur wenige Minuten, das Warten hätte Stunden gedauert. In der Stadt verkehren auch Standseilbahnen. Einer davon ist der Ascensor da Gloria nahe dem Bahnhof Rossio. Und auch hier schaue ich mir lediglich die ganze Szenerie an und verzichte aufs Einsteigen. Die Bahnen sind vollgequetscht mit Menschen und es stehen wieder viel zu viele Leute an den Haltestellen an. In Lissabon hat man die Wahl: in der Hitze in der Schlange stehen und ewig warten – oder einfach schnell zu Fuß gehen. Die letzere Variante scheint mir die bessere Wahl zu sein.

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Tram to Bethlehem. Straßenbahn nach Bethlehem. Elétrico a Belém.

Following my beach days at the Atlantic coast I now arrive in Lisbon. My hotel is situated in a lively central quarter close to the metro station Intendente with a distinct immigrant character, lots of Indian, Chinese and Bangladeshi shops and restaurants. This is great since I am not too fond of meaty and fishy Portuguese food. Some people say this area is not that safe, but I do not face any problems and look forward to having a Bengali breakfast with some dal and samosas which works out great over the days.

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I can already spot the historic cable cars which are a distinct feature of Lisbon. I heard they are overcrowded and are no longer an off-the-beaten path experience. And in fact the queues are huge. Passing by the starting point of famous tram 28 I can see at least a hundred people in line waiting for the next tram. And the small cars can only accommodate a few passengers, not much more than twenty. I don’t feel like wasting my time with waiting. A few blocks further I come across the stop of another historic tram. This time it is number 12. The queues are not as long and I decide to give it a try and wait until the next tram arrives. Luckily I can manage to fit in even sitting next to the window. We go up and down the narrow roads. Despite the crowds and the touristy feeling I love the experience. No more than half an hour later we arrive back where we started.

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The next day I love to visit some of the more iconic sites of Lisboa and decide to take the tram again. This time I would have preferred a modern version with airconditioning. However the trams appear to be stuck in traffic and after waiting for a ages a small historic cable car arrives and the crowds are trying to squeeze themselves into the tiny car. This time I have to stand. It is hot and the ride takes ages. I finally arrive in Belém which just means Bethlehem literally. I walk past the huge Mosteiro de Jéronimos with its amazing church. Since the queues are too long again, I decide to only visit the church but not to enter the monastery itself.

A short walk later I finally spot the iconic Torre de Belém and observe a young German girl who lost her flipflop in the water and is now trying to fish for it. It is a nice walk along the waterfront where the river Tejo meets the sea. There is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos – a monument remembering the seafarers who went to the American continent and beyond. The enormous bridge over the river reminds me of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I head back to my hotel and I can already say: I love Lisbon!

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Nach meinen Strandtagen an der Atlantikküste komme ich nun in Lissabon an. Mein Hotel befindet sich in einem zentral gelegenen, lebhaften Viertel nahe der Metrostation Intendente. Man merkt, dass ich mich in einem Immigrantenviertel befinde. Es gibt zahlreiche indische und chinesische Läden und Restaurants. Das kommt mir sehr entgegen, da ich nicht all zu scharf auf die fleisch- und fischlastige portugiesische Küche bin. Diese Gegend hat nicht den besten Ruf, aber ich habe keine Probleme und freue mich auf mein bengalisches Frühstück mit Dal und Samosas, das ich in den nächsten Tagen immer wieder zu mir nehmen werde.

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An der Hauptstraße bemerke ich schon einige der historischen Straßenbahnen, die Lissabon so besonders machen. Ich habe gehört, dass sie überfüllt und schon lange kein Geheimtipp mehr sein sollen. Und tatsächlich muss man lange anstehen. Ich komme an der Starthaltestelle der berühmten Linie 28 vorbei und sehe mindestens hundert Menschen dort anstehen, die auf die nächste Bahn warten. In die kleinen Wagen passen kaum mehr als zwanzig Leute rein. Ich habe keine Lust, hier lange zu warten und laufe weiter. Ein paar Straßen weiter befindet sich die Haltestelle einer anderen historischen Linie, dieses Mal die Nummer 12. Die Schlangen sind hier nicht so lang und ich versuche mein Glück. Tatsächlich schaffe ich es, mich in die nächste Bahn zu drängeln und sogar einen Sitzplatz zu ergattern. In der Bahn geht es dann die engen Straßen steil hoch und runter. Trotz der Menschenmassen und dem touristischen Feeling ist es eine tolle Erfahrung. Knapp eine halbe Stunde später sind wir schon wieder am Ausgangspunkt.

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Am nächsten Tag will ich die markanten Sehenswürdigkeiten der Stadt aufsuchen und will wieder mit der Straßenbahn dorthin fahren. Dieses Mal hätte mir auch eine moderne, klimatisierte Bahn gereicht, aber irgendwie warte ich ewig an der Haltestelle und die nächste Bahn, die eintrifft, ist wieder eine kleine alte historische Bahn. Die Menschen quetschen sich ins Fahrzeug. Dieses Mal muss ich stehen, es ist enorm heiß und die Fahrt durch den Stau dauert Ewigkeiten. Endlich bin ich im Stadtteil Belém, was so viel wie Bethlehem bedeutet. Ich komme am gewaltigen Mosteiro de Jéronimos mit seiner beeindruckenden Kirche vorbei. Da auch hier die Warteschlangen gigantisch sind, schaue ich mir nur die Kirche an, verzichte aber auf den Eintritt ins Kloster. Nach einem kleinen Fußmarsch sehe ich endlich den berühmten Torre de Belém und schaue mir dort eine interessante Szene an. Eine junge deutsche Touristin hat ihren Flipflop im Wasser verloren und fischt nun nach ihrem Schuh. Es ist ganz nett, am Wasser entlang zu flanieren – am Ufer, dort wo der Fluss Tejo aufs Meer trifft. Ich erblicke das Padrão dos Descobrimentos, ein Denkmal, das an die Entdeckungsreisen nach Amerika und darüber hinaus erinnert. Die gewaltige Brücke über den Fluss erinnert stark an die Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Ich kehre zum Hotel zurück und kann jetzt schon sagen: Ich liebe Lissabon!

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Surf West. Surfando para o Ocidente.

Even after many months of summer sunshine in Germany I still do not have enough and like to extend my summer. So I book a flight to Lisbon. However for my first days I decide to spend them at the shores of the Atlantic ocean. A complicated Uber taxi drive and a quiet bus ride take me to Ericeira, a small town located at the westernmost shores of Europe. The town is known for being the surfing capital of Europe. Even though I am not a surfer myself I want to experience the atmosphere and spend some nice days by the sea shore.

After checking into my hostel I explore the city center. It is nice and quaint, touristy, but not in an ugly way. Actually the pedestrian zone is cute and there are some nice old buildings. A spectacular sight are the beaches at the bottom of the cliffs, some directly in the city, others at its fringes. On the beaches further out I see the surfings professionals and the wannabe surfers. Actually the water is pretty cold. Without a wetsuit I cannot stay inside the water for longer than a few minutes. I prefer to just be lazy and enjoy the sun and the beach. I go for some walks along the coast and I watch some of the surfing contests that are taking place here. The air is clean and bright, the dominant colors are deep blue, beige and white. I love that I can be lazy and do not have to work.

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Having a snack or dessert by daytime is easy. I enjoy the pastéis de nata (eggtarts) and ice-cream. Having a vegetarian dinner is more of a complicated matter. There are a few vegetarian-friendly organic places, but they only open for lunch. I would like to sit at a budget-friendly falafel or pizza place, but they are not existent here. While there is an abundance of steak and fish restaurants everywhere, rural or maritime Portugal is obviously not much of a veggie paradise. Somehow I still always find a way to feed myself.

I am not doing much each day besides walking through town and lying on the beach. It is really relaxing and I am lucky with the weather. After three days my stay in Ericeira is over and I hop onto the next bus to Lisbon, looking forward to a big city with lots of food choices.

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Selbst nach den vielen sonnigen Sommermonaten in Deutschland habe ich noch nicht genug von Sonne und Wärme und möchte meinen Sommer verlängern. Also buche ich einen Flug nach Lissabon. Die ersten Tage meines Urlaubs will ich jedoch an der Atlantikküste verbringen. Eine komplizierte Fahrt per Uber-Taxi und Bus bringt mich nach Ericeira, einem Küstenstädtchen an den westlichsten Ufern Europas. Ericeira ist als Surfer-Hauptstadt Europas bekannt. Auch wenn ich selbst nicht surfe, möchte ich gerne die Stimmung aufsaugen und ein paar schöne Tage am Meer verbringen.

Nach dem Einchecken ins Hostel erkunde ich die Stadt. Sie ist pittoresk und beschaulich, durchaus touristisch, aber nicht auf hässliche Weise. Die Fußgängerzone ist in der Tat hübsch hergerichtet und man sieht viele historische Gebäude. Ein spektakulärer Anblick sind die Strände am Fuß der Klippen. Einige befinden sich direkt in der Stadt, andere weiter außerhalb. An den weiter entfernten Stränden beobachte ich die Profi-Surfer und die Möchtegern-Profi-Surfer. Das Wasser ist eisig kalt. Ohne Neopren-Anzug hält man es nicht lange im Wasser aus. Da bin ich lieber faul und lege mich am Strand in die Sonne. Dann unternehme ich noch einen Spaziergang entlang der Steilküste und schaue mir die Surfwettbewerbe an, die hier stattfinden. Die Luft ist klar, die dominierenden Farben sind beige, weiß und ein tiefes Blau. Ich bin froh, endlich wieder faul sein zu können und nicht arbeiten zu müssen.

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Tagsüber einen Snack oder ein Dessert zu finden ist kein Problem. Ich hole mir immer die Pastéis de Nata, das sind Eiertörtchen, und Eis. Ein vegetarisches Abendessen ausfindig zu machen, ist hingegen keine so triviale Angelegenheit. Es gibt zwar einige wenige vegane Bioläden, aber die haben nur mittags geöffnet. Ich würde mich ja am liebsten in ein Schnellrestaurant setzen, so etwas wie eine Pizza- oder Falafelbude, aber solche Etablissements existieren hier nicht. Hochpreisige Steak- und Fischrestaurants gibt es im Überfluss, aber das ländliche oder meerische Portugal ist wirklich kein Paradies für -Pflanzenfresser. Aber irgend etwas zu essen kann ich immer auftreiben.

Ich mache den Tag über nicht viel außer durch die Stadt zu schlendern und am Strand abzuhängen. Es ist entspannend und ich habe Glück mit dem Wetter. Nach drei Tagen muss ich weiter und nehme den Bus nach Lissabon. Ich freue mich auf die Großstadt mit einer hoffentlich reichhaltigen Auswahl an Essensmöglichkeiten.

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The Meaning of Life without a Job.

1. Here and Now

Now that I am writing this, I am pretty busy jobwise. I have a normal office job to cover my basic daily needs and to help fund my own business. It is in a way a natural development in the course of my life. I am not saying everything is easy, but at the same time I cannot say I am unhappy although sometimes I miss my old life – the life I had for almost three years until only recently. It was a life without a job, a life without work. I am not talking about involuntary unemployment. No, it was my choice. It was a dream, on top of the wish list: Not having to work.

2. The Dream

When I was a kid, I had all kinds of ideas what I want to be when I would have grown up. I wanted to operate trams and trains. I wanted to be an explorer and biologist, observing animals in the jungle. I wanted to be an architect or civil engineer and construct buildings, roads, and railways. I ended up studying computer science and business administration. The best thing about the course was to be free – living independently from my family, sharing an apartment with room mates, staying up all night long, having the free choice whether to attend class in the early morning, or just sleep in and skip it. After the more rigorously structured years in high school I loved my new free life in university. I loved it so much that I did not want it to end. Imagining a large share of my day being determined by a job and demands of other people? For the rest of my life? Sounds quite depressing, no? – I was dreaming of a life without a job.

3. The Misery of Working

I thought really hard about a way to continue my life without having to work for the rest of my life. Well, I did not find that magical solution. I tried to prolong my studies and spend some time abroad with internships, but finally I ran out of money and really had to find a proper job. I found one. It sounded rather interesting. I became an assistant for research and teaching at another university and even got the chance to get a PhD. In reality it was not as nice as it sounded. In fact I was working overtime a lot, I was stressed and anxious, and my boss was very difficult. There was not much of a social life or any quality free time left.

My next job in a company a few years later was not much better. Although my boss was a lot nicer, I still worked many hours and everything was lacking a purpose. With all my efforts I was only making other people rich. It felt like a huge waste of time. Was this my glorious purpose in life? Being a company slave for the rest of my life with a few weeks vacations a year as the only time in life where I could be free? I was anxious and depressed. Medication and psychotherapy were not that bad, but mostly only prolonging the misery and just making me a dull guy merely tolerating my meaningless life. I needed to make a decision – I needed to break free.

4. Rebirth

So I decided to quit my job. Not having a job fills most people with anxiety and many of my former colleagues could not imagine why I would do such a horrible thing. Living one month without a job? How to spend all the free time? On which money would you live? – To me having to work was a lot more frightening and I felt liberated to quit. Every fibre of my body was telling me I need this free unplanned time to recover myself from all the difficulties I had gone through.

5. How did I spend my free time?

Many people feel the need to constantly do something. They feel awkward if there is nothing to do. I hate to have things to do. I just want to be. The free time helped me being instead of doing. Of course I was not just sitting at home for two and a half years though.
The first part of my break was a seven-month-journey through South East Asia – which is the reason why I started this blog. When I was 18 I did not have neither the money nor the bravery to take a gap year abroad. Now I had both. Vacations and adventures that do not end after two weeks like a normal vacation? – Fantastic. You can take yourself a lot of time and dive deep into the culture and a relaxed life. It was one of the best trips I have ever taken. Yet even traveling has its limits and after many months all the beaches and temples looked the same and I felt it was time to get back home and start a new chapter.

Back home I continued my relaxed life and did not want my jobless life to end. I still was not ready for it. I enrolled in a psychology and counselling course. I wanted to become a counselor instead of working in office all day. Trying to leave my old career path was part of the change. And I signed up for a meditation teacher program, another step towards my new life.

 In between I was doing a lot of traveling. Actually it was much cheaper than vacationing while working since I could pick other travel dates and was more flexible when booking flights and hotels so I enjoyed very cheap vacations.

 Looking at my daily routines I was very lazy – what a luxury. I got up late, took a lot of time to prepare food and cook properly. I also started working on my body, starting yoga, doing exercises. And I developed a meditation habit. I realized how much I had neglected my body, my mind and my emotional state in the years before. Also my social life got a lot better. I had more time for friends and visited them regularly. In summer I got on my bicycle almost every day and cycled to the lake for swimming or to other places in nature.

And many days I was just doing nothing. I was not in a hurry. I loved it and never felt bored actually. The only reason why I would not continue this life was because I was running out of funds. No surprise – of course I was prepared for it.

6. How did I change?

There were many benefits on a physical, mental, and emotional level. I got calmer and more relaxed, my sleep was so much better. I became physically fitter and more flexible. And ever since I stopped working I did not have any panic attacks, anxiety, or depression episodes. I became more emotionally and mentally stable, less neurotic. And I got new hope and a more positive outlook on life.

There is a strange myth propagated by some psychologists and psychotherapists that getting back to work as soon as possible would help a patient fighting depression. But what if working is part of the problem? – And for sure more often it is than not. To me at least it was a lot more healthy to get out of work and to become a normal person again. Of course the job is not the only source of all the troubles, but taking away the burden and obligation to dedicate all your time and energy to your job was such a great relief to me and helped me prosper again.

7. How could I afford a life without a salary?

This is a mixture of fortune, hard work, and a certain attitude. I was lucky enough that the job which I did not like at least provided me with enough pay to save some money. Every month I had a certain surplus so I had enough funds for two or three years. It was not only this however. I had few expenses, only a small apartment, no car, using public transport and my bicycle instead. I hardly spent money on clothes or material things, only the bare necessities. And quite important – I was living on my own, no kids or family who relied on my income for their living. I sustained this lifestyle before and during my break from work. It is an easy calculation. If you can live on less, you do not need to work that much.

Another part of the attitude was giving up all fears about the future, whether I find a new job or another way of making a living after my break. I had to accept that the money I would spend in my job-free time would not be available in the future when I would be old. Giving up the false sense of security makes you break free more easily.

8. Was it hard to get back to corporate life?

I probably was a bit lucky, but after the all the years of no-job I found a new job relatively fast. The re-integration into an office actually felt quite normal. The first weeks were a bit challenging. Still after all I was a lot more relaxed than in the jobs before even though the outer conditions were not much different from my jobs before. What had changed was my attitude and my emotional stability.

9. Would you recommend quitting the job?

I would say don’t be afraid to think about it. If you are unhappy in your job, you might leave anyway sooner or later. The younger, the better educated and the less bound by obligations you are, the easier it is to break free. If your standard of living and security are more important to you, stay with your job. It is all about priorities.