food / travel

Volcanos And Vineyards: The Eternal Surprises Of The Azores Islands

Once home to a thriving whaling industry, Portugal’s Azores islands are now a hotspot for whale watching. The archipelago also boasts scenic hiking trails and unusual vineyards, which are protected from the wind – and warmed at night – by labyrinthian vol

Paths to the sea (Guillaume Baviere)
Paths to the sea (Guillaume Baviere)
Rita Flubacher

FAIAL ISLAND - The exhibit at the museum near the Capelinhos volcano on the western corner of Faial Island in the Azores makes the 1957 eruption come alive. That's when a whole village was wiped off the face of the earth, large stretches of land buried in a lead-grey blanket of ash. Within days the island grew larger by 2.4 square kilometers. The museum building itself has been artfully built, sunk down in ash and its exhibit no less artfully tells the tale.

An older couple is examining pictures of haggard men and women, post-catastrophe, looking warily at the camera. Suddenly one of them lets out a cry: they've identified a relative of the husband's. Excited, the man, who introduces himself as Ernesto, tells how as a kid back in 1957 he was evacuated from his village along with more than 2,000 other people. The U.S. government offered a home to some of them, including Ernesto. Now a successful construction company owner, the Faial islander is back after 54 years in search of his roots.

The nine islands comprising the Azores belong to Portugal. For all intents and purposes, they are nothing but a collection of volcanoes, in all their variations, ranging from new, like Capelinhos, to fully-formed, like 2,351-meter-high Pico on the eponymous island. Pico is also Portugal's highest mountain.

To the unpracticed eye, Cabeço Gordo on Faial and Pico do Ferro on São Miguel might look like relatively flat pasture-land (there are even cows grazing) but an aerial view reveals craters sometimes as deep as several hundred meters. A lot is going on underground, where hot springs and spirals of steam emerge to the surface.

Business-savvy locals have even turned the volcanic fields of São Miguel into oversize cooking facilities: they place huge pots of meat and vegetables in a hole in the morning, and by lunch time the "cozido," as the stew is called, is ready to be dished out to tourists. Not only are the portions huge, but the wines served with it – made on Pico Island – are delicious.

Since the 18th century, vineyards on the west flank of Pico‘s volcano have been divided into tiny parcels surrounded by dry walls made from black volcanic rock. These walls protect the vines from the heavy winds that course across the island. They also absorb the warmth of the sun and thus keep the ground temperature stable, even through the night. The wall system – which looks like a massive labyrinth if you look down at it from a plane -- is used to this day. The entire area was placed on the UNESCO world heritage list in 2004.

Vines aren't the only plants that take well to volcanic soil. As any visitor can see, so do hydrangeas that border every road and hiking trail. Some of the bushes grow as high as trees, full of white and vibrantly-colored pink and purple flowers.

Another attraction is the sea, especially the waters around Pico, Faial and São Jorge, where several species of whale can be seen. Whales give birth and raise their young ones here, so whale watching is a must. There are plenty of dolphins around the islands as well.

Sipping a gin and tonic at "Peter's'

As the locals will tell you, there are a lot of boat tours, but only one Norberto Serpa, the best sailor and a diving pro. So at the appointed hour we show up in the port of Horta, the charming capital of Faial. A few minutes turn to half an hour. Our skipper still hasn't turned up, and with growing irritation we can see the other boats heading out. Then suddenly there he is: small, wiry, brown, with shoulder-length hair and a beard worthy of Captain Haddock in the Tintin comics.

When the catamaran finally leaves the port – after Norberto has greeted what seems to be every single person, on or off a boat, in the entire area – the "captain" revs to such high speed that tour guests are hanging on for dear life, some of them looking green around the gills.

In no time we've caught up with the other boats, all in the same observation area, passengers watching eagerly, cameras poised on the glittering waves, for the elegant leap of a dolphin, a whale fountain, or – most prized of all – the sight of a whale breaching.

Norberto and the other boat pilots listen carefully to radio communications and if there's word of a sighting all boats head in the same direction. This time, there really is a whale to be seen: a tip has been received from men who used to fish them until that was outlawed in 1984. They sit on the cliffs of Pico or Faial and search the sea with telescopes, radioing the boats when and if they spot something.

The Americans were the ones who introduced whaling here. Men on Pico and Faial had two possible ways of earning money: fishing or working in a whale meat factory. The Americans used big ships and high tech harpoons, but locals took their lives in their hands and hunted in small boats. Two museums on Pico show how the men in precarious vessels fought whales weighing tons.

Today, Peter's Café Sport in Horta is the best place to compare the size of whales sighted. Sailors on their way from Europe to the American coast have been stopping on Faial for as long as anybody can remember. One of their rituals is a gin and tonic at Peter's. Another is to write something on the harbor walls. The graffiti is supposed to ensure a safe journey. You'd be hard pressed to find a port more brightly inscribed than Horta.

Upstairs at Peter's is a small scrimshaw museum where drawings engraved on whale teeth tell the tales of adventures at sea. There are also portraits of women, pictures sailors carried with them of their sweethearts back home.

Read the original article in German

Photo - Guillaume Baviere

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Spencer Tunick Nude Installation in Israel

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Salam!*

Welcome to Monday, where the UK pays homage to slain MP David Amess, Myanmar frees thousands of prisoners, and Facebook gets ready to build its "metaverse." Please fasten your seatbelts: Worldcrunch also takes stock of the long-lasting effects — good and bad — the pandemic has had on the air travel industry.

[*Azeri - Azerbaijan]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Myanmar to free political prisoners: Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has announced the release of 5,636 prisoners who had been jailed for protesting the coup that ousted the civilian government in February 2021.

• Powerful Haiti gang behind the kidnapping of U.S. missionaries: The notorious 400 Mawozo gang is believed to be behind the kidnapping in Haiti of a group of Christian missionaries, including 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian. The brazen kidnapping on Saturday comes as crime is spiking since the killing of President Jovenel Moise in July.

• UK to pay tribute to David Amess: British lawmakers will pay homage in parliament to colleague David Amess, who was stabbed to death Friday in what was described by the police as a "terrorist incident." Officers arrested a 25-year-old suspect whose father, Harbi Ali Kullane, worked as a media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia.

• COVID update: Russia has registered more than 34,000 cases of new infections in the past 24 hours, a new record since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, police in the northeast Italian city of Trieste used water cannons to clear striking dockworkers protesting Italy's new requirements that all employees be vaccinated.

• At least 26 killed in floods in India: Torrential rain has triggered floods and landslides in India's southern coastal state of Kerala, killing at least 26 people.

• Facebook to hire 10,000 in EU to develop "metaverse": The U.S. social media giant plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to build a "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet that the company touts as the future.

Punishing parents for children's bad behavior: After limiting gaming hours for minors, China is now considering legislation to reprimand parents if their children exhibit "very bad behavior" or commit crimes.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Colombian daily El Espectador dedicates its front page to Alex Saab, "owner of the secrets" of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Colombian businessman, wanted by U.S. authorities for allegedly laundering money on behalf of Venezuela's government, has been extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. where he is scheduled to appear in court today.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

4.9%

China's economy registered its slowest pace in a year as the country faces a looming energy crisis with power shortages and increasing pressure on its property sector. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the period between July-September rose 4.9%, the weakest numbers since the third quarter of 2020 and significantly lower than forecasts. The world's second-largest economy faces a debt crisis linked to the China Evergrande Group debt crisis, while energy shortfalls have dropped factory output to its weakest since early 2020, when heavy COVID-19 curbs were in place.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

7 ways the pandemic may change the airline industry for good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

⛽ Cleaner aviation fuel: With air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel. In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials

.🛃 Smoother check-in: The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

✈️ The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less? At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel, in particular, is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"The crimes committed that night are unforgivable for the Republic."

— Emmanuel Macron became the first French president to commemorate the killing of as many as 200 Algerian independence protesters by Parisian police in 1961. For 40 years, French officials ignored the massacre, which took place a year before Algeria gained its independence from France after an eight-year war. In 2012, French President François Hollande acknowledged the killings for the first time on a visit to Algeria, and Macron took it further by attending Sunday's commemoration at the site where the events happened in the French capital. Still, many had hoped the French President would go further and take responsibility for a "state massacre," for a crime many historians consider the most violent repression of a peaceful demonstration in post-War Europe.

📈💥  IN OTHER NEWS

​Low trust, high risk: The global rise of violence targeting politicians

The deadly stabbing of British Parliament Member David Amess confirms an ongoing study on trust and governance in democracies around the world: It's bad. In The Conversation, James Weinberg — the study's author and a lecturer in Political Behavior at the University of Sheffield — writes:

⏪ The assassination of Amess, who was stabbed to death in his constituency on Friday, is a tragic moment for democracy. What makes it even more devastating is that such a catastrophic failure is not without precedent or predictability. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot at her constituency surgery in 2016. Before her, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, survived a stabbing in 2010. And Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councilor, died in a frenzied attack in 2001 while trying to protect local Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones.

☝️ Beyond these critical junctures in the public debate about politicians' safety, elected representatives must live with an increasingly insidious level of popular cynicism that threatens violence on an almost daily basis.

🇬🇧🇳🇿🇿🇦 Not only are these experiences of abuse or threats of physical violence felt across both sides of the political aisle in the UK — they also appear to be growing more common in other democratic contexts where the climate of politics has been presumed to be both calmer and more volatile, from New Zealand to South Africa.


Read the full piece from The Conversation, now on Worldcrunch.com

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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