Camp in Germany // Beach Time Sweethearts

Recently, my BFF Jurga, her boyfriend and I decided to go camping for a weekend - wherever, doesn't matter, as long as it's in the nature, it's green, close to the water, kind of calm yet giving a summer holiday feeling. Last minute, just the day before leaving, we heard about this awesome place on the Baltic Sea coast called Prerow - a fisherman village on a peninsula, combining a lagoon-like calm sea on the east, yet rough waves on the west side of the peninsula, a forest in between, soft sand and our campsite on the edge of the dunes. For us, two Lithuanian girls, this place was giving a very rare sense of a Baltic homeland site, it was mind blowing to recognise something we grew up with on another countries shoreside like the preserved architecture of little wooden houses, the landscape of the shore, a pine tree forest just along it.  

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We stayed at the Regenbogen Prerow Campsite. As we checked in very late, for some magical reasons we got the very spot we actually were wishing for - at the very corner on the last bit of the campsite, where our two of the four neighbours were a dune (with the sea 100m behind it) and a young growing pine forest. Moreover - we got located next to the nudist beach :-) So I could finally get one of those pictures out of my tent that I was always dreaming about when diving into Pinterest scrolling too much. However, absolutely everything was perfect about that weekend - coffee in the sand, rain in the night time, sun all day long, braless suntanning, campsite cooking, hot water showers and, of course, a lot of amazing scenery filled with love and kisses for my photographic delight.

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It wasn't my first time at the German part of the Baltic Sea. But all these years we've been fast to book flights to anywhere in Europe for hikes, roadtrips, beaches and longing for distant corners with high peaks, hot springs or long sandy stripes of beach. But I had to realise how little I actually know Germany and how much it has to offer nature wise if you know where to look for it. If you have any advice, top 5 must experience nature locations - share it with me, please. I'll mark them up in my map and save my weekends for them.

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La Primera Sonrisa // Design Hotel, Café and a Grand Idea

When I first met the two owners of La Primera Sonrisa at the opening of their café & bar, I ended up standing behind the counter and pressing fresh lemons into the iced water for their curious new customers. People were standing lines on their first open day and I was more than keen to offer my help switching from customer to a bartender. The thing is, after two months of me living in a sleepy little village it was like an iced water splash into my face to see two young lively people with dreams, ideas and certainty in their eyes doing their own thing. Their magnetic energy kinda reached my good vibe locators and so a friendship was born.

Here are some facts. Koen and Ivo are two of those, who actually did quit their well payed jobs in Holland and decided to turn their paths into a more sunny, tropical kind of life under the Andalusian sky. Just a couple of months ago, they did what many thought was impossible - they opened a café & bar followed by a two room design hotel on a site where there's not one shop nor office nor market. But a grand view.

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It's the village called Polopos in the very south of Spain, white and old like Spanish little villages are, with narrow crooked streets, big bloomy flowerbeds, clean air, a view of dry mountains and the Mediterranean sea, and countless possibilities for outdoor hiking adventures. It's very tranquil and what some might call boring, for many - me included - it's the way to unplug from a noisy city life, get relief and reconnect with the simple joys, sensations or even the own breathing rhythm. On a calm sunset hike you start feeling like a prince of the world, watching endless Mediterranean below the feet, snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada in the north and sometimes even another continent in the far South. It's a village with a huge potential of a tranquil kind.

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The hotel offers two rooms with a unique design. It's a personal business matter for the two entrepreneurs and you feel it when you enter the rooms - vintage carpets, fossil accessories, upcycled furniture and found attributes from around the globe meet together in a hotel room with aview. In the mornings they cook you breakfast and in the afternoon there's a set of creatively homemade tapas to every refreshing drink till after the sun sets.

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To book a getaway holiday at La Primera Sonrisa you can contact Ivo and Koen directly or book on the common booking websites. Otherwise, take a sneak peek on their homepageinstagram or facebook to get yourself convinced.

Good to know: best airport to land is in Malaga (120km away); rent a car with a slightly bigger engine for serpentine uphill rides; go in autumn, spring or around the Christmas period - it's good for hikes (if you are fine with melting in the sun - July and August are also great!).

By the way, the café and the hotel are the stepping stones for a further grand idea: in the following months an off the grid eco resort is in planning. A kickstarter alike project will be launched soon to collect the needed resources for this vision to come alive: you will be able to make a contribution of 500€ in exchange for a two-person ten-day accommodation in one of their Valle del Eden Tiendas that will be built on a mountain side land property surrounded only by nature. So stay tuned for more details on their media channels.

Walking the St.James Way Part 2/3

People in their life paths are looking for home. A place they feel comfortable and safe in. There’s many things, places or sounds, that make me feel home. Like music - I am always overall happy discovering music to which listening I feel connected to the divine, making me feel absolutely safe, enjoy the present moment, and actually feel home, with and in the music. Like this calm morning on the last day of the year with a candle listening to Clem Leek.

Then there are places, call it countries, cities, seasides, countrysides and forest, a place to have a base for. For me I’m still working on that one. Or rather I approach my search by letting the right base place find me rather than me intensively (and frustrated) looking for one. I rather hope that my life paths will bring me to the right base place for me, the little vagabond soul.

Then there is travel. To be more precise - the way of travelling. The views we love and feel absolutely inspired with. Moreover, views that make us feel once again connected with the divine. The path becomes the goal of the travel. And here, my friend, I’m happy to say I found a path which is a goal itself. A road that can feel like home in a very strange way when approaching it on your own two feet, step by step, always to the west.

I only had one week of time to walk a tiny part of the spanish St. James way, the less known route in the North Spain. And here we go - walking, sleeping in a sleeping bag, showering in a different bathroom every evening becomes something me and many travellers are aiming for. At the walk, a good nights dinner, a mild weather, the possibility to refill your bottle with drinkable water are just a few things which quite often depend on a coincidence or simply good luck. And it’s never the same diner nor café nor shop, as the path keeps on going and your feet keep on walking always towards the sunset land. All you have and need fits in a backpack and weights less then 10 kg. You travel and hike light. You feel light in your soul and get to see, how little a man actually needs to get a feeling of light and sweet happiness.

It is not something extreme to walk the path, but it is something where you have to have a flexible mind and needs. And once you let go and take things as they come, the comfort is all yours. You notice that there’s always a way - just let go of planing and the circumstances will provide what’s needed. For me all this and walking one direction is the ultimate comfort zone, travel with a direction but without a strict day plan is my comfort zone, my feeling of home, for now.

Here are some impressions of how my path went on with a few comments here and there.

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When I entered this eucalyptus forest above I couldn't resist but start my little self portrait series of the way. No man was passing for around 45 minutes so i had the chance to locate the camera in a few different positions and try out the remote control app on my phone, as the Fuji camera has a Wifi option. When i reflect back I can say it was probably my most intense photographic trip yet, combining landscape, mood and self portraiture. On the way to Santoña you have to cross a lagoon with a little boat. It's just a 10 minute ride but it was overall amusing, I was smiling to myself as the mono speaker of the boat was roaring all over the shore some 80s music, "She's a Maniac" to be precise. Mind the super cool officer of the boar.

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On the right side of this photo you can see the edge of the albergue i was staying that night. Three people all together, the easiness of the not overfilled North Way of mid November.

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that morning i woke up at 5 a.m. to catch the sunrise and make some early hour photography.

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A little café in the harbour area of Santoña for an espresso. A slightly weird mood, yet very filmic.

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Other than expected it was a very cloudy foggy cold morning when i reached the empty beach after passing a prison on the way. But I enjoyed the arising feelings inside me - i could do what ever i wanted on that empty, still asleep space. So I started singing 'Hallelujah' to myself.

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The yellow arrows of the St. James Way - even on rocks, hidden in very narrow jungle like rocky paths. Once in a while I was making jokes with my self that I could be the Dorija (Dorothee) fallowing the yellow arrow (brick) road :-)

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To the East..

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..and to the West, the path direction.

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My loyal Deuter Backpack, patiently and without any complain waiting there for me to get finished with the self portrait experiments. A backpack, especially a good one, might become ones only friend on a long term trekking. Mine pretty much became my best friend. Carrying all the necessary stuff (and unnecessary stuff of a not yet experienced traveler) and my camera equipment, she (she's a female to me) didn't give me any sort of shoulder or back pain at all. At all! What did start hurting were my hips, then my leg muscles, some other deep muscles in the inner knee and after all my feet with three big blisters at the same time. But that was the last day of the hike, and that's a completely different story. Yet after all - it was all a nice sweet pain as a reminder that I am actually walking on my own.

Walking the St.James Way Part 1/3

it so happened to be that i only found out about the Saint James Way a several years ago while i was still studying in Bochum. with my rather narrow nature travel imagination i could imagine how the way would look like. but after a dusty straight on way and a hill alongside, the arise of pictures in my head had stopped. i simply couldn't imagine more - i had never been hiking, rarely camping (i can actually count it up right now: twice on church trips in my puberty, and a few times while on music festivals), this habit wasn't in my family and i didn't have 'that kind of friends' i guess, or so i thought. during years my curiosity grew into a passive will to discover whats it like to just be walking for hours, for days, for nights, lets even think wilder - to sleep on a random beach after walking all day long. no hotels, now suitcases, no comfort zone. my curiosity and imagination was starting to go that far already. yet still no friends of 'that kind' around. then i heard more about this St. James Way a.k.a. Jakobsweg (germ.) - a very popular path between german people. In fact, statistically seen the germans are after the spanish in second place to most frequently walk the Way. and every one knows what this Way is, or has walked a certain distance, or at least has always wanted to get on her or hist way. after a very passive research, meaning that i simply let the information about the Way reach my ear somehow, my arising will to go hiking and explore nature didn't really correlate with what i've heard about it - it seemed too overcrowded, too popular and in general - too much of a drunken party. but once i actually said it out loud "i would never want to walk the St. James Way" the coin has flipped and i started to actively be researching for stories, blogs or documentaries.

i'll be honest here - i simply wanted to go hiking, be closer to nature, cross forests and meditatively linger on costal cliffs. the more i thought the more practical the St. James Way appeared to be perfect for my purpose. it is marked, there are maps, there's a guarantee for an affordable accommodation possibility all along the path. moreover all of a sudden i appeared to have 'those friends' who actually had been walking the Way and gave me some advisable instruction. it all just happened within a few months time. moreover - i found out that there are alternative and not that frequently chosen routes, which led me to choosing a little part in the middle of the North Path, a walk with an ocean view.

to sum up: i simply wanted a good kick off for a start-up-hiker, to lay my focus on the fact that i am actually walking and doing this for a week on my own for the first time in my life, preferred the infrastructure to be taken care of. this is why i chose the St. James Way to be my first hiker trekker experience of my life. and instantly it happened - i got hooked.

This is it - a photo story of the first day and night, Bilbao, Castro Urdiales, getting out of the cities and starting the week of walk.

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the journey began with the first stamp in the Credencial stamp book at the Bilbao Central Hostel.

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my first day of walking was rain and fog. oh great, i thought.. welcome. but all next days were filled with unusual sunshine and t-shirt temperatures, very unusual for a north Spain November. next day i left to Germany, it started raining again. how lucky i was!

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first night in an albergue - i was the only person sleeping there. for a first time experience thats a weird start. not even the host was there. natural swimming pools along the way - i love. i'll come back and swim when it's summer time warm again. oh my boots, pretty much beloved accessory for my every day life before and after the trip. it just reminds me of how many more paths there are to walk yet.. keeps me imagining and secretly planing in my head. sometimes before going to sleep i look up for future routes in my guide and there's one in head already that i'm intending to walk, this time far more than one week. we'll see.

A little side note: all photos were taken with my new Fuji x-t1 and a Fujinon 18 mm f2 lens. i wanted something light and durably built, prepared for any weather surprises along the north spain paths. I'm still figuring out, how the heck to edit the raw files, it's very different from what i'm used from Nikon. Any advice? please let me know!

I will write more about my thoughts on the way and advice for those who intend to walk it in the next two posts.