Back in December 2013, my parents were on one of their many trips to London and had decided to spend their winter holidays in the UK. On one of the days before Christmas, when the streets of London are filled with panicked souls desperately looking for last-minute presents, my mother brought us to a high-end design store in West London called Skandium. While browsing through the ridiculously expensive Finnish candleholders and Swedish tableware, I moved to the more affordable items and found a book called “How to be Danish”. I was still in my early stages of what I like to call my Scandimania: I hadn’t neither lived in Denmark nor visited Iceland yet, but only recently been on a two week InterRail through the Scandinavian peninsula which ignited my passion for this part of the world.
When I handed the book to the cashier, he looked at me with a mix of confusion and interest, and sarcastically asked if my aim was to become Danish. While saying and thinking “of course not” (and I still do, with all due respect to the Danes), little did I know that two years later I would be sitting in my room reading its chapter “Wonderful Copenhagen” imagining my life in the Danish capital in a month’s time.
Excitingly, last January I was offered the chance to work as an intern for The Copenhagen Post, Denmark’s only english language print publication. It will be unfortunately unpaid, as finding a paid internship as a journalist nowadays is as hard as surfing a flat sea. But I am extremely looking forward to moving to Copenhagen for good, buying minimalistic black and white clothes on Strøget, biking down Nørrebrogade and drinking craft beer under the rare sun in hippie Christiania. One thing I am also aware of is that none of this will actually happen in real life.
Changing subject, I recently visited beautiful Lisbon and the Algarve, Portugal’s southern region. My decision to finally explore new lands in Southern Europe stems from a constant self-reminder that in order to get the best out of travelling, which is learning about and experiencing different cultures, I cannot only stick to the Nordics. Being Italian, I always considered travelling south quite unchallenging, as I would experience places and cultures not radically different from mine (unlike Scandinavia). However, by travelling to Portugal I learnt one thing: that regardless of its location, each country is unique in its own way (deep, I know)
Lisbon is probably one of the prettiest mediterranean cities I visited. It mixes the charm of a small town, with its brightly coloured houses and small steep cobbled streets, and the vibes of a European capital. Given its location, even at 6pm on a sunny evening in early February you can relax with a beer on the shore of the Tagus River, just walking distance from Praça do Comércio, Lisbon’s spacious main square. Our AirBnb was located in Alfama, an extremely cozy and pretty area by the shore. With its hilly streets, small houses and locals sitting on plastic chairs outside their doorstep, it could not possibly give you a more mediterranean feel.
The Algarve was a different story. Just like visiting the Greek island of Rodos in April last year, travelling to Faro in February turned into a trip to an empty holiday resort. Most restaurants and bars were closed, prices soared and local papers on newsstands were replaced with copies of The Sun and Der Spiegel. One thing I learnt once again is that places where British and German holidaymakers travel to, are off limits at all seasons: in the winter because they’re empty and in the summer for obvious reasons (unless you enjoy spending your holidays with German men wearing sandals with socks and British women turning orange). Lisbon, instead, is an extremely recommended destination and was definitely worth the trip.
Turning back to reality, I have less than one month left in London. I will be heading to Slovakia and Austria in mid-April for a journalistic project about Muslim communities in Bratislava and Vienna, and as mentioned, I will be moving to Copenhagen in early May. In the meanwhile I have two essays and a ten thousand-word thesis to write.
All work, then play.