Ferran El Valent (Ferdinand, The Brave) was having a rest under a Cork Oak. It was August in the old Castile, and Ferran had to stop in the midday in the only shadow he found before crossing towards the Kingdom of Portugal. A piece of cheese, a slice of bread and some wine, this was his lunch before falling sleep.
Coming from the capital of the County of Barcelona, part of the Aragon Kingdom, Ferran was looking for new adventures. He heard of a recent land discovery. It was the beginning of XVI century and America had been just discovered by Cristopher Colombus some years before. He had tried to board on a ship in Barcelona, but he was rejected. He had tried the same in Cádiz, in the southern part of the Kingdom of Castile, and the same result was found. He was lame. His disability made him to be one of the best horse riders in the Peninsula because the horse was like a natural extension of his body. However, this was not enough to join a ship towards America. His faith: to cross the Atlantic at the Kingdom of Portugal orders.
Six o’clock in the afternoon. Ferran took his hat, tied off his horse from the Cork Oak tree and started the last part of the journey towards Portugal. More than 40ºC under a yellow, almost orange, sun and riding to the west. Alone. A hope. A new Kingdom for him. Elvas was his first stop in Portugal.
We arrived at our hotel in a cold night of January after an intensive day visiting Brussels. We were staying in the city only for the weekend but the Belgian charm had taken us and we wanted to see a bit more of the country before leaving. Our flight departed the following day in the afternoon, so we had sufficient time to go somewhere from Brussels. We thought about potential destinations and found out that Antwerp was quite well connected with the Zaventem airport. We had not planned to visit Antwerp in that trip, but Google told us that there were certain hotspots there. So the next day, under a light morning snow, we walked to the train station and bought our tickets to Antwerp, where we arrived shortly.
We did not even have to leave the train station to get impressed by Antwerp. We found so much beauty inside Antwerpen-Centraal, the main railway station in the city, built between 1895 and 1905 and mostly designed by the Bruges architect Louis Delacenserie. After our visit we knew that Antwerpen-Centraal was regarded as one of the most beautiful train stations in the world. And we got there by chance!
Like a fiord in the heart of Europe with its alpine waters and green hillsides, Königssee deserves its name. In our travel to Austria and after visiting the lovely Salzburg we went south, crossing the border with Germany, in order to have a trip to the tallest waterfall in Europe (470 m): the Röthbachfall. The only way to get to this waterfall is by crossing all the Königssee from one side to the other using electric boats and then walking for more than one hour, crossing another lake, the Obersee.
Spring is already here (fortunately!) and if there is a city in Catalonia that knows how to enjoy spring, that city is Girona, a town with approximately 100,000 inhabitants located in the north east of Catalonia.
You may have heard about Girona as a filming location of Game of Thrones or as a starting point for a visit to the renowned Costa Brava. But I (Laura) was born in Girona and, before moving to Barcelona for my university studies, I had always lived in Arbúcies, a nice village found a 45-minute drive from Girona. Therefore, Girona was the city where I spent most of my childhood and teen years, but the more I travel abroad, the more I appreciate the charm of the historic city of Girona.
If you are reading this blog it may be because you love traveling, you have that feeling deep inside that tells you constantly, as a whisper, “move, fly, go to see things you haven’t seen, go to experience situations you haven’t experienced yet, go to know other ways of living, escape and forget about your little world in order to feel the entire world through your eyes, your skin… go somewhere where your 5 senses are put out of the comfort zone because all of them experience new feelings at the same time”. If you need these kinds of experiences, you are one of us, you want to read this post, follow this blog and know about the experience we had in Koyasan (Japan). Because only in those places where it is difficult to get, those places that are sacred for the locals, those places where you don’t have other option than doing the same as the local people do, only in those places you are able to put down that whisper. Welcome to Mapping The Map, welcome to Koyasan!
We got up early in the morning in Kyoto. The Tanaka-Ya ryokan was a small but comfortable place to sleep in the middle of the ancient Gion quarter in Kyoto. The old, smiley landlady, that opened the door 2 days before and offered us tea and cookies, said goodbye and whished us a nice trip to the foggy and sacred mountains of Koya.