In my heart I keep a black-and-white image of the Algarve. Often I dip it in colors, splendored or muted, depending on it. I adorn the picture with changing stories.
It also calls the rocky Algarve with its picturesque bays Barlavento. “Facing the wind” could translate it. I like the word and the attitude that goes with it. In “it expresses Barlavento”, melancholy and wanderlust. “Fado” is the name of the melancholy music of this country, which reflects such moods.
The front half of my picture is taken by the Atlantic Ocean. Slowly the surf rolls onto the beach. The bright blue sea waves gently and calmly. Today, there is no wind blowing the waves.
A twenty-metre-wide fine-grained sandy beach runs inland. Many people hungry for sunshine indulge in carefree bathing pleasure. The scene is cheerful, I smell summer, I want to pack bags. The sun is high in the deep blue midday sky. The shadows are short. Close to green-yellow and rusty-red-golden fishing boats on the beach. They are recognisable by the high front stem, even from afar.
Honey-coloured rocks characterize the Barlavento. It covers every square metre of this rocky bay with buildings. Only the ivy-clad rocky outcrop on the left side of the picture lets the subsoil shine through. The rock, which is about fifty metres high, gives shape and support to the settlement. Sometimes these small bays are compared to amphitheaters. Elongated flat buildings extend over each other in the tightest of spaces. All window eyes are facing the sea.
The unadorned, whitewashed houses are functional and austere. It subordinates everything to the constraint of the scarce building ground. A fortified masonry of rough dark brown stone blocks dominates the middle of the picture. Dark window caves break through the fortress wall. Around the walls the rows of houses grew upwards up the slope. To the left of the rocky outcrop the bay opens. There is space for modern multi-storey buildings with holiday apartments.
The Algarve has always been exposed to the interplay of tides. Alien peoples held the land occupied. Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Celts, Romans, Visigoths and many others snatched power from each other. The fortress wall announces this eventful past. People still seek shelter and security in the white houses when the sea rages. Now tourists occupy the country, peacefully and only for a few months a year. Barlavento is in my heart. I dream of southern winds.