Category Archives: Travel

Cemeteries: Respites Between Heaven and Earth

In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we often find ourselves caught up in the whirlwind of responsibilities and activities. However, there are moments when we seek solace and contemplation, and one place that provides a unique blend of history, art, and reflection is a cemetery. Far from being just a final resting place for the departed, cemeteries offer a rich tapestry of stories, emotions, and a connection to the past.

As one steps through the wrought-iron gates of a cemetery, a palpable sense of tranquility envelops the surroundings. The hushed whispers of the wind through ancient trees, the soft crunch of gravel underfoot, and the distant cawing of crows create an atmosphere that encourages introspection. Rows of tombstones stand as silent sentinels, each one telling a tale of a life lived, complete with joys, sorrows, and the passage of time.

Walking along the well-trodden paths, one is immediately struck by the diversity of grave markers. Intricately carved headstones, weather-worn crosses, and simple plaques all bear witness to the varied ways in which individuals are remembered. Some graves are adorned with fresh flowers, while others are marked by the passage of time, with moss-covered stones and faded inscriptions. The juxtaposition of life and death becomes evident, a poignant reminder of the impermanence of existence.

Among the myriad graves, historical figures often find their eternal resting places. A stroll through the cemetery can become a lesson in local history, as the names etched in stone correspond to pioneers, leaders, and contributors to the community. Each grave becomes a chapter in the narrative of a town or city, offering a tangible link to the past. It is a humbling experience to stand before the resting place of those who have shaped the world we inhabit today.

Cemeteries also serve as outdoor art galleries, with sculptures and mausoleums reflecting the artistic styles of their respective eras. Elaborate statues and intricately designed tombs bear witness to the creativity and craftsmanship of the artists who sought to immortalize the departed. The play of light and shadow on these structures adds an ethereal quality to the surroundings, elevating the cemetery from a mere burial ground to a place of aesthetic contemplation.

Beyond the physical markers, the cemetery is a space for personal reflection. Visitors often find themselves pondering the brevity of life, contemplating their own mortality, and considering the impact they will leave on the world. The silence of the cemetery offers a respite from the noise of everyday life, allowing for a deeper connection with one’s thoughts and emotions.

In conclusion, a visit to a cemetery is a multi-faceted experience that goes beyond the mere acknowledgment of mortality. It is a journey through history, a contemplation of art, and an opportunity for personal reflection. Far from being a morbid or somber place, a cemetery is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the enduring power of memory. So, the next time you find yourself seeking a moment of stillness and introspection, consider taking a stroll through the hallowed grounds of a cemetery—you may find a profound connection to the past and a renewed appreciation for the present.

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What’s prompting the mass migration to Portugal?

When Donald Trump became president, I swore I would never live through another term in the United States if he was re-elected. I began to search the world for a better place to live than the good ole US of A — which, IMHO, wasn’t such a good place to live anymore.

The ugliness of our politics that has split families and friends in two, the red and blue robes of the Supreme Court, the rise of anarchy, bigotry, and blatant civil disobedience after Covid — all of this and more has led to tense living conditions in nearly all parts of the country. My physical and mental health was suffering. I knew there must be something better. I knew I had to leave the United States.

My first inclination was to apply for a Polish passport since all of my grandparents were from Poland and I could prove ancestry —- until I couldn’t. Because my grandparents emigrated to the United States prior to 1920, the year Poland officially became a country, there was no proof of Polish citizenship. In fact, I discovered that one of my grandparents was born in Austria and another in Russia, parts of Poland that were in control of those respective countries. So much for a Polish passport.

Due to an aversion to heat, I knew I couldn’t tolerate Mexico, Costa Rica or any place remotely tropical. I would have especially loved Canada but it was even more expensive than Portland. As I set my sights on countries that I loved to travel — Italy and France to name two — I discovered that EU countries don’t particularly want emigrants and make it very difficult to live there unless you are employed or can much improve their economy by starting a business. Of course, you can always buy your way into some of these countries at a cost exceeding $500,000 — a little out of my price range.

As my search for a retiree-friendly country — not too hot, not too cold — continued, Portugal kept popping up on my radar. Of course, the Brits have been enjoying the Mediterranean climate of the Algarve in southern Portugal for over 100 years now, but the rest of Portugal had lain dormant to the outside world until this sleeping bear awoke one day to discover its population in steep decline. The Portuguese government set out to change that and began welcoming emigrants, including retirees, to its shores.

When Portugal threw its doors open with visas of every stripe and a cost of living that was affordable to all but a very few, it was like a tsunami. East coast and west coast Americans, Canadians, Australians — even the Germans and the French — saw this as a golden opportunity to make their dollars/Euros stretch further than they ever thought possible. Airbnb’s started popping up in cities and rural communities alike all over Portugal. The country was/is on the verge of being gentrified.

The ease of emigration, compared to other EU countries, combined with a relatively low cost of living for many, compared to their home country, are what is attracting the masses to Portugal. It is what attracted me. The climate in the north of the country is similar to that of the Pacific Northwest from which I hail, so I’m not bothered by tropical temperatures. The cities are crowded with tourists, but the countryside is peaceful and gorgeous. The people are friendly and inviting — at least for now. Ex-pats are everywhere so making friends isn’t all that difficult. I’m sure things will look much different in ten years at the rate the country is trying to absorb immigrants, but for now, Portugal is a great alternative to living in the not-so-great-anymore USA.