Madeira Nature … a Festival of Colors and Biodiversity

Madeira … a Portuguese archipelago, that is the outermost region of the European Union, has a very high green biodiversity, and in combination with the ocean, mountains and sky it creates a real festival of colors.

Rainbow at BalcoesRainbow at Balcões (Photo by Alan)

Madeira is known as the “Flower Island“, but instead it would be more fitting to call it “The Green Pearl of the Atlantic Ocean” with its 13,010,405,091,801 type of green colors it holds. If you do not believe it, then come over to Madeira and count the colors green yourself.

Cascadas en la levada do Caldeirao VerdeCascades of the Levada do Caldeirao Verde (Photo by Rafael Fresno)

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Arriving at Madeira … what is the first thing you do?

You have booked a holiday to the island of Madeira. At the arrival at the Madeira airport … you go and collect your bags/suitcases … head out with your partner where you are welcomed by your hostess or you are going to the car rental desk. Afterwards you leave the airport building where you might need to wait a while for the transfer bus or car. Then my question to you is the following …. What is the first thing you do while you wait?

  • To look at your watch and wondering how long it will take;
  • You are checking your bags if they have sustained any damage;
  • You discuss with your partner where you are going to eat tonight … hotel or in the city;
  • You are wondering what time the return flight is;
  • You hope that your hotel room will be ready and whether you will get sea-view;
  • You are wondering what the weather today is, … and what is the forecast for tomorrow and the rest of the week;
  • You check if your mobile is still working and send an SMS to the home front;

OR

While you are waiting, … together with your partner, you look to the South and admire the vast ocean. You realize that you are in the middle of the Atlantic. You can see the Islands Desertas (deserted islands) and more to the East you see the peninsula Ponta de São Lourenço, that has a completely different structure from the rest of Madeira. Furthermore you look to the North and you will notice how mountainous the island is … and that it even extends beyond the clouds. You will see the steep slopes of the West Coast displaying the various colorful villages.

In other words …

Madeira is Magic by Hugo Travel

  • You look around and enjoy the environment.

What do you do?

Madeira Flower Festival 2011

The theme “The flower that I chose” sets the tone for the Flower Festival of Madeira, which this year is celebrated in the peak of spring. Historically, the flowers are a fundamental feature of the landscape of Madeira.

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What is Carnival / Carnaval?

Soon the Carnival fever will start here on Madeira Island … see previous post Carnival – Mardi Gras – Carnaval

But have you asked yourself … what does the word “Carnival” stand for?

Wikipedia offers some answers:

The Carnival Season is a holiday period during the two weeks before the traditional Christian fasting of Lent. The origin of the name “Carnival” is unclear. The most common theory is that the name comes from the Italian carne- or carnovale, from Latin carnem (meat) + levare (lighten or raise), literally “to remove the meat” or “stop eating meat”.

Also how do other countries celebrate it?

England

In England Shrove Tuesday is celebrated as Pancake Day, but apart from the serving of pancakes and occasional pancake races and football matches (see Royal Shrovetide Football), little else of Carnival survived the Reformation. Caribbean influence has led to the establishment of several “West Indian” carnivals, but these are not held in Carnival season. The leading festivities are Notting Hill Carnival in August (reputedly the world’s largest), and Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival in November.

Netherlands

In the Netherlands (where it is called ‘Vastenavond’, ‘Karnaval’ or ‘Carnaval’), the last day of Carnival, the day before Ash Wednesday, is held exactly 40 days (not counting Sundays) before Easter. Dutch Carnival is most celebrated in Catholic regions, mostly the southern provinces Noord Brabant and Limburg, where it is also known as Vastenavond (literally “Fasting evening”, although that strictly refers only to the last day). The most popular places where Carnival is held (although every city, town or village celebrates it) are Maastricht, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Bergen op Zoom and Breda.

Germany

Germany, especially the western part (North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate) is famous for Karneval celebrations such as parades and costume balls. In the South of Germany and Austria carnival is called Fasching and especially Munich developed a special kind of celebration. In Franconia and some other parts of Germany a carnival is called Fastnacht. Although the festival and party season in Germany starts as early as the beginning of January, the actual carnival week starts on the Thursday (“Altweiberfastnacht”) before Ash Wednesday.

Spain

Arguably the most famous locales in Spain are Sitges, Vilanova i la Geltrú, Tarragona and specially Cádiz, Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Aguilas, where the celebration normally takes place the week before Lent. At Santa Cruz de Tenerife the parties of the cities are not only well known in Spain, but also worldwide. It is famous for thematic costumes, and the election of the Carnival Queen. There is also a parade of Drag-Queens, known as reinonas.

Brazil

An important part of the Brazilian Carnival takes place in Rio de Janeiro, with samba schools. These are large, social entities with thousands of members and a theme each year. Blocos are small informal groups also with a definite theme, usually satirical of the current political situation, and bandas are samba musical bands usually formed by enthusiasts in the same neighborhood.

Portugal

Carnival in Portugal is celebrated throughout the country, most famously in Ovar, Madeira, Loulé, Nazaré, and Torres Vedras. The carnivals in Podence and Lazarim incorporate pagan traditions such as the careto, while the Torres Vedras celebration is probably the most typical Portuguese carnival.

Ironically, although Portugal introduced Christianity and the customs related to Catholic practice to Brazil, the country has begun to adopt some aspects of Brazilian-style Carnival celebrations, in particular those of Rio de Janeiro with sumptuous parades, samba and other Brazilian musical elements.

Madeira

On the Island of Madeira, Carnaval maintains its distinctive local roots as well. Funchal, the island’s capital, wakes up on the Friday morning before Ash Wednesday to the sound of brass bands and Carnaval parades throughout the downtown area. That night festivities continue with concerts and shows in the Praça do Município for five consecutive days. The Main Carnaval street parade takes place on Saturday evening with thousands of Samba dancers flooding the streets of Funchal. The traditional public street Carnaval takes place on Tuesday, where the island’s population displays its ingenuity and imagination by creating daring caricatures for the parade.

More information about “carnival” you can read at Wikipedia Carnival

Festa da Flor – Flower Festival 2010

The Flower Festival, one of the Islands’ most colorful celebrations, is more than just a tribute to the flowers of the Madeira Islands. It provides the opportunity to keep genuine Madeiran traditions alive and transforms the city of Funchal, for a few days, into a magnificent stage for all kinds of artistic and cultural expression.

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This iconic tourist festival will be celebrated by its locals with a special feeling as this is considered to be a decisive turning point for the Archipelagos rebirth since the storm of February 20th.

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What visitors really want?

The German television company WDR has broadcast at the beginning of this month in their weekly travel program Wunderschön! (Beautiful!), a 90 minutes report of Madeira “Blumeninsel im Atlantik” (Island of Flowers), presented by Tamina Kallert.

WebTV Madeira “Blumeninsel im Atlantik” (90 min. German)

Although it is in German and 1 hour and a half long … it is worth to watch this webTV program.

One thing I noticed when watching this German travel report ….. from it you can learn what visitors want to see and visit. Remember, this is a 1 hour and a half long TV program, so it should cover the most important attractions and things-to-do that a German traveler will be looking for in Madeira. I got a good impression of what that is … but I leave it up to you to find it out yourself. I am curious if you come to the same conclusion as I did.

After watching the TV report one will learn that all the attractions that were covered by the German Wunderschön! group had one thing in common …. they all missed one characteristic …. namely “modern”. Talking in Internet-terms … if you could tag all the attractions mentioned in the TV program … the word “modern”, “new-flanged” or “futuristic” would not be one of them. In the German travel coverage I missed things like modern entities such as Story Center, Casa das Mudas, Madeira Magic, Santana Theme park, trip with one of the catamarans, double deck buses, shopping malls/centers, and also none of the modern hotels were mentioned.

My conclusion is that visitors prefer to experience the old-fashioned. Searching for old traditions and typical things that they do not get to see in their home country or have been lost during the modernization. Just ask a Madeira visitor to name the characteristics of Madeira …. and you will hear most of them mentioning the same subjects that were covered in the German TV program. This is a lesson that one can learn from.

My advice to (future) entrepreneurs on Madeira: learn first the Madeiran (old) culture …. search for images of (lost) traditions …. and if you can restore (part of it) back …. then you will be a winner in the area of tourism.