A guest post by Anike Marberg
Unbeknown by many people, Portugal has long been a destination for hippies, misfits and those that want to live a different life than the one so often found in many “Western” societies. During the 1970s and 80s, many hippies from Northern Europe, disillusioned by the political and cultural systems and the decline of their movement came to seek an alternative to joining the rat race in their home countries.
Almost secretly, this often overlooked country on the edge of Europe became the new hideaway for those seeking a different life.
Inspired by the beautiful beaches of the Algarve, the rocky mountains of inner Portugal and the near year-round sunshine, many made the trip south, including my parents. Many acquired small farms and lived as self-sufficient farmers, others in small communes while others established small businesses, restaurants and even entire eco-villages.
After living for years in communes in Germany and faced with having to make a choice between taking up ‘proper’ jobs or moving, they set out together for a better life in the sun in 1982. Establishing themselves in the mountains of the West-Algarve, they brought with them not much else but their two kids, a camper van and many ideals and just enough money to buy a small plot of land.
For us kids, living in the sun was a total difference to life in grim and grey Germany. Although the community in the Algarve was much smaller than the community we left behind, it was far more colourful, fun and enjoyable than anything we experienced in Germany. We first lived in a small commune in the western region of the Algarve, were the kids came form all over Europe and even some from Brazil. Playing and being outside became a new way of life. And we explored in amazement our new terrain, the freedom and the wilderness that now became home.
While many Portuguese looked on in puzzled amazement what these foreigners got up to, the welcome was warm and friendly. Curious at times, distant at others, but always in a manner that was pleasant, welcoming and friendly. We soon became friends with some local kids, which meant navigating linguistic, cultural and attitude differences. I still remember trying to explain to a local friend what my parents were doing in this country and why we were not allowed to eat meat. To this day, I’m sure, the now grown up hasn’t quite understood what those strange people did here. But as long as it was fun, it was good enough.
In my early twenties I left to explore the other side of my identity. But after a few years in Germany, I quickly realised that visiting my parents meant more to me than just holidays in the sun. Every time I was back in Munich, I missed the sun, the mountains, the friendly smiles and the happy vibes that made Portugal feel more home than the country where I was born.
When I moved back here in my thirties, it felt like coming home, too. Although I my way of life is different then the way my parents live: I live with a husband, in a comfortable house and with two dogs. Nevertheless, the welcome I received was just the same as the welcome my parents had some twenty years earlier. And I’m loving living here every single day. Even on the rare days where it rains, I’m grateful that my parents made the choice for Portugal – a place I missed so much when I was away.