Find peace at Quinta do Catalão
How do a snowboarder and a robotics engineer end up on a rustic organic quinta in the Algarve? Our author Ina was there for you to find out. And there she found her personal little peace of mind.
I am sitting on the tiny balcony of my tiny house, bathed in warm evening light, and I feel myself becoming very, very calm. The last rays of sun, broken through the silhouettes of leaves, feel their way through the window, sneak through the crack in the door, draw delicate patterns on the floor and furniture. I take in the picture and notice how something snaps into me, clicks, gives way. So much has happened lately. So many times I've wondered if I made the right decisions. And then I end up here, on the Quinta do Catalao near Lagos – and suddenly the carousel of thoughts just stops. A little peace stretches and lolls in me. He curls up comfortably and nests in my travel soul. After five years of sailing the Mediterranean, I am now a four-wheeled vagabond, traveling, making music, writing and photographing. And meet exactly the right people at exactly the right moment, somewhere between doubt and anticipation. To people like Max and Karolina. Her story encourages me to make and discard plans; to fill the pages of my own book with ink and life - and if I have to, simply to write again.
Once upon a time: an organic apple plantation in Poland
Long before they breathed new life into Quinta do Catalão in the Algarve, sustainability and good food played a central role for former pro snowboarder Karolina and engineer Max. “It all started after a trip to India, during which I became very ill. Because the doctors couldn't help me, we decided to try a change in diet. Since then, we've been eating mostly macrobiotically, with little sugar and meat, lots of whole grains and vegetables - and as natural as possible," says Max. But getting good, unpolluted food turned out to be not so easy. When Max inherited a piece of land in Poland, the couple moved to the provinces and tried their hand at organic apple cultivation. “With our apple plantation – at that time one of the first certified organic ones in Poland – we were the freaks in the village. Our neighbors were even afraid that our way of farming could cause insect plagues,” Karolina recalls with a smile.
Coincidence is what is due: the Quinta do Catalão as a new life's work
However, 11 years ago the contract extension for the plantation in Poland was delayed. To bridge the time, the couple drove with their converted coach, two children and two dogs in their luggage - to wwoofing in the direction of Portugal. And here everything turned out very differently. In contrast to their environment in Poland, the family in Portugal met many like-minded people within a very short time. Here they found something they didn't even know they were looking for. And suddenly everything happened very quickly. “A friend offered us to take care of his piece of land near Lagos. The Quinta do Catalão had been empty for years at that time. Their gardens and fields were overgrown almost beyond recognition. But beneath all the thistles, clover, and scrub, we sensed its potential. Our friend Pedro gave us a free hand in reviving the Quinta. And we decided not to return to Poland, just to stay.”
Agriculture in the Algarve: Water is the limiting factor
At that time, Max and Karolina had already traveled to many places and countries in their bus. Karolina says: “We were doing vanlife before there was a hashtag for it. This time was wonderful and prepared us perfectly for the simple life and economical use of our resources.” The bus was soon running on used cooking oil, solar cells supplied the family with energy, and water was used sparingly. However, they only learned how precious water really is when they moved into the Quinta do Catalão. “We were highly motivated and tried a few things. Even unusual, old cereals such as emmer or einkorn, which only need relatively little water. But because of the drought here in the Algarve, the harvests weren't good enough to feed a family,” says Max. The technically skilled engineer blossomed into a local repairman for tractors and cars within a very short time. To earn money so that they could farm their little paradise.
More and more guests are coming to the small paradise in the Algarve
When there was still time between fighting the drought, caring for the animals, various odd jobs, household chores and raising the children, Karolina and Max worked on their tiny house. “It is made from 80 percent recycled material. Except for the mattresses and the roof panels, almost everything comes from flea markets and landfills, from friends and relatives. Many objects and materials ended up here by accident – just like us,” says Karolina. The Tiny House was so popular with visiting friends that the family decided to rent it out to other guests as well. And it went so well that soon two shepherd's wagons, a beach hut with a view of the stars and a teepee were added to the wonderfully wild property. Together with the main house, the quinta now offers space for up to 17 people.
The next morning the sun wakes me up and I get up in a good mood and relaxed. I sit outside on my own terrace with a coffee and really slowly wake up.
A LIFE BETWEEN PORTUGAL AND GERMANY
Corona and the responsibility for now three children have reshuffled the cards again at Quinta. Karolina explains: “I am half Polish, half German. During Corona we spent a lot of time in Germany and realized: we cannot offer our children in Portugal the school education and social connections that we want for them. And to be honest, we don't want to commercialize our little paradise too much. We would like to welcome only those guests who feel the special energy of this place. Who let themselves be carried away and want to forget everyday life, who arrive as strangers and leave as friends. During school Karolina lives and works with the children in Germany and Max takes care of the Quinta. They always spend their holidays together in Portugal, and Max also lives in Germany in the winter. Then they rent the Quinta do Catalão on a long-term basis to people who want to try the simple, rural life away from the hustle and bustle and in the middle of nature. Some of these long-term guests have now acquired land in the area themselves.
Holidays at Quinta do Catalão: arrive, take a deep breath, don't want to leave
In the long term, the couple wants to live here full-time again. Karolina dreams of an eco-retreat and of her own small restaurant, in which only her own products are used. “The Quinta grounds us. Here our children have learned to sow vegetables, to nurture and care for them and to appreciate food. To keep yourself busy away from the hustle and bustle of the big city and to play freely in nature,” says Karolina.
Touched and at the same time reassured by her story about rethinking and starting anew, readjusting and dreaming on, I spend four days at Quinta do Catalão instead of the planned two days. And leave on the fourth day only because musical commitments are calling. I could have spent hours philosophizing with Max about how to filter out truly appreciative guests for this magical place. Could roll out my yoga mat many more times between the hedges and swaying blades of grass. Lounging towards the sun, whose light puts a little halo on every leaf and every blossom and sets them perfectly in scene. Spinning on the hanging chair until I'm dizzy. Reading on the sofa absorbing the absence of noise and the presence of serenity. And weigh my travel peace on the swing. I only write four words in the guest book because time is short when saying goodbye: I will be back.
You can find more information about the accommodation here
© Photos: Ina Hiester