From the stormy sea to the winding trail

On Christmas Eve, twelve months ago, we headed out from the small house overlooking the Atlantic and drove up onto the ridge that makes up the interior of São Jorge island, a landscape of fields divided by volcanic rock walls and the grassy cones of the volcanoes looped by dirt red tracks. 

We were hoping to find a lookout spot that offered a view right down the northern shore and its layers of cliffs falling down into the turbulent ocean below. But only a few hundred metres from the village we drove into a mist from which we wouldn’t emerge until we returned to the south side of the island a few hours later.

Being stubborn sorts, having parked up as the only visitors to a nature reserve where we met a small herd of reindeer presumably preparing the night’s work ahead, we walked out along one of those dirt tracks as the mist swirled around us and we heard the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks far below. Not every walk can be in good weather. Not every walk can offer a great view. But every walk can be memorable, sometimes because of what is missing. And every walk offers the chance for reflection, for the imagination and, if you are walking with the right people, for conversation.

We made it to the lookout point, and looked out into a wall of white. We found an old whaling station, and stalked the abandoned rooms from where a tail spotted among the waves below would send whole villages into action, racing to get there ahead of the crews from the nearby islands. And then we returned home where, of course, the mist had lifted to open up the view across the channel to Pico where the volcano stood dark and tall against the winter skies.

That evening our hosts would tell us of the storm that was blowing in, and that our chances of getting a ferry off the island on Boxing Day were increasingly slim. It turned out to be true, and so we spent an extended Christmas on São Jorge, holed up in our small house with its dark walls and warming fire, following the coastal trail on strolls buffeted by the wind and the spray of the storm-whipped ocean. We were between the years, as they say here in Germany, and as so often is the case, it was the time when an idea was born.

We made it off the island in time for the new year, and a few months later we launched The Winding Trail ahead of a trip to Yorkshire and England, the first since the days before the pandemic. The idea was to create a space where we could share our stories and our photographs, of what we call our ‘adventures beyond the front door’, whether at home in Berlin and Brandenburg or on our travels.

We were also in search of motivation. The Winding Trail would, we hoped, inspired us to explorations big and small, in search of those stories and photographs we would later share. And so far it has worked. The first year of the site included a lot of planning before anything was published, plenty of writing and working on the photographs you see on these virtual pages. But it has also helped us focus, in the middle of busy everyday lives, on making sure we are always trying to get out into the fresh air for a while, to take the train into the hills or the path along the shore.

We hope everyone reading this has enjoyed the beginnings of The Winding Trail and that you’ll join us on more adventures in 2023. Hopefully we’ll be able to share some of them with some of you in person. 

In words of one of the greatest philosophers of our time: 

‘It’s a magical world, Hobbes ol’ buddy. Let’s go exploring…’

Paul & Katrin (& Lotte)

38°38’40.9″N 28°07’58.2″W
Photographs: Katrin Schönig
Words: Paul Scraton