PORTUGAL 2008                          

Our trip which was funny, our trip which was beautiful … from 10.6. to 18.6.2008 laughter clubs from Freiburg, Frankfurt, Hanau and Recklinghausen traveled to Portugal to visit our laughter friends Ana Banana and Joerg Helms.

We made tracks by train and airplane to the little village Casal de Ermio where we rented rooms in the guest house Casa da Eira. Here we were welcomed by Fernando (ruler of 50 beehives, Fado singer and shop owner) with his wife Lucinda. Casa da Eira is a typical Portuguese house with courtyards and verandas and tastefully decorated rooms. Our group dynamics adapted well into the landscape with mountains and valleys and many small rivers. Thus with a lot of laughter know how we overcame the steepest slopes. After the distribution of rooms, we saw a typical Portuguese dinner altogether with the highly pregnant Ana and loving Joerg. Cheese, olives, bread as a starter and affluant fish and meat with potatoes or rice from the region. Salads and vegetables were in the minority, unfortunately for the vegetarians there came just omelettes. The Vinho Verde was a discovery, a tingling white wine. Joerg explained everything in German, so we had our first lesson of Portuguese.

The next day our first breakfast with Joerg in Lousã (small town in the region) we experienced the various presentations of coffee. Thereafter shopping in the Miranda market hall for our next breakfast in our Casa. Finding farmers stalls from the region, fish and meat sales as well as clothing and household needs. For people from the city there was the Lousã Lidl later on. Outside Lousã near the castle we went to Castello de Arouce, where the first car struggled and where we had our first laughter session with Ana. The Castella area with monasteries and churches has an impounded river bath and many water posts for refreshing. Eucalyptus trees, mimosa, olives, mint, erika, lavender and sweet fragrance were all blooming. Arrived at home we discovered our natural bath in the river and tested it out.

Here was the stage for our daily morning laughter by the river. By lunchtime we took a trip with Ana and Joerg to the sea at Figueira da Foz. Figueira is located in a major river delta with rice cultivation. The sea has beautiful sandy beaches, the Atlantic was icy cold. There was to eat fish plates and an encounter with an old bearded woman. Ana had started fasting in order to give birth to her baby after a good gulp of castor oil that evening. At 6 p.m. there was a laughter session planned with press announced in 900 e-mails. The only participants of the session were the press, the Portuguese remained spectators - and for us it was a great experience laughing with the sun on the sea and meditating in the sand.

On Friday, 13th little Malik Benjamin was born, the news reaching us by mobile phone and we welcomed him laughing by the river. As motorists paused we took the one hour train travel to Coimbra. Here we were picked up by the laughter leader Vanessa. She led us through the Portuguese Capital of Culture 2003 and we are astonished about the Baroque university library from 1750 high above the city and the early Gothic cathedral crowned with Moorish peaks. The monastery garden evoking Romanesque memories. The famous university town on the Rio Mondego has one of the oldest universities in Europe. Today almost 20% of the 107,000 inhabitants are students. Many houses and the interior walls of churches are decorated with blue and white painted tile images, which is very typical for Portugal. At 6 p.m. we met by the river with the laughter club of Coimbra (mostly young people) and laughed facing an oversized green bear. Again we learned new exercises: the contagious laughter bomb, a different type of shower of laughing and the orgasm of laughter which was presented by very temperamental Vanessa. This time we had our supper at the Italian where we were alternately laughing with a large group of schoolchildren. The following train trip lead us home in the dark.

Saturday was the day of break for all of us. 11 o’clock laughter by the river with the ceremony of Brigitte being awarded as honorary member of the laughter club Recklinghausen. Walking, swimming, shopping in Serpiens. The evening was accentuated with a big dinner at the Brazilian on the road to Coimbra, a cheap gourmet festival. At home in the Casa our hosts sat with friends from the village, singing beautiful lugubrious Fados from Coimbra and reading poems. Especially for Robert it was a great event because of his birthday next day and so he could start celebrating from midnight.

Sunday - up early because of our travel with the IC train from Coimbra to Lisbon. The very committed Lisbon laughter leader Sabrina Tacconi awaited us at 12 o’clock at the train station and led us through the Old Town Alfarma to downtown Baixa, showed us the Romanesque church Sé - it was festively decorated for a wedding event with 13 couples on Friday the 13th. We enjoyed the Ginginha-drink and fish meal while many tourists investigated the pedestrian zone. We took the way through the city to the laughter workshop with the rollercoaster-like mini-tram. Joerg launched a two-days laughter trainers course with 15 young graduates, mostly women. For their finish off they presented us a choreographed laughter session with the theme "On the beach". We know laughter sessions with action sequences from India by Madan Kataria – in an extended form we also learned to know it in Portugal. It was a very lively dynamic event with many happy people laughing. Finally they were handed out their certificates with great applause. Then it came back on the long ride home with the IC - in other words about 3 hours by taxi, train, foot, car.

After almost every day the warm sun had shone, Sunday was rather mixed cloudy, on Monday rain was ruling whole day long. Our morning laughter session by the river fell through. Everyone dealt with minor details such as shopping, drinking coffee, walking in the rain, finally getting around reading the brought along holiday book, relaxing. At 6 p.m. we stood on the lawn in Coimbra for Joerg’s laughter session, which takes place every Monday. As if by a miracle the clouds had moved in this moment, and we could start with the event. However there was only one laughter member from Coimbra as well as a photojournalist. This time the session was about "money" - laughing around the popular topic. The evening sustained with pizza by the Italian while the Germans made their arduous preliminary round victory against Austria.

Tuesday was our last day in Portugal. At 1 p.m. there was a laughter session with the city government of Mirinda applied. However nobody arose on the shady square and we were laughing with many viewers but lacking the announced staff. Whether it is because the date was unfavorable, or because the officials were shy of the unusual publicity. Press and media had been informed - and so far the officials had only experienced the laughter behind curtains. After this we stocked up on biscuits and drove to the solemn conclusion of our trip to Framilo to Hacienda del Sol, where Ana Banana and Joerg live. A cottage in the forest with a huge meadow, 50 wedding trees and the donkey Tommy. With Anas first daughter Zara and the proud parents we celebrated the baptism of laughter of the little king Malik. Ana and Joerg became honorary members of laughter clubs from Frankfurt, Freiburg and Recklinghausen by being graced with all the buttons of our clubs. In the typical Portuguese restaurant A Grelha in Vila Nova de Poiares we once again were celebrating the dinner like we had done on the first evening of our journey.

The entire trip has been short and eventful. Laughter sessions every day and many new impressions. Joerg, our German / Portuguese travel laughter leader was extremely dedicated and always helpful. The Portuguese have always been remarkably friendly, namely in our home Casal de Ermio which is not yet populated by tourists, where very young and old Portuguese are living. The age group of professionals probably lives somewhere outside - among other places certainly in Germany. In the laughter clubs you will find young people, pupils, students - in contrast to our laughter clubs with members from 50 up. We explain this with the fact that the older generation in Portugal had experienced the fascist dictatorship (which only had finished in 1974), and in their statements they remain cautious. Why we do not succeed in luring the young German generation into laughter clubs is still worth some consideration. Such a trip means an intensive look at our neighbors - it is worth in every case and we are looking forward to the coming year for another laughing journey to be undertaken.

Words and images by Brigitte Kottwitz, Carolyn Krüger