Flower magic in Madeira: The Flower Festival Festa da Flor is the most important event of the year for the people of the Atlantic island. With it they celebrate spring, which is climatically practically all year round here, their island and themselves. The coast formed by lava, centuries-old laurel forests and green steep slopes make Madeira unique.
Those who start right at the front of the big parade of the flower festival in the capital Funchal, will have made it. For Isabel Borges this dream has come true. She opens this year’s flower parade along the harbour promenade with her festive group. This accolade does not only mean fame and prestige, but also a lot of pressure. Are the self-designed dresses splendid enough? Will the 150 flower children learn the dance steps in time? Will the flowers on the float hold out in the heat? For Isabel, it is now a matter of nerves.
Twenty-year-old Nelson Correia slips into a future as Carreiro. He wants to become a basket sleigh driver and has his first driving lesson. Madeira has a long tradition of wickerwork sleigh rides. In the past, rich ladies and gentlemen in wicker baskets on wooden skids let themselves be taken down into the city. Nowadays, the rides are an island attraction. With up to 40 kilometers per hour, the sledge rides go two kilometers down into the valley in the middle of the busy road. Until Nelson has mastered braking and steering, his teacher Miguel has to literally sled with him for a few more lessons. And then the driver’s license test is due with the boss of the basket sled drivers as a passenger.
The Black Scabbardfish looks scary, it lives in the deep, dark regions of the Atlantic Ocean. It used to be the “poor people’s food” of the Madeirans. In Catarina Carreira’s restaurant the sea monster becomes a feast for the palate. The restaurant is located in a so-called Fajã. The plain at the foot of a 500-meter high cliff on the south coast was created by lava flows and landslides. Catarina and also her guests reach the restaurant either by boat or by cable car. A great logistical effort. Fortunately, almost everything Catarina needs in the kitchen of her restaurant grows in the fertile Fajã. She can even harvest the spinach along the way.
Carlos and Rosa Mendonça own the most dangerous banana plantation on the island. It is located on a steep coast directly at the sea. The two must not be afraid of heights when they pick their banana trees. Harvesting is a tightrope act, where every step has to be well considered. In case of a misstep they finally descend 700 meters vertically into the depth.
Even bathing is not without danger in Madeira: surf breakers crash into the natural pools formed by lava. Despite of numerous warning signs, lifeguard Hugo Silva has to be very careful, as the bathers underestimate the danger, repeatedly dare to get too close to the cliffs. This would not happen to the locals. Nobody in Madeira would get the idea to mess with the Atlantic Ocean.