Paradise garden

This month we meet Vitthal Bernd Füchte (57) and ask him 12 questions about his move to the Algarve. The German landscape architect and owner of VitalGarden has previously lived in Germany, Spain, India and the US before settling down in Portugal. Currently he resides in Livramento, in a house with an amazing garden, together with his cat Gordy.

See original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine July 2015



What inspired you to move to the Algarve?

Vitthal: I never felt comfortable in Germany. For me, the country is too cold and too organised, with too much planning and too little creativity. I soon realised this wasn’t my scene, but when I was younger, I was afraid to take the step to move abroad. Later, when living in the US, I met a successful business man who had a company in Portugal and wanted to work together with me, so about two decades ago I moved over with my wife and young daughter.


When did you feel at home here?

Vitthal: I felt at home immediately, but I didn’t feel financially safe at first. We came here with a lot of enthusiasm, but the planned partnership didn’t work out. The money I brought with me from Germany went quickly and in the first months I often worried about how I could feed my family. As it took a while to start up my own company here, I had various other jobs to survive, from doing Christmas decorations in hotels to analysing drinking water.


Was it hard to get accustomed to the Portuguese lifestyle?

Vitthal: No, I easily connect to new surroundings and love socializing with new people, so I felt quickly accepted into both culture and society. The Algarve was already very international in the nineties which made it easy to land here. Also, having lived in India for six years gave me a big advantage and trained me to live and work in Portugal. I grew up in the over-organised Germany, but as I already knew how to deal with the unorganised India, the move to the Algarve wasn’t a culture shock at all.



How does your life differ now you live here?

Vitthal: Back in Germany, I was doing development planning work for districts and municipalities. However, I’m a practical person and I need to be out in the green. Here I can do that, as well as other creative things that I can’t do in Germany, like working with coloured tiles, glass and sculptures. As people here generally have more land you can be more generous with space when designing gardens.


What is your favourite Algarve moment?

Vitthal: taking an outdoor shower. I usually do this at sunrise and from my shower I can see as far as the sea. I also love the laissez-faire mentality here in the Algarve; instead of meeting in an office, you meet in a café. You talk to people more and this creates many nice moments.



What annoys you here?

Vitthal: The fact that the authorities ask you to fill out all kind of shitty papers that you don’t need. Here in Portugal certain things are overcontrolled. Every item I transport in my truck, whether I recently bought it or already own it for years, has to have papers. There’s a lack of trust and this makes life difficult for people who do pay their bills and taxes.


What do you miss most from home?

Vitthal: the fresh humus smell of a wet forest. It’s not a reason to ever go back to Germany though. I don’t miss the rain or the cold and if I want snow, the Sierra Nevada is just around the corner.


What’s your favourite spot here?

Vitthal: my garden. On busy days, I sit here and read a book, listen to the water trickling, the birds tweeting and the sound of the wind chimes. It’s almost like meditation. Sometimes I even sleep outside. I need to be connected with nature and here in the Algarve the weather is good enough to be outside most days of the year.



Five words you’d use to describe the Algarve?

Vitthal: Mediterranean, rustic, international, beautiful and authentic.


In what way does the Algarve inspire you?

Vitthal: it has given me space for creativity and allowed me to create my paradise garden. When I was working in a subtropical garden in India, I saw all the lush plants there and vowed to myself that one day I’d live in a place where I’d have the same flourishing vegetation. Here, because the Algarve is on the edge of the Mediterranean and the subtropical climate, it’s possible to have this tropical outdoor place. It took some years, but I made it exactly as I planned and designed. With protected places, you can have flowers like the Jasminum Sambac, the Arabian Parfum Jasmin (photo below), that actually need hot climates. Special care is needed though; a few nights a year, usually in February, I wrap my orchids in towels to protect them from the cold.



How’s your Portuguese coming along?

Vitthal: I’m fluent. When I arrived in the Algarve I did two very intensive language courses and put a lot of effort into learning Portuguese. It was necessary as all my employees are Portuguese and not all of them speak English. Also, I think you need to speak the language to be a part of the culture. Now, when I don’t say a lot, I could almost pass for a Portuguese person. Well, sound-wise.


Do you have a secret tip for our readers?

Vitthal: go and visit the lagoon in Cacela Velha. It’s an especially nice place, it looks tropical and mankind hasn’t changed it in all these years. I’m not saying more, you’ll have to go and have a look for yourself!



Picture above courtesy of Vitthal, all other pictures by Marijke Verschuren

See original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine July 2015

Posted in Algarve expat stories and tagged , , , , .

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