Missa do Parto & Missa do Galo

Missa do parto (Childbirth Mass) is one of the religious mass celebrations that takes place in most churches on the Madeira Island. It is a Christmas tradition that starts nine days (novena) before Christmas. Each day of those nine days represents a month of the pregnancy of the Virgin Mary, and it finishes with the midnight mass (Missa do Galo) on 24th December.

Madeira Traditions "Missas do Parto" 2010

Madeira Traditions "Missas do Parto" by Porto Bay Events

The services have to take place before daybreak in recognition that the baby Jesus was born at night. In many locations the neighbors and church visitors all unite celebrating with instruments and singing traditional songs. Madeirans wake up very early in the morning to attend the Missa de Galo as an expression of devotion to God and the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is believed that if an individual completes the nine consecutive days, the act would merit a wish made by the devotee being granted.


“The services have to take place before daybreak in recognition that the baby Jesus was born at night”

Afterwards the Missa do Galo (Rooster’s Mass) takes place around 12:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve.

It is said that the mass owes its name to the idea that a rooster would have been among the first to witness the birth of Jesus, and thus be the one to announce it.

These services are just as much a part of the island’s celebrations and Madeira’s churches are shown to their best advantage. At no other point in the year do they seem more atmospheric. The gilded ornate tiles glow in the candlelight, choirs sing carols and visitors crowd round the elaborately crafted nativity scenes.

Categories: Christmas, Life, Religion, Traditions | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Interview with Ursula M. Hahn, Relocation Consultant

This week we are featuring an interview with Ursula M. Hahn, Relocation Consultant on Madeira Island, Portugal

Tell us a bit about yourself, Ursula: how did you come to live on Madeira Island?
I am German, and I had a training in the hotel industry. With this basis, it was easy to travel the world, settle anywhere nice and find work. I lived in several countries before I moved to Madeira Island. This was more than 20 years ago.

Madeira Christian Mülhauser

Madeira photo by Christian Mülhauser

Was it a good decision to move to a tiny, Portuguese Island in the middle of the Atlantic?
Yes, it was. It is a beautiful island with a friendly and helpful population and it has very few potential natural treats. A big point for me is that we are far away from serious world conflicts. Due to the insularity, the crime rate is low. The climate is pleasant all year around; I used to get depressed in Winter in Germany, here depression is not a issue!

If someone wants to move into a sunny climate, why would Madeira be better than say, the Algarve or the south of Spain?
The climate is more moderate, and the crime rate is lower. I prefer the insular mentality, people are very friendly and helpful but it is also a gossipy place, especially in small villages. A foreigner will always be recognized and treated with respect. Harassment for women is also very low.

How is the health care system on the island?
Not bad: Statistics in which the European health care systems were rated, reported that Portugal did better than the UK system. On Madeira, the nurses and doctors are fantastic and very caring. There is no better pre- and neonatal care than in Portugal.

The local “Centros de Saúde” – created countrywide after the Revolution in 1974 – care for minor problems.
If you break a leg, you’ll end up in the main hospital in Funchal. It has a fast-lane approach for strokes, heart attacks and sepsis so that patients do not need to wait for treatment. For foreigners, the language barrier can make such situations more stressful, then it is advisable to call someone to translate; This is one of my jobs.


” A big point for me is that we are far away from serious world conflicts. Due to the insularity, the crime rate is low …”

Are there private health insurance companies?
Yes, internationally renowned companies offer their services in Portugal , including Madeira, and the rates are much lower than in other countries. It is important to watch for a few factors when taking out insurance but the services a good.

Due to the lower purchasing power of the Portuguese, most medicines are less expensive than elsewhere.
Retired newcomers can be fully integrated into the national Social Security system without paying in a cent.

What if a newcomer wants to bring a car to the island?
It is possible but a bit arduous because Portugal wants to have a car import tax, and in order to avoid it – which is possible if you move your main residence here – one has to jump through some bureaucratic hoops. Other than that, bureaucracy is streamlined in Madeira: around 26 state agencies are accessible in the Citizens’ Bureau in Funchal for easy administration. The Portuguese Citizens’ Bureau system is a good model for other states in Europe.

What about public transport?
The capital, Funchal, has a city system with yellow buses, and we have an overland bus systems to connect to more remote corners. Contrary to many services in Portugal which adopt a more southern. leisurely schedule, the buses always start on time, and they are not expensive. We have a separate airport transport, taxis and even tuk-tuks now.

How is the banking system?
ATM machines can be found on every corner, and as the island is part of the European Community, bank transfers are fast, efficient and easy. There are also transfer companies which offer good exchange rates for Sterling.

Noite do Mercado / Night of the Market by Hugo Reis

Night of the Market by Hugo Reis

The Island is far out there, how is the connection to the internet?
Many of the sea cable connections to the Americas and Africa end in Madeira; here the signals are boosted and sent on to Lisbon and London. Therefore, Madeira was the first testing ground in Portugal for the internet and, due to its mountainous area, mobile GPS. We have two major internet providers; their networks are reliable.

There is no ferry connection at the moment, so the island is only accessible by air.
We hope to have a new ferry connection soon, until then the airport it is. TAP offers regular flights from Lisbon and Porto, and due to the low lost competition, prices have gone down nicely. Easyjet is strong on the connection to the UK with several flights per week. Other charter carriers link to the UK, Germany and France, as well as to Porto Santo. Our airport is used by many residents like a train station.

How is the supermarket supply?
We are on an island, and sometimes items are out of stock, but most of the times, you can find 99.99% of what you are looking for. We have a few gourmet shops as well.

And the restaurants?
Madeira offers a plentiful cuisine with traditional fish and meat dishes. Fine dining can be found in any good hotel; our local hotel school trains the staff to perfection. The prices are lower than in other countries, so residents can go out to dinner more often that at home. We also have some good Indian, Japanese and Chinese restaurants; unfortunately, there is no Austrian restaurant at this time, that would be my favorite…


“Letting a holiday home out to tourists is a good, low-tax business …”

How difficult is it to buy a property?
This is well regulated by law but you want to do some research first and use a surveyor before committing to a property. While houses are well documented in Funchal, the register for the rest of the island can be patchy. In the 19030/1940s, many Madeirans emigrated in search of work, therefore a property may be unsellable because many heirs in various countries may be involved.

Once the property is in the clear, the purchasing process is straightforward; the taxes on it are moderate. A foreign buyer needs to be accompanied by a translator for the deed at the Notary’s office. (The realtor is paid by the seller.) Let’s not forget insurance and utilities for which the new owner may want to have assistance, in order to avoid pitfalls.

To take care of a holiday property during the owner’s absence, Madeira has a good offer of professional agencies at hand. Letting a holiday home out to tourists is a good, low-tax business.

What about residency: when does a new arrival have to register?
If the newcomer is from the EU, the process is simple: after six months, you apply for a “Residencia”.

How is taxation on Madeira Island?
In order to offset the insularity problem, our taxes are always slightly lower than on the mainland.
Although Portugal had to raise many rates because if the debt, taxes for foreigners on their worldwide income are usually still lower that in the home country so it is a good idea to look into this.

Last question … Where can the readers find you on the web?

My website/blog: www.madeiraprep.com
Facebook: facebook.com/MadeiraRelocation
Twitter: twitter.com/madeiraprep

Categories: Funchal, Health, Interviews, Life, Tips | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Walking Indications and Safety Precautions

Madeira is well known for its Levadas and the facility it offers for you to use the paths next to these for leisure walking. Lately more and more visitors to Madeira are walking on these routes on their own. Majority of them are using various information they find in so called walking books that they have bought in their home country.

Levada Walking on Madeira Island

Levada Walking on Madeira Island

Unfortunately, these books are not regular updated with changes that occur on these paths (i.e. changes due to landslides and maintenance).  You must keep in mind that some of these paths are a few decades old, they are going along side ridges, through tunnels and mountains, in the middle of dense forest, under waterfalls … in other words: the path itself is part of the changing nature. Also, in the past, these paths were build to maintain the Levadas water channels and not to be used by tourists in those days. These paths differs with those you have in your home country. There are hardly signs indicating the way. No light posts, no houses, no roads crossing and the next village can still be hours away before you can reach it.

If you decide to walk these paths alone than you will be doing that at your own risk.

Locals here on Madeira they always walk these paths in a group (family, friends, colleagues) and they make it a fun happening of it. Reaching a certain destination where they can have a picnic and have some fun together. This means that in most cases locals do not need to go all the way from start till the finish-line of a certain route. But if they do, then it is also in a group.

There are some travelers that prefer to do a walk on their own and do not see the advantages of a guided walk. If you are one of these DIY (Do It Yourself) walkers, then please take notice of the following safety precautions and walking indications when you are planning to do a Levada walk here on Madeira:

  • If this will be the first time that you will doing a Levada walk, then we urge you do that in company of a qualified guide;
  • If you do not have enough walking skills or never done a walk for more than 1 hour, then we suggest you bot to do a long walk, but an easy walk of less than an hour duration;
  • Never walk a Levada or other isolated route outside the suburbs alone;
  • It is important that you prepare yourself and collect all the updated information about the route you are planning to do;
  • Keep in mind that the majority of the Levadas and other walking paths do not have a proper signs indicating the way;
  • Calculate the total time you will be spending on that route (so that estimate the right time to start and finish the walk before nightfall sets in);
  • Always inform the hotel where your staying or any other reliable person about the route that you planning to do and the expected time of arrival. Write it down on a piece of paper. This is a small effort, but valuable;
  • Do not change the course of your planned route;
  • Always take something to eat and drink (such as canned fruit juices, chocolate, dried fruits etc.);
  • Take extra plastic bags to put in the leftovers or rubbish when you do a stop to eat/drink;
  • Important that you always carry an electric torch with spare batteries;
  • Take your own mobile phone (fully charged), even if your operating network does not exist here. You can always call the emergency number 112 and it will search for an alternative net;
  • If your mobile phone works here on Madeira, then program the telephone number of the accommodation you are staying. Make sure that the number is working;
  • In case of a interruption during a course (falling rocks, heavy rain or strong winds) go back to the starting point following same route;
  • By all means do not take risks;
  • Take a whistle with you and wear suitable clothes and walking boots/shoes with good grip. Even if it is warm and dry, take something against getting wet (due to moist, damp or waterfalls);
  • In case of any accident call immediately 112 and if you cannot get through, walk on the same course and keep trying again until you get a connection;
  • Stay calm and inform what, when and where the accident has happened, also the number of people involved and the status of the victims;
  • The more information you can transmit, the better and more efficient help will be provided.

Important phone numbers (program these into your mobile phone):

Madeira Civil Protection – (+351) 291 700 112
Emergency Number – 112

The precautions mentioned above must be considered as a ‘must’ for both experienced and inexperienced walkers.

Always consider your options when you are walking here on Madeira Island.

Categories: Levadas, Nature | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Pico Ruivo

The island’s volcanic origins are evident by the rocky shoreline and rugged mountainous interior. Its highest point, Pico Ruivo, looks out over a mass of peaks and a violently formed landscape.

Pico Ruivo is the highest peak on the Madeira Islands. It can be reached only by foot, usually either from Pico do Arieiro (3rd highest) after a strenuous hike, or from Achada do Teixeira with a shorter, easier trail. There is an additional trail leading west to Encumeada. Just below the summit is a hut offering simple accommodation and drinks.

Pico Ruivo is 1,861 meters (6,106 ft) high and provides some of the most incredible views of the island from coast to coast, but unpredictable weather conditions can make it quite dangerous.

Video by Aixperte

Categories: Mountains, Tips, Videos | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

For Sale!

The domain name SECRETMADEIRA.COM is for SALE!

The name ‘Secret Madeira’ is well positioned on the Google search results on the area of travel and Madeira Island. This is not only thanks to the blog (www.secretmadeira.com) but also its associated social media channels (Twitter, Facebook Page, G+ Page, Pinterest).

Acquiring the domain SECRETMADEIRA.COM includes also the following:

5 (parked) domain names: MADEIRANATUREFESTIVAL.COM, MADEIRANATUREFESTIVAL.NET, MADEIRANATUREFESTIVAL.ORG, WEATHERFORMADEIRA.COM and SECRETFUNCHAL.COM (all redirects to SECRETMADEIRA.COM)

1 year FREE hosting  (1 account, basic hosting package) plus unlimited e-mail addresses based on the domain names mentioned above (all e-mail addresses can be forwarded to your personal e-mail address of choice).

– The Secret Madeira blog with administration using the latest version of WordPress CMS.

Administrator rights to the associated social media channels. These are:

www.facebook.com/secretmadeira
plus.google.com/+Secretmadeira
twitter.com/secretmadeira
pinterest.com/secretmadeira

Interested in taking this whole package (as is) over? Then please send your bid to bid@secretmadeira.com
We will only react to serious bid (or questions).

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