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Meet the friends who will take you around Lisbon, Turin and Budapest

The Local and Lufthansa will reunite three pairs of long-distance friends in Turin, Budapest and Lisbon. Join us for the journey!

Meet the friends who will take you around Lisbon, Turin and Budapest
Photo: Irena Savic and Asaki Dizdar Mehic

That’s a wrap, folks. The Local recently closed a competition in partnership with Lufthansa, offering three pairs the chance to win a trip to three of Europe’s most exciting cities. To enter, we asked our community of travel fans to tell us who they wanted to go with and why.

We’ve now picked the winners and the trips are all booked!

Over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing short videos documenting the reunions, as the winners take us on a tour of the three European cities. Now’s your chance to get to know them before they go off exploring.

Lisbon trip: Irena Savic and Asaki Dizdar Mehic

“I have a lot of friends all over the world because war separated us.”

Have a read of Lufthansa’s Lisbon city guide

Photo: Irena Savic and Asaki Dizdar Mehic. See their group post here

Long-time school friends Irena Savic and Asaki Dizdar Mehic were brutally torn apart by the Bosnian war. Irena and her family fled to Belgrade in Serbia, where she lives today, while Asaki ended up in Oslo, Norway. The pair lost touch until ten years later, when they found each other on Facebook.

It didn’t take long for them to plan a reunion in person.

“That was very emotional and amazing! We have another friend who lives in Croatia now and she was there also. When I saw her and Asaki, that was something wonderful to see them again,” Irena told The Local.

Since reconnecting, Irena and Asaki have nurtured their friendship through travel. In February 2018, the pair spent several days in Amsterdam, exploring the city by foot and enjoying a full day in the Van Gogh museum.

Travel often means a reunion for Irena and the Amsterdam trip was no exception; the pair were also joined by another school friend who had been living nearby in Rotterdam.

“I have a lot of friends all over the world because the war separated us,” explains Irena. “A very large number of my friends are in foreign countries and travel is always a good way to see them.”

Fortunately, the time apart hasn’t come between them and the pair still enjoy each other’s company as much as ever. Irena explains that Asaki is an excellent travel companion because the pair both love to stroll around new cities — walking as far as 15km a day in Amsterdam.

But is Irena prepared to walk 15km a day in Lisbon, the City of Seven (very steep) Hills?

“I was born in the mountains, so I’ll be okay!”, she laughs.

Turin trip: Isabelle Wallin and Natasha Held

“I was surprised that you could become such good friends in one week!”

 

Photo: Isabelle Wallin and Natasha Held. See their group post here

Isabelle from Stockholm and Natasha from Newcastle may seem unlikely friends, but it’s the unlikely friendships that can become the most dear.

Check out Lufthansa’s city guide for Turin

The pair were both 20 years old when they struck up a friendship in Ayia Napa during summer 2011.  Natasha, who was on vacation with friends, envied Isabelle’s bar job and the two vowed to return the following year to live and work together.

What surprised Isabelle was that they stayed true to their word.

“It was crazy that we just met in a week and decided to do this a year later! So I think that was very spontaneous and I was more spontaneous because of her,” she says.

Isabelle and Natasha have since developed a close friendship despite the distance, keeping in touch online and visiting each other’s home towns.

Isabelle’s visit to Natasha’s native Newcastle even rubbed off on her in a surprising way.

“I started talking in a Geordie accent after I stayed with her!”

Despite the distance, the friends are still bonded over a love of sunshine and good food – both of which they hope to enjoy on their trip together to Turin.

“I know all about the pizza and pasta – we have to find what’s really local though,” says Isabelle.

Budapest trip: Alex Newcombe and Pau Revilla Besora

“You need friends if you’re in a different environment. It definitely makes it easier and more enjoyable.”

 

Photo: Alex Newcombe and Pau Revilla Besora. See their group post here

A bromance is a beautiful thing, and no-one knows that better than Australian Alex Newcome and Spanish Pau Revilla Besora. The pair met at university in Denmark and have maintained their friendship following graduation.

Take a look at Lufthansa’s Budapest travel guide

“It made my time in Denmark a lot more fun. We’ve had a lot of good times here. It can be tough coming from Australia to a very cold place and probably the same for Pau coming from Spain,” says Alex.

Pau may be back in Spain now but that hasn’t quelled their friendship. Since graduating, the friends have toured Spain, visiting Andalusia and Catalunya, and building their personal portfolio of “in jokes”.

“We have a lot of in jokes that don’t make sense to anyone else which always happens when you’re travelling,” he says.

One particular joke is on Alex, who developed a taste for empanadas in Spain.

“I made a big deal about them so Pau kind of teased me a bit about that because they’re nothing special there, but they were for me!”.

Alex looks forward to “walking around, having some beers and eating some street food” as well as checking out some of the local museums.

Pau, he says, is the perfect travel companion which can turn a good trip into a great one.

“He’s really good fun and up for anything.”

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Lufthansa.

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TRAVEL

IN IMAGES: Spain’s ‘scrap cathedral’ lives on after creator’s death

For over 60 years, former monk Justo Gallego almost single-handedly built a cathedral out of scrap materials on the outskirts of Madrid. Here is a picture-based ode to his remarkable labour of love.

IN IMAGES: Spain's 'scrap cathedral' lives on after creator's death
File photo taken on August 3, 1999 shows Justo Gallego Martinez, then 73, posing in front of his cathedral. Photo: ERIC CABANIS / AFP

The 96-year-old died over the weekend, but left the unfinished complex in Mejorada del Campo to a charity run by a priest that has vowed to complete his labour of love.

Gallego began the project in 1961 when he was in his mid-30s on land inherited from his family after a bout of tuberculosis forced him to leave an order of Trappist monks.

Today, the “Cathedral of Justo” features a crypt, two cloisters and 12 towers spread over 4,700 square metres (50,600 square feet), although the central dome still does not have a cover.

He used bricks, wood and other material scavenged from old building sites, as well as through donations that began to arrive once the project became better known.

A woman prays at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
A woman prays at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The building’s pillars are made from stacked oil drums while windows have been cobbled and glued together from shards of coloured glass.

“Recycling is fashionable now, but he used it 60 years ago when nobody talked about it,” said Juan Carlos Arroyo, an engineer and architect with engineering firm Calter.

Men work at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021 in Mejorada del Campo, 20km east of Madrid.
Men work at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021 in Mejorada del Campo, 20km east of Madrid. Photo: (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)

The charity that is taking over the project, “Messengers of Peace”, hired the firm to assess the structural soundness of the building, which lacks a permit.

No blueprint

“The structure has withstood significant weather events throughout its construction,” Arroyo told AFP, predicting it will only need some “small surgical interventions”.

Renowned British architect Norman Foster visited the site in 2009 — when he came to Spain to collect a prize — telling Gallego that he should be the one getting the award, Arroyo added.

Religious murals on a walls of Justo's cathedral. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Religious murals on a walls of Justo’s cathedral. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The sturdiness of the project is surprising given that Gallego had no formal training as a builder, and he worked without a blueprint.

In interviews, he repeatedly said that the details for the cathedral were “in his head” and “it all comes from above”.

Builders work on the dome of the Cathedral of Justo on November 26th. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Builders work on the dome of the Cathedral of Justo on November 26th. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The complex stands in a street called Avenida Antoni Gaudi, named after the architect behind Barcelona’s iconic Sagrada Familia basilica which has been under construction since 1883.

But unlike the Sagrada Familia, the Cathedral of Justo Gallego as it is known is not recognised by the Roman Catholic Church as a place of worship.

Visit gaze at the stained glass and busts in of the cathedral's completed sections. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Visit gaze at the stained glass and busts in of the cathedral’s completed sections. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

‘Worth visiting’

Father Angel Garcia Rodriguez, the maverick priest who heads Messengers of Peace, wants to turn Gallego’s building into an inclusive space for all faiths and one that is used to help the poor.

“There are already too many cathedrals and too many churches, that sometimes lack people,” he said.

“It will not be a typical cathedral, but a social centre where people can come to pray or if they are facing difficulties,” he added.

A photo of Justo Gallego Martinez on display at his cathedral following his passing. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
A photo of Justo Gallego Martinez on display at his cathedral following his passing. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

Father Angel is famous in Spain for running a restaurant offering meals to the homeless and for running a church in central Madrid where pets are welcome and the faithful can confess via iPad.

Inside the Cathedral of Justo, volunteers continued working on the structure while a steady stream of visitors walked around the grounds admiring the building in the nondescript suburb.

“If the means are put in, especially materials and money, to finish it, then it will be a very beautiful place of worship,” said Ramon Calvo, 74, who was visiting the grounds with friends.

FIND OUT MORE: How to get to Justo’s Cathedral and more amazing images

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