Behind us, almost 10,000 kilometers traveled and over 4 months of life on a constant journey. In a moment we will leave the Iberian Peninsula, whose last point were the cities located in the north of Portugal – Porto, Braga and Guimaraes. We will start with the first one, while the next two will be described and shown in a next week.
We spent three days visiting Porto. The first of them we spent on the southern bank of the river Douro, which flows through the city. The southern wharf, at the height of the historic center of Porto, abounds in wine-producing wineries, which gained the greatest fame in England. For this reason, many of the factories carry the English names to this day.
Above the extensive, mostly single-storey and one-storey wine-cellar buildings, there is a cable railway that takes passengers to a nearby hill from which a beautiful panorama of the city stretches. Here, there is also an entrance to the upper floor of the Luis I Bridge.
From the Jardim de Morro area, we look at a steel bridge that connects both banks of the city since 1886.
Looking straight ahead we have a great view of the city’s greatest monuments. Two of the tallest towers in Porto are the Se tower on the right and the Church of the Clerics on the left side.
Now we are looking towards the river Duero, which is located a few kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean. It’s very quiet here. There are boats on the quay which were used for transportation in the bay with exported port wine. Currently, they are used mainly for tourism purposes and as floating advertisements for beverage producers.
We are still in the wine district. Interestingly, administratively it is already another city – Vila Nova de Gaia. Covered with red tiles, whitewashed buildings contain real treasures – wine ageing is often through dozen years old in oak barrels and it is a very desirable commodity among gourmets.
It is worth adding that after the era of great geographical discoveries and the increased exploitation of the overseas colonies, Porto avoided a period of stagnation thanks to the high income from production and trade in wine.
We leave Gaia and go to the right part of the city. After crossing Ponte Luis I, we start the tour from the coastal district of Ribeira, mainly built with several-storey, colorful tenement houses. The district is full not only of tourists, but also residents who live here as if not noticing the multilingual bustle of restaurants and cafes.
In the heart of the city is the medieval Se de Porto cathedral. The shape of the church and the surrounding high walls testify to the defensive character of the temple. The eighteenth-century reconstruction gave the Romanesque building a bit slenderness, but not enough to overlook its original function.
After descending from the cathedral hill, we reach the area around the Sao Bento railway station (on the right). Straight ahead is the church dedicated to Saint Anthony. This is one of many examples of buildings covered with azulejos – painted ceramic tiles. Beautiful mosaics, the historical legacy of the Moors that occupy these areas in the Middle Ages, most often depict religious scenes or simply create a beautiful white and blue composition.
The interior of the Sao Bento station is covered with 20,000 azulejos tiles depicting scenes from the history of Portugal and … the history of railways in this country.
Leaving the station, we look at the cathedral hill and streets and houses in the center of Porto. No matter where we turn around all we see is beautiful urban architecture.
We are already at Rua dos Clerigos and look at the tower of the church of the Clerics towering over the old Porto. The baroque tower of the temple is the highest point in the panorama of the city center.
Exactly at the opposite end of the street there is another example of religious architecture – the church of Saint Ildefons, covered with the azulejos.
Curiosity from a butcher shop at Rua dos Clerigos. Smoked pork snouts are an addition to many cooked dishes and show that nothing in the kitchen can be wasted.
We’re squeezing through narrow streets. It’s best to feel the atmosphere of the old city. There are few tourists, and from the gates and windows there are sounds of ordinary everyday life going on outside the walls.
The main square of Porto is the 19th and 20th century impressive buildings of Praca de Municipio with the town hall on the north end. The square sets the conventional boundary between the old and the new Porto. Tourists usually travel to the district of Boavista or the Atlantic located only a few kilometers to the west.
However, we prefer those older climates so we came back to the Douro River with great pleasure to see the historic tram passing through the coastal district.
It is one of the three tram lines preserved in Porto. Their role in the second half of the twentieth century was taken over by the metro that is developing in the city, which often goes to the surface and is more like a tram. This is for exaple on the upper floor of Ponte Luis I.
At the end of the trip we went again to the Ribeira district, until recently neglected and dangerous, but today is considered one of the main points to be checked off by foreign tourists.
By saying goodbye to Porto, we also say goodbye to the Atlantic Ocean, which we do not know when we will see again. We spent the next days in Braga and Guimaraes, cities several dozen kilometers away from the coast. But about them in a next week content.