18.08.2012 27 °C
A short bus trip from Porto and we are ensconced in this lovely inland city, named Europe's city of culture for this year. It is also a UN World Heritage site. We are just outside the walls of the old city, which is called the birthplace of Portugal. Pretty three or four storey buildings with iron work balconies overlooking many small pracas or largos (little plazas) and public gardens. There is a four cornered remnant of a very old building purporting to be where the Visigoth leader claimed victory from the Swabians. The nearby church bells have an overwrought celebration of the hour which bounces off the stone walls around.
The telerifico is a cable car which whips us up rough slopes forested with chestnuts and oaks, and some eucalypts!, to Penha. This hill rears up beside the city, adorned with the most enormous granite boulders, hermits grottoes and forest. It was so cool, and so effortless to get there! My kind of climbing. It must have been a haven for brigands as well as the monks who from 1720, found isolated spots for religious life. Rich green, mossy rocks and so quiet.
Down below, there are all sorts of artistic events for this special year. We sat in a Praca to watch a marionette show, in Portugese, which stretches the imagination wonderfully. Who cares if we had it right? Magical ending as one white clad figure rose slowly above the crowd and then moved in a stately progression out of the courtyard. We were all oblivious to the handlers tho we cheered them madly at the end.
Translation was almost unnecessary also as we were guided around a collection of archaeological treasures from a nearby Celtic city. The guide was so passionate, and keen that we comprehend, that it almost rendered common languages unimportant. I wish we had time to see this citania, but should be able to see an example settlement elsewhere.
Last night, dinner was in a restaurant full of Portugese families, but tonight we eschewed the delights of bacalhau in tasty but enormous quantities. It was petiscos eg tapas, at tables in Praca Santiago, as the evening cooled down. Wow! Octopus grilled, lovely padrones, and pears soaked in port with slices of goat cheese. And chilled Viognier.
We heading back tomorrow for another sample after a quiet Sunday exploring the castle.
Off to Viana do Castelo on the estuary of the Rio Lima on Monday.