08 August 2009

Putting the Port in Portugal

After Granada, I stopped over in Seville for a night to get my hands on a rail pass. There was really nothing else to say about that stop, I was only passing through. So...

To shut Kim up and because I was in Westernish Spain anyway, I decided to keep going and check out Portugal. I hopped on a train bound for Lisbon, which ironicly took me all the way back to Madrid before turning towards Portugal, but I wasn´t too fussed. I figured Lisbon would be worth the extra effort.

I was wrong. Lisbon was a dirty smelly excuse for a capital city, the place could make Canberra look positively... habitable. There was plenty of colour, but there just wasn´t a single welcoming person in the whole city. Or, at least not in the five or so blocks of it that I saw. The Portuguese have an unnerving habit of staring at newcomers with what I could only describe as suspicion. At first this was quite off-putting, until I hit on the idea of staring right back at them until they gave up.

Wandering the streets, I found myself in the main city square in the middle of the kick off of the tour-de-Portugal bicycle race. I think I may have accidently got myself onto Portuguese TV. It was all being hosted by a man who, judging by the number of middle aged Portuguese women clambering to meet him, must have been Portugal's answer to Karl Stefanovich.

The one highlight was the castle of St. John, which was just exactly that; A big stone medieval castle plonked in the middle of the city that you could get inside and climb all over. That was great fun.

Having been so underwhelmed by the national capital, I did not hold high hopes for the rest of the country as I made my way north to Porto.

I was wrong again. Porto (often called Oporto in English) was awesome. It´s a traditional style European town built into the banks of the River Douro. As its name might suggest, it´s famous for its portwine production, especially its dry white ports, which you can´t really get anywhere else. And with good reason; they tasted horrible. I did, however, enjoy sampling numerous sweet white and tawny red ports, and was amazed to discover how well I could speak Portuguese all of a sudden. Tragically the effect had worn off the following morning. Hmmm...

So after four nights in Portugal, I boarded a train bound back to Spain. Next stop: Santiago de Compostela.

Far from home




Garry with 2 Rs
Post a Comment