The technological wave brushing this century is almighty. It has come with such a force that you either ride it or it sweeps the sand under your feet. In a lot of ways, this is the conflict a lot of pre-millennials are facing. They are confused, struggling between the past and the future. In that sense, even Porto is confused.
Porto is a small town, tucked away in a corner of northern Portugal, besides the river Douro which runs into the Atlantic Ocean. On a parochial scale however, it is the second largest city in Portugal. And therein lies the confusion, whether it should strive to become a city or stay the cute town it is. The city soul that it imbibes is very urban, with its impeccable transport system, bustling shops and omnipresent cars. Perhaps an embodiment of the city soul can be seen in the bridge below. But the city soul is boring.
The town soul, on the other hand, is ravishing.
The little houses with red roofs and the cafes by the riverside add a charm that is best described rustic. The first time I saw this soul was when we visited the Lello bookstore, with its ornate shelves and neatly stacked books. FYI, it’s the bookstore that J.K.Rowling mentions as her inspiration for the staircase in Harry Potter. Books here are an another example of the confusion that the technological shift creates – between the convenience offered by e-books and the smell and touch of printed books. Accompanied by group of literature connoisseurs, I was in the best company possible to visit this space and lose count of time when I kept sifting through books.
Another phenomenon emulating this town soul is wine. Porto was the first time I had wine in this Eurotrip and I could not be more glad. The wine cellars in Porto are famous for their two broad classes of wine – red wine (Tawny) and white wine. The white wine is supposed to be taken as an appetizer and the red as a dessert. A visit through these mammoth cellars made me realize that wine-making is more art than science. And the best manifestation of that wine is the old bottles of wine stashed in shelves, housing vintage wines from 1900 onwards.
The most-soul stirring entities are always related to nature. And this is even more true for Porto. The river flows unabashedly into the Atlantic Ocean and the setting sun creates one of the most picturesque landscapes, the best appreciation that the town soul can get. And there you get a hint to solve the conflict of Porto. Sure, the city life is contemporary but that is not what Porto is.
Porto is the place to read a novel while sipping Tawny. It’s a place to observe the painters and wine ships on the riverside. It’s a place to watch the sunset and send all your worries away with the red sun. It’s like the beautiful wine it creates, which can’t be gulped but only sipped, slowly and lavishly. And just like all wines, it should be proud of its past and not sell its soul to the merchants of materialism.
All pictures used are mine and should not be reproduced without permission.