Our trip starts in Porto – the departure point for many pilgrims who begin in Portugal. As a departure point it becomes a great incentive, so we believe we did well coming early. It is worth to spend a few hours running across its streets, discovering its enchanting cafés and to start exercise our legs on thousands of steps which take us from the river to the hightown.
Porto is one of that towns that cling to the past. The journalist Vázquez Montalbán used to say that like in no other corner of Europe here the clock stopped in 1900. The tram, the antique wine cellars, the cobble, the colour of the walls and the flavour of the coffee just confirm the feeling of the refined Catalan writer.
We start our tour. It will be short as the Camino is waiting for us. It will also be the most touristic visit that we will do these days. In front of us we have a terrace where we will take our first Portuguese coffee of the week – always delicious and served with good taste.
Our first walk confirms that decadent beauty’s look. Some buildings with a 19th century’s scent are falling into pieces without causing the slightest concern of the rich inhabitants. There are malls and clothing macro-stores everywhere. The big brands chose the pedestrian part of Rua de Santa Catarina for their location while the small boutiques can be found in the historical center.
We are approaching Praça da Liberdade where many avenues cross, so we have a good direction point to decide where to set off. There are various options however maybe the most recommendable thing to do is to search for a tram stop and descend to the river.
Sun is falling creating colours and casting timeless reflexes on the buildings, boats, streetlamps, pedestrians and street trade stands. The freshness of the night joins the sour smells that come out the river. The feeling becomes pleasant again in the terraces where you can have a low-cost dinner at standard European time.
Everything seems static except the river that changes its colours until it merges into the moonless blueness. Starting in Porto means getting inspired, preparing yourself perfectly for what comes next, for listening to the Way, to your own breath and if possible, to the voice of the consciousness.
We will leave Porto tomorrow early on the morning carrying our backpacks and remembering those few hours in the town that maybe were enough only to draw some small lines to be completed during next visits. Before we return to the hotel we visit a café and order a glass of port wine. When withdrawing we feel a few raindrops falling and we start to think how to protect ourselves from the rain on the Camino. But this is something that we will sort out another day.
by Daniel Hofkamp