At the Rio Douro

The boats at the Rio Douro is one of my favourite pictures of 2014. It is a view onto the Dom Louis I bridge between the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia (Portugal) (see map).

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The construction of this 385 m long bridge begun in 1881. The upper deck was opened on 31 October 1886; the lower deck opened in 1887. The Dom Louis bridge is one of five bridges linking the high and rocky banks of Rio Douro (>>>). To see them all we took o tourist boat – a service that is offered for tourists on the regular basis.

The banks of the Rio Douro are densely inhabited. Some of the older houses seem to be constructed one above the other gradually. If seen from a boat the panorama is quite picturesque.

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Lately, I was talking to a professional photographer who just came back from Portugal. He prefers BW or soft colours.  But his pictures of Porto’s Douro (the river) banks were … colourful. He told me it was not possible to make them otherwise. Somehow I agree, although – regrettably – my only equipment in Porto was a cell phone.

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Bridges of Porto

Porto (see map) is one of the main cities in Portugal. The agglomeration is located around banks of the Rio Douro. The banks are rocky and high. There are five high bridges crossing the river. Two of them were designed the same style as the Eiffel tour in Paris – one by the Gustave Eiffel himself together with Théophile Seyrig (Maria Pia Bridge, 1877), the other one by his colleague Théophile Seyrig (Luís I Bridge, 1886). To see all the bridges as well as colourful banks of the Douro river, we took a ride on a tourist boat – a service that is regularly offered there.

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Estação de São Bento

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A small but tremendously decorated station in the centre of Porto (see map). Its walls are covered with traditional Portuguese tile work called azulejos showing scenes of the Portuguese history.

Azulejos is painted tin-glazed ceramic tile work widespread in Portugal and Spain. In Portugal, you will find them outdoors and indoors on walls in private and public buildings. (For somebody, who is used to tiles only as decoration in bathrooms or on floors as in many other European countries, it is a bit unusual). The variety of azulejos reaches from simple reproduced white-blue tiles to big detailed pictures that are indeed real pieces of art (like those at Sao Bento station).

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As far as I can recall, a similar kind of tile work has been traditionally produced in some other European countries (like Italy and Netherlands). Nevertheless, the tile work in Europe origins from Moorish culture and first it was applied on the Iberian peninsula.

If you want to know more about azulejos and during your Portugal journey stay in Lisbon, just go to the National Tile Museum (>>>). It is located in the former Convent of Madre Deus (convents were banished from Portugal some time ago, so it is a state museum). Even if you are not an art fan, following the visiting route you will see how the art of azulejos and its technique developed with time. By the way, inside the gallery you will have to cross a chapel. Opulent and rich. Shining with gold, with beautiful paintings and tile work pictures on walls and ceilings.

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