Camino Portugués 19/4 – 10/5
I arrive to Lisbon on Sunday April 18 in the afternoon. Actually, I started to walk four days earlier from Lagos. I wanted to see the beautiful Atlantic coast, but the bad weather changed my plans a great deal. Anyhow, I walk around in Lisbon and try to recognize all places I visited during my work here in Portugal more than 40 years ago. In the evening I enjoy a nice dinner and ”Fado”, a kind of Portuguese guitar style.
Portugal was early visited by the Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians. The first remains of human settlement dates from 700 BC. Lisbon and the other coastal cities were also, as in Spain, occupied and incorporated into the Western Roman Empire. Lisbon was originally known as “Olisipo” a Roman centre for trade. Later on, the Visigoths and Vandals occupied the area. Then the Moors came and did the next invasion. The invaders were also here driven out during late 800’s and the areas became more and more Christian. Much later, during the 1400s and 1500s, the grate discoverers Columbus, Magellan and Vasco da Gama dominated the area.
Lisbon was growing more and more as an important trading centre until November 1st 1755. One of the most disastrous earthquakes occurred at that time near the coast with a sub-sequent tsunami, which hit the city. A quarter of a million people lost their lives and 90% of the buildings were destroyed. But Lisbon was rebuilt by reconstructing houses, streets and squares. Today, it is a relatively small and beautiful city, with a mixture of old and new architecture.
19 April, Monday. From Lisbon to Alverca do Ribatejo. The weather is still cloudy when I walk north out from Lisbon. I pass Torre Vasco da Gama and the mighty 10 km long bridge, with almost the same name, over the Rio Tajo bay. It is raining again with increasing wind in my face. The marking of the route is really poor and I am walking 5 km in a lot of mud along the river Rio Tranção. Then I got lost near Póvoa de Santa Ira. After a bit along the very busy main road N10 I finally, somehow, reach Alverça do Ribatejo and stop there for the night. Tonight I look forward to a good sleep after 31 kilometres of walking.
21 April, Wednesday. From Azumbuja to Santarem. The Romans occupied the area of Santarem 138 BC. The city were named Scalabis and became an important commercial and administrative centre in the province of Lusitania. After the invasion by Alans and then Vandals, the name was changed to Santa Irene. The next invasion was made by the Moors year 715. Afonso I regained the city first year 1147 and became also the first King in Portugal.
22 April, Thursday. To Golegã. Again, I get some rain showers over me just before Golegã. No rooms are available there at reasonable price. Someone says I should go to the local fire station “Bombeiros Voluntarios da Golegã”. Where I can stay overnight. This option is for free for pilgrims in Portugal. However, the standard is “not the best” but at least I will get roof over my head.
23 April, Friday. To Tomar. I walk through large eucalyptus forests. Here is the route marking really poor and sometimes non-existent. Luckily, I have my GPS with me and I will often come down again on the busy and for walker’s dangerous road N-10. There are no sidewalks here. But there are sidewalks in most communities, but these are mostly used as parking lots.
After the “Portuguese Reconquista”, the conquest of the region from the Moors, the residents in Tomar were granted in 1159 to belong to Knight of Templars. The conditions were to defend the region from Moorish attacks and raids. In return to this, enjoy liberal conditions, in comparison with people from other parts of Portugal. Pope Clement V wanted to ban the Knight of Templars throughout Europe. The King of Portugal negotiated instead the solution to form a new Christian Order. “Henry the Navigator” became its governor. It is believed that he used the resources from the Order to carry out his operations in Africa and the Atlantic Ocean. The Christian Order’s cross in the name of the Catholic Church’s was painted on the ships’ sails. The clergy of Tomar controlled it all. Henry got rich on the overseas trips and used the money to improve buildings, roads and facilities in Tomar.
I come to the pension Pensão União in Tomar. The evening becomes really nice at a small restaurant together with some talkative Portuguese guys.
24 April, Saturday. To Alvaiázere. In the morning, I leave the charming city of Tomar behind me. First on a forest road, which is really nice. Later, the marking of the route got worse. Halfway to Alvaiazere, in the small village of Vila Verde, I come to a courtyard with really nice oranges in the trees. I’m pretty hungry, so I ask if the farmer will be so kind and give me some. The friendly wine farmer Ricardo wants to give me too many oranges. He also asks if I want to taste his wine in the wine cellar. Well, thanks… the white wine tastes really good. We are “talking” for a while before I continue to Alvaiazere and a small guest house there.
27 April, Tuesday. From Coimbra to Mealhada. Along the way there are blue arrows, which point the way towards the town of Fatima. There is one of the most important Catholic shrines, where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared. The sanctuary is located a bit west from Tomar. The place is visited by thousands of pilgrims and tourists from all over the world, especially during the Catholic pilgrim days between May and October. I stop for the night at the Residencial Oásis in Mealhada.
30 April, Friday. From São João de Madeira to Porto. Porto is the second largest town in Portugal, with approximately 220 thousand inhabitants. Through Porto flows the mighty river Rio Duro. The town has a well-preserved culture and was in year 2001 nominated as the European City of Culture. The area is internationally famous for its production of wine. On the 1400’s and 1500’s Portuguese shipbuilding technology was developed here. Thus the Portuguese explorations at sea began along the west coast of Africa.
1 May, Saturday. To Vila do Conde. It has been raining during the night and it is still wet and a bit chilly. I stay a little longer than I thought in Porto and walk around on the streets. From Porto one can choose two routes, one to Vilarinho and the other along the coast to Vila do Conde by the sea. Along the way to Vilarinho I meet for the first time other pilgrims in Portugal. One guy from Sweden, one from Canada and three from Poland. It’s really nice to talk a little with others. All have started to walk from Porto. Shortly before Vilarinho the others continues to the youth hostel there. As I want to stay close to the coast, I continue to Vila do Conde and stop there for the night at pension Pensão Pata Rata. In the evening, I eat supper there together with a funny Englishman.
2 May, Sunday. To Barcelos. In the morning I meet several Swedes from the town Malmö. In the guidebook, by John Brierley, I have read about Antonio’s bar and restaurant. I walk in there and meet Antonio, who is a good friend with the author. It’s Sunday-lunchtime and the restaurant is almost full of guests. I don’t want to stay there for lunch, but instead continue to Barcelos. Antonio says that it is market in Barcelos and the hotels are pretty full. He calls to the hotstel Arantes and ask them to reserve a room for me. I thank the friendly Antonio and continue. Barcelos is an old Roman city at the River Cávado and the famous symbol for the city is a rooster. ”The Rooster of Barcelos” is also a legend. There are several versions of this legend, one of them is; “The miracle of Santo Domingo de Calzada” from the French route.
3 May, Monday. To Ponte de Lima. It’s cloudy and cold when I leave Barcelos. Today’s stretch feels long and it crosses the river Rio Neiva. Then slowly down toward the river Rio de Lima and the city with the same name as the bridge ”Ponte de Lima”. The stretch turns out to be one of the most beautiful for the entire route. I stop at the ”Albergue de Peregrinos”. Later in the evening, I walk over the bridge in the city, and find a café or rather small kitchen with a few tables. An elderly woman and her husband serve an excellent multi-course dinner for 6,50.
5 May, Wednesday. From Rubiães to Tui. I arrive to Valença, located south of the river Rio Miño. The river is border to Spain and the town of Tui. Both are historic border-towns and are connected by a six hundred meter long bridge. The town of Valença, and especially the fort ”Fortaleza”, dates back to Roman times. The fort was populated in the 1200’s on order of King Sancho I. The city was then named Contrasta. King Afonso III changed its name to Valença in the 1300’s. The fort has had a decisive military role in the defence of Portugal against the neighbour Spain. Today, peaceful Spanish tourists, who also have commercial interests, are invading Valença. I walk over the long bridge to Spain. A young man stops me in the middle of the big square in Tui. He wants me to stay at his place “Albergue El Camino”. I get a room completely for myself, fresh, clean and tidy.
7 May, Friday. From Redondela to Pontevedra. From the 1200’s Pontevedra was the most important town in Galicia for trade and shipbuilding. Columbus ship ”Santa Maria was built right here in Pontevedra. I stop for the night at Casa Maruja.
8 May, Saturday. To Caldas de Reis. In the morning it rains stubborn, in addition the rain increases during the day. I stop several times in coffee shops and amuse me to alternate drinking a ”café” or a ”café con leche”. The standard price is 1 Euro. Caldas de Reis is a small town with ten thousand inhabitants and. It is also famous for its hot springs in the town centre, with 40-degree warm water. In the afternoon, I stop at the Hotel O Cruceiro.
9 May, Sunday. To Padrón. The city of Padrón is located at the rivers Rio Ulla and the tributary Rio Sar. It’s carnival when I arrive in the early afternoon. I stop at an outdoor cafe and ask for some tapas and wine. Roman Titus Flavius Vespasian gave the city originally the name Ira Flavia. It was here St James often preached from the mountain ‘Monte Santiaguino ”. Later on St James travelled to Jerusalem. He was captured, reviled and thrown into prison. On the order of Herodes Agrippa, St James was executed. It was also here to this place in Padrón, his remains were transported back from Jerusalem by boat, across the Mediterranean Sea. The body of St James was then taken some 10 kilometres further north and buried in the Roman town ”Liberum Donum”. Perhaps near, or at the same place that today is Santiago de Compostela.
10 May, Monday. It is 24 km to walk the last day, for this time. It will be the fourth time I visit Santiago de Compostela. The route in Portugal is quite easy to walk, interesting and socially very nice from Porto together with other pilgrims. Unfortunately, I could not see any pilgrim before Porto, I don’t know why. I still think that the marking of the route could be much better, especially in the eucalyptus forests between Lisbon and Porto.