Portugal. Ryanair, the LOW FARES airline succeeded in moving Anika and me down there for a 4 day trip that had mainly been inspired by the fact that the flight was so affordable. It is an interesting cultural phenomenon how the airline with the obnoxious on-time fanfare brings us to places we would not otherwise think about going. It was lovely though- certainly much warmer than Holland and the magnolias were in blossom and made for a nice contrast with the somewhat decayed buildings of the cities.
With my ongoing fascination for old things I was surprised (the positive kind) to see such run-down buildings and city centers. In many ways Porto was the exact opposite of Copenhagen, as there was a complete absence of little design bars in every corner. A lot less Scandinavian sophistication but a large sense of Southern disorder, with some buildings looking like they were straight from Havana (or at least how I imagine it to be), layers of paint coming off, rusty iron gates and half-destroyed tile patterns on the houses. No smoothie bars but old people roasting chestnuts on the streets. It is charming as hell but also made me realize how much I live on the kind of food they would sell at the more fashionable outlets. We took to epically large cemeteries as spots to visit and lived on a steady diet of rolls, nuts and dried fruit for quite a bit.
Even more than before, this vacation included some social networking moments that were simply startling. When we decided to go down to Lisbon for a day, I posted a Facebook status asking if anybody had tips on where to go. The next time I found an open wifi connection, a bunch of my friends had chimed in with recommendations on what to do. And so Lisbon happened, which was essentially an extension of all previous observations. Thanks to all the tips we had tons of placed to visit, yet entirely lacking a sense of direction, I was fortunate to have Anika at my side. I seemed incapable of getting any logical order into the city and got lost every time I turned a street corner, while she kept the overview. And since she is as much a social networker as I am, she used some crazy internet tools to find a rather excellent vegetarian restaurant. A moment to be proud. And food at last.
Luckily, the Portuguese are extremely nice and helpful folks- though sometimes giving us the silent treatment, there would always quickly be someone at our sides to help with the little challenges of everyday life. I made a few attempts at buying apples at a supermarket and failed miserably at weighing said apples using the cryptic machinery they employ for that purpose. Yet before I knew it there was a little Portuguese store employee punching in the required numbers and giving me an encouraging smile.
The definite highlight of this helpful treatment happened right before our much-anticipated concert of Beach House. Their concerts in Germany/Netherlands had been sold out, yet there were tickets available for a concert in Guimarães, a venue about an hour North of Porto. It took place in an unexpectedly modern concert complex, the aptly named Centro Cultural Vila Flor, which included a restaurant. As we were having dinner there, the helpful waiter approached us hesitantly, asking if we shouldn’t go up to the concert. Turns out that some of the guests had been asking if we were the artist. Make no mistake about it: As a Northern European you instantaneously stand out. “You should go to Africa”, Lisa remarked when I told her about it today. I supposed I should.