Sometimes you need to see a place in a new light.
When I woke up in Porto yesterday, peeked out the window from behind the curtains and saw the sun, it felt like I was seeing a brand-new city. Oh, I had been here before, once as a child and again seven years ago. I had liked it then, but somehow there hadn’t been much of a spark. This time felt different: Walking the streets of Portugal’s second city, I was smitten. By the way this place looked, this an old city coming forcefully into its own.
I was twisting my neck, looking at the historic façades, some crumbling, some restored, and I marveled at the elevation this place had: Hills from which to look down onto the river, winding alleys that went either up or down, that impossibly high bridge.
Having grown up in Northern Germany and having lived in the Netherlands, elevation is not something I’m used to, and I loved the sense of dimension it added to the city.
I felt excitement, not just about the place, but about being there and how it made me feel: It reminded me the same sense of possibility I felt when I moved to Berlin. Which has remained a lovely place to live, but the years of prosperity and renovation have sanded down its rough edges to a degree that some of the excitement evaporated. Or maybe it’s the years that have sanded down my excitement as well; either way, I was reminded to how I felt when I first came to Berlin and it was still very cheap, and charmingly dilapidated. I’m not talking ruin porn, but rather possibility, of which Porto, in that morning sunlight, seemed to have plenty.
I stood at a street corner, camera at the ready, as a cloud of smoke began wafting into the sunlight. It was smoke from one of the local chestnuts salesman, who was just firing up their mobile oven for another round of roasting. People passed through the frame, casting shadows onto the street that led steeply down to the river. I didn’t even take a picture. I just blinked, enjoyed the sunlight on my face, and took it all in.