Perhaps because Lisbon gets so much attention, I assumed Porto to be a poor cousin. It ain’t. In fact, Porto, named for the access to the sea, not the wine (the wine is named after the city) is one of the most remarkable natural ports I have ever seen. The land on both sides of the river rises steeply, but near the water’s edge a narrow land shelf gives commerce access to shipping. Today, the lower level gives tourists and residents alike a wide selection of eateries, with the occasional produce-laden vehicle bouncing along the cobblestones to supply the kitchens.
On the left side of the river, the upper and lower levels of the city are connected by a few gently sloping streets, the fortunate happenstance of geology. A walk up requires no funicular though one is available next to the bridge. Instead, a gentle climb (or descent) past small merchant stores, simple eateries, and thoughtfully renovated apartment buildings beckons the unencumbered and able-bodied. We pretended to be both.
Preservation of the city’s architectural history is a wise priority.
Porto is recovering its historic charm building by building, block by block. The economic recession (or catastrophe) of 2008 set back progress by a decade, but Portugal, unlike Greece, accepted that it needed to recover by its own will and has done remarkably well.
As was true in Coimbra, the students in Porto were celebrating graduation. There was less beer swilling and mindless merriment in Porto and more serious protest about the state of the planet. The sign here reads “Even the sky is yellow.” (To my readers in NYC, it is supposed to be blue.) Perhaps 2020 is the year when young people will rise up and rescue us from ourselves.