Sunday, February 22, 2009
Last post I told you about the northern province of Minho, and today I'll tell you about Porto, Portugal's second largest city, a great place to travel.
The city of Porto (Oporto in English) is the major economic engine in Northern Portugal. Porto, like most Portuguese cities has a very long history spanning thousands of years. Archaeological discoveries suggest that the entire region that is today Porto was originally a Coastal Celtic City, perhaps the same Celts who went on to inhabit Ireland, England and Scotland. The first written historical account of Porto was made by the Romans, who invaded and conquered this region. Back then, Porto would be considered a part of the Gallaeca province, just north of Lusitania. Porto, being a coastal town was an important route of passage to Braga, the main Roman held city and administrative area in what is today Northern Portugal, and Lisbon to the south. Porto has the distinction of being the place from where the name Portugal originated. Porto, was originally named Portus Cale by the Romans, which means Port Of Cale. PortusCale was most likely the name given to the city by the Romans after the the celtic tribe, the Callaeci,who resided at the mouth of the Douro River at the time. Over time, the word Portus Cale was used to name the entire region of Northern Portugal which extended from Porto to Galicia in Spain. Portus Cale, therefore became both the name of the region of Porto as well as the first county of what is today Portugal. Eventually, the region Portucale became the name of the country Portugal.
Porto has always held the distinction of being a working city. Porto is heavily industrialized and therefore is inhabited by a very large working class community. Although many of Portugal's largest companies are headquartered in Porto, much of the glamor and financing is stolen by Porto's colorful cousin Lisbon to the south. There is an old saying that the people of Porto use when describing their place in Portugal "Porto works, Braga Prays, Coimbra studies, and Lisbon gets the money." This is a reference to the individual qualities of all four major cities. Porto creates wealth through industry, Braga is the center of religious study in Portugal, whereas Coimbra is the home to Portugal's oldest university, lastly Lisbon enjoys the fruits of Porto's labor. It's a safe assumption that people from Porto and the North in general view the capital city of Lisbon suspiciously, the sentiments of being 'ripped off' by the greedy Lisbon Capital is a sentiment often expressed by Northern Portuguese. Mostly due to what is perceived as unequal transfer funds from the Capital to the rest of the nation.
The residents of Porto are known as Tripeiros (in English meaning 'Tripe Eaters'). The people of Porto got this distinction due to their subsistence on the left overs of slaughtered cattle, primarily Tripe, which uses the first three chambers of the cattle stomach. Although eating tripe had existed for thousands of years, for the residents of Porto, Tripe eating became an art during Portugal's world Empire, which spanned from the 1400's well into the twentieth century. In order to feed Portuguese sailors who were setting sail to distant ports, most of the best cuts of beef were salted and cured for the long journeys, leaving only partly edible and many non-edible cuts left. Making do with what was available to them, the People of Porto developed tripe eating to such and extent that eventually making eating tripe synonymous with being from Porto, hence the name Tripeiros (Sounds like Tree Pay Roosh (For the letter R just roll the tongue)).
The people of Porto are known for being both hard working and stubborn. It was from Porto where the Napoleon Army met its greatest resistance in Portugal, and from where many battles were fought against the monarchy in favor of constitution. People from Porto consider themselves Northerners and are generally very conservative.
Porto has also got the distinction of lending its name to one of the world's most famous wines called Port. Although the wine we know as Port is actually thousands of years old, the name Port wine is only approximately 300 years old. Port is enjoyed the world over by people of every background.
Today, Porto is a modern city with many great attractions like the Casa da Música designed by world famous architect Rem Koolhaas as well as more iconic Ponte de D. Luís. Porto is a city that is rooted in the past but with sights set on the future. With its state of the art Porto Metro and new office buildings as well as large factories, Porto is more than just a blue collar city. Porto is a city that has everything that a tourist can hope for and a great place for your next Portugal Travels.