Portugal – Day 2 – Porto

Today I slept in until about 9:30am. I had a delicious breakfast waiting for me downstairs, which was also very nicely presented. It had everything you could possibly want ranging from yogurt, granola, pancakes, fruit, cheese, buns. a croissant, orange juice, milk (which I didn’t drink), and coffee. After breakfast I started out on my adventures for the day

Hotel Vincci Porto is an absolutely stunning Art Deco (Modernist) hotel built in 1933. It was designed by Januario Godinho and Jose Carlos Cruz. The hotel features 91 rooms, including 4 suites, and a 4-storey restaurant. I will be staying here in a few days, just for one night.

The Porto Tram Museum, which is located right next door to Hotel Vincci Porto, opened in 1992. It is located at a former Massarelos Power Plant along the Douro River. The collection contains 16 electric cars, 5 trailers, two maintenance vehicles, and the former equipment of the power plant. The power plant was opened in 1915, and served the city of Porto for 45 years. From 1915 until the 1440s the power station produced enough electricity to power Porto’s tram network, however due to the increase in the number of trams the power supply was insufficient and became partially dependent on the city’s power supply, and in the 1960’s energy production ceased, although it remained a substation for three tram lines until the tram museum was opened in 1992. Later on in the day I got to ride on one of the history tram cars.

Arrábida Bridge is a 500 metres long reinforced concrete arch bridge spanning across the Douro River between Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. It was constructed between 1957 and 1963. At the time of its construction, its main 270 metre span was the largest of any concrete-arch bridge in the world. The building is now a protected historical item, and must be maintained. In 2016 some modifications were done to the bridge to allow pedestrians to walk across the archway, dubbed the Porto Bridge Climb.

Farolim de Felgueiras is a 19th century hexagonal lighthouse located on the Douro River. It is 10 metres tall and is constructed of granite. The views of the waves splashing again the walls is beautiful.

The Fort of São Francisco do Queijo, also known as the Castle of Cheese, is a fortification sitting on the coast. It was built in the 15th century, and is a fairly simplistic design. It was built on top of a structure that likely dated back to the 6th century. It’s suggested that the reason that it was built was to defend against the Armada of Galicia.

The Vodafone Headquarters is a unique modern building that has some brutalism components conveyed in its design. Designed by Barbosa & Guimaraes, and built in 2008, this beautiful concrete building has a dynamic modern twist to it. The concrete building has a bunch of free-form unique shapes. Internally the building is quite unique as it is essentially a shell of concrete with only three central pillars and two stairwells.

The Serralves Contemporary Art Museum is a great example of contemporary architecture, Modernism, and Art Deco architecture. The museum, built in 1999, was designed by Alvaro Siza Vieira. It is the second most visited museum in Portugal, with over 1 million visitors annually. There was a lot of audible art there, and it was fun to listen to. On site is Casa de Serralves, a beautiful Art Deco villa that was built between 1925 and 1944. The building is actually three different styles combined; neoclassical, romantic, and art deco. While I was here I had a smoked salmon wrap at the cafeteria.

Casa da Musica is a 1300-seat concert hall that was opened in 2005. The building, designed by Rem Koolhaas, is nine-storeys high and is constructed of concrete, marble and glass. It is the only concert hall in the world with two walls constructed entirely of glass.

The Super Bock Arena is a unique arena built between 1951 and 1952. This Avant Garde style arena  Designed by Jose Carlos Loureiro, it was finally opened in 1954. Between 2018 and 2019 it was fully renovated, bringing its capacity to 8000 people.

Museu Da Cicade (Casa Guerra Junqueiro) is a museum / residence of Guerra Junqueiro. This beautiful baroque style building was built between 1730 and 1746 for Domingos Barbosa, a magisterial deacon of the Se Cathedral of Porto. After his death, the house became the property was passed along numerous times to other family members before the home was donated in 1940 to the city of Porto, alongside the collection of over 600 works of art of Guerra Jungqueiro.

The Clerics complex consists of a Tower, Museum, and a Church. The church and tower are part of a baroque style building that was built between 1754 and 1763. It was designed by Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni. The tower is 75 metres tall, and after climbing 225 steps you are presented with a beautiful view of the city below. The museum is located in the House of the Brotherhood, which was built between 1754 and 1758. The museum allows you to explore the private spaces that were once part of the daily life of the Brotherhood of the Clerics. There’s a Dispatch Room, Safe Room, Registry, Infirmary, and a large collection of historical paintings, furniture, and jewelry.

The Livraria Lello Book Store is an absolutely beautiful bookstore that has been open since 1906. The building was designed by Francisco Xavier Esteves. This bookstore became one of the leading importers and exporters of literature in Portugal during 1920 to 1950. In 1993 the bookstore was renovated and restored. There’s a beautiful staircase going up to the second floor, that splits into two in the middle. It’s adorned by beautiful red steps. This was actually a mistake, because the original steps were brown, but during the restoration it was painted red. It was decided that it would stay that way, and all I can say is that it looks simply stunning. In 2013 the building received its designation as a heritage site. The building once again underwent restoration in 2018. This bookstore was featured as Harry Potter’s library in Hogwarts. Did you know that J.K. Rowling lived in Porto teaching English in the early 1990’s?

The Cunhas Warehouses are housed in a stunning Art Deco style building that was designed by Manuel Marques, Amoroso Lopes, and Coelho Freitas. Technically this building consists of three buildings with a single Art Deco facade. The main feature of the facade is the open feathered peacock displyed prominently in the middle. The building was finished in 1917.

Igreja do Carmo, also known as the Church of Our Lady of Carmo, is a Baroque style catholic church that was was opened in 1768.

Eurostars Aliados is a five-star 149 room hotel that occupies an old Art Deco style building on Avenida dos Aliados.

Farmacia Vitalia is a pharmacy located in a stunning Beaux Arts (Arc Deco) style building that was built in 1933. The building features a very distinctive facade, and was designed by architects Amoroso Lops and Manuel Lopes.

For dinner I had Francesinha at a restaurant called O Bacalhau Em Prato. Francesinha is a Portuguese sandwich that originated from Porto. The name translates into “Little French Girl”. The sandwich usually contains beef and chorizo, and then its covered in cheese and sauce. While it was tasty, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting texture wise, and of course it was quite rich.

Be sure to check back soon, when I explore more of Porto tomorrow.

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 17 – Tallinn, Estonia

Today I woke up at 530am to catch the train to Vienna International Airport to board a flight to Tallinn, Estonia. I flew on a Lauda Europe (on behalf of Ryanair) Airbus A320. Lauda Europe was having financial difficulties a few years ago, so Ryanair purchased them. It’s interesting because the plane is still painting in the Lauda Europe livery, and the staff still wear Lauda Europe uniforms.

It was raining when I arrived in Tallinn. The airport is very close to the city center, and just a 10 minute tram ride away. I boarded the tram and took it to my hotel; Hotel Metropol, where I checked in around 11:00am. I dropped off my bags and went out to explore the sleepy city of Talllinn.

It was approaching lunch time so I stopped in at Pizza Grande for pizza and a diet coke. Food in Estonia is very inexpensive; I believe the pizza and coke were only about $10.

Close to the Pizza Grande is Viru Gate, two ivy-covered watchtowers, built in the 1300’s, that mark the entrance to Tallinn’s Old Town. The main road that enters the Old Town is also quite stunning!

After a short walk through the Old Town I arrived at Freedom Square, a plaza on the South end of the Old Town. It was created by Tiit Trummal, Veljo Kaasik, and Andres Alver. It was a parking lot prior to 2010. The War of Independence Victory Column is located in the square. The column, which stands 24 metres high and consists of 143 glass plates, commemorates all those who had fought for freedom and independence during the Estonian War of Independence (1918-1920).

Nearby is Kiek in de Kök Museum and the Tallinn Bastion Tunnels. The artillery tower was built in 1475 and stands 38 metres (125 feet) high, with walls 4 metres (13 feet thick). Over the years the tower was renovated multiple times, until it became obsolete in 1760. It is now home to archives, and some floors were even converted to apartments. The Bastion Tunnels date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The town was constantly worried that it was going to be attacked, so they constructed high bastion walls around the outside of the city, as well as tunnels under the base of the walls so they could safely move around soldiers and ammunition. The tunnels eventually became forgotten, and were not found again until 2003 when workers digging a foundation near the Vabamu Meseum of Occupations and Freedom found them. During World War 2 some of the tunnel were used as bomb shelters. During the Soviet occupation the tunnels were modernized by adding electricity, running water, ventilation and phone lines.

Close by is Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a Bulgarian Orthodox cathedral that was built in Neo-Byzantine style. Construction started in 1882, and was completed in 1912. The church has the capacity for 5000 people!

Next to the cathedral is Toompea, also known as Cathedral Hill. Toompea Castle is situated on the hill, and is topped by Tall Hermann tower. Toompea is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I then walked about 15 minutes to Telliskivi Creative City, an art focused venue that features studios, cafes, bars, and restaurants. There were some buses and trains close by at a place called DEPOO, that were converted to restaurants.

After visiting Telliskivi Creative City I walked to Towers Square, which gets its name from the Town Wall towers that border one of its sides, and the fact that numerous church spires can be seen from there.

One of those churches is St Olaf’s church, which was was originally built sometime in the 12th century. It was believed that it was the town center for old Tallinn’s Scandinavian community before Denmark captured the town in 1219. The church was originally Roman Catholic, then became Lutheran during the European Reformation, before becoming Baptist in the 1950’s. From 1944 until 1991 the Soviet KGB used St. Olaf’s spire as a radio tower and surveillance point. You’ll learn a lot more about the KGB in my next blog post.

Final stop before heading back to the hotel was Linnahall, also known as Tallinn City Hall, or originally Lenin Palace of Culture and Sports. The building is situated in the harbour, just beyond the walls of the Old Town, and was completed in 1980. The 1980 Summer Olympics were held in Moscow, however since Moscow wasn’t by the ocean and didn’t have a suitable venue to stage the sailing event, it was decided that Tallinn, the capital of the then Estonian SSR, would be the perfect place to host it. The building was built to host the event, along with the Pirita Yachting Center, and a few other sports and entertainment facilities. Unfortunately the building has now fallen into disarray. The skating ring was closed in 2009, and the concert hall in 2010.

When I arrived back at my hotel I decided to go into the hotel spa for 1.5 hours. The hotel had a swimming pool, four hot tubs, a steam room, and three sauna’s of various temperatures. It was a very delightful experience, for only $14! You can stay for a maximum of three hours.

It was time to have some dinner at Restaurant Olde Hansa, which was recommended to me. The restaurant gives an authentic medieval experience with dishes that are cooked according to recipe’s over 700 years old, as well as live music. I had three different kinds of game sausages (bear, wild boar, and elk), served with mashed turnip, cranberries, and something else I couldn’t recognize that was quite delicious. Desert was oven-baked herb and juniper cheese. Overall the total cost of my meal was a bit pricier, but not too bad, about $60.

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