Last November I went to Porto. I had booked the trip in the throes of my bachelor’s thesis needing the promise of an escape. The fares were low, the friend who would accompany me willing, the tickets booked quickly. We did not really place great demands on our destination, we only wanted to catch a last whiff of autumnal warmth and go somewhere we’d never been before. Porto was perfect.
Of course, a benign climate was not the only thing I looked forward to once we had decide where to go. Porto is part of the UNESCO World Heritage and thus the Old Town brims with beautiful buildings, many decorated with the famous white-blue ceramic tiles typical of the region.
As an average-sized town of about 200,000 inhabitants the inner city is very walkable, which made it easy to get a sense of the place, uninterrupted by public transport. And it was by walking through the town’s sloping streets that I discovered what Porto was really built of. Not stone, nor wood, nor metal, but stories.
You’ll find a cookie tower in the heart of the city which some brazen youths once climbed and from which they threw sweets down to the onlookers. A bit farther two bellicose churches stand shoulder to shoulder with only the smallest of houses between them to mediate in their squabble. And at every corner you can buy the local speciality Francesinha, a sexist meat sandwich that allegedly was invented in the 60s by a French immigrant.
These anecdotes make up Porto, make it truly lively and memorable. Thus, what I remember most vividly when I recall the trip is not solely the food, or the views, or the beautiful weather, but the way they were all held together by the glue of stories that adhered to every surface I touched, every street I walked. They all bled together into an underlying, all-encompassing feeling of ease that accompanied my every movement through this city.