Through Portugal from north to south – and vice versa

I do as much as I can to travel through Portugal, and even though it is not among the hugest countries, I have only seen a fraction by now. I proudly present the current scope of the trips done – 35 municipalities:

278 municipalities in continental PortugalHowever, to get to know something about the rest of the territory I had to look at bibliographical sources, so here come a few lines referring to my current readings: Portugal de perto and Duas Linhas.

Portugal de perto

Portugal de perto by Nuno Ferreira has to do with the crisis period that emerged around 2007 (or is it just mid-age crisis of its author?!). At that time, the awarded travel journalist with 20 years of experience faced a period of unemployment and decided to do something crazy – walk through Portugal from south to north and get to know its people and its diverse landscapes more profoundly. This was an opposition to those last-minute tasks and breaking news and quick trips journalists do by nature of their job. Thankfully, some sponsors (namely, the Expresso newspaper) recognized the idea, and voila, now that the itinerary has been completed, we have the book available!

DSC06217However personal and referring to an old dream coming true, this entertaining travelogue is also a portrait of (rural) Portugal and its people as they really are. Offering a kind of unfocused view to the country and its landscapes, it is a reminder that the urban reality we live in is not at all the only there is!

Duas Linhas

The second book also deals with the problem of how to explore a complex and shifting thing such as a country’s contemporary identity, however in a more scientific way. Architects Pedro Campos Costa and Nuno Louro invented a methodology to approach Portuguese landscapes as defining elements of the country.


On a map of Portugal, they imposed a set of parallel horizontal lines at each 10 kilometers, and two curves following the road infrastructure, outlining the country borders. Then they traveled from north to south, stopping at the defined points of intersection and making photographic documentation. The results of the survey were then gathered, analyzed and presented at an exhibition and in a book. The project dates from 2009, but for me it’s quite new, taking into account the stage of my own work and bibliographical research.

It turns out that the project confirmed the complexity of the territory, showing how littoral and interior stripes are two of all the many different and defining elements of the territory, and enabling fresh view into potentials and traps of urban development. Those were not so clearly visible using “conventional” methods for studies and planning.

The very inspiring work was presented in the book named Duas linhas, containing a selection of juxtaposed photos from the parallel registers, accompanied by interpretive texts by the two authors themselves and by invited contributors: Mário Alves, Álvaro Domingues, João Ferreira Nunes, Samuel Rego and João Seixas.

The dream of every architect

Besides designing their own house or at least a chair, every architect undoubtedly dreams about a journey: a long trip around the world that would reflect their architectural sensibility. That trip would include visits to places and buildings selected to resonate the traveler’s inner journey, that links their favourite creative themes and obsessions with the ones they share or recognize in works of their historical or contemporary colleagues. Knowing oneself and own cultural context better through exposing to and juxtaposing with different ones, through finding similar thread of sensibility and the continuity of ideas far away from home, that’s it.

I bring to mind some well-known trips from the history of architecture: the Le Corbusier’s trip to the East as a young person, that influenced strongly his entire career, is probably the most famous one. Many schools of architecture I have learned about have had the travel grants: the historical Ecole des Beaux-Arts used to award its best students with a year at French Academy in Rome, so that they could investigate Roman Antiquity in situ; Wagnerschule in Vienna also had a competition for travel grants to Rome and Italy, and there twist was made in 1896, when Josef Hoffmann went to see anonymous architecture of Capri instead of magnificent ruins of antique Rome.

To my pleasant surprise, I have just discovered there is a similar initiative here in Portugal: the Fernando Távora award. Since 2005, a travel grant is awarded by the Portuguese Order of Architects and some other stakeholders to make one architect’s dream come true. The amount of 6 000 EUR is enough to reach just about any spot on Earth that the selected traveler finds essential!

premio fernando tavora

In 1960, Fernando Távora himself went on a four-month long trip and noted down its memorable moments through texts and sketches in a travel diary. The facsimile of the diary (“diário de bordo”) was recently published in Portugal, under Álvaro Siza’s coordination. This spring I watched “1960”, a film by young Portuguese director named Rodrigo Areias, inspired directly by the Távora’s journey.

But what was the winning journey of 2013/2014 FT Award edition like?

The grantee, Susana Ventura, named it “An Expedition to the Intense Architecture”. Three keywords permeated the journey, as they permeate the research interests of the architect: intimacy, silence, contemplation. The journey lead her to Japan, Norway, Switzerland, Finland, Czech Republic, Austria, Sweden. The elements of the “travel diary” presented resembled a visual poem: very personal, very touching experience, as much about all the places visited as it was revealing the author’s own sensibility.

The award exists for a while, and a quick overview of previous winners reveals an interesting array of dream journeys: one was tracing the history of tower houses around the world, another was dealing with post-colonial topography in Angola, before that, one of the authors was exploring links of Frank Lloyd Wright and Japan, and before that, an homage to Le Corbusier’s  opus was paid …

Another great thing about the award: most of the winners are quite young authors!

The link to this wonderful competition, in Portuguese:

Photo credit:

Sivan Askayo’s trips

Recently I discovered an amazing, artful travel blog of Sivan Askayo, a photographer from New York/Tel Aviv. She has a dream job – traveling and photographing for the world’s most renowned magazines. But traveling is more than that for her: it is “a state of mind”, she says. From Portugal, there are photos and impressions from Aveiro, Coimbra, Lisbon (a lot) and, of course, from Porto.

She also pursues some personal projects, like this, named “Intimacy under the wires”. None of these photos are from the streets of Porto or Lisbon, but they could easily be depicting everyday life of the Portuguese cities!

sivan askayo

Here is the link to her blog:

Now I have the photo-guides to Aveiro and Coimbra!


Deciphering. The Saramago’s travelogue revisited

I am back to José Saramago’s Viagem a Portugal (1981), but this time I look carefully at the cover of the recently translated Serbian edition, published by Laguna (Belgrade) in 2012, within their complete collection of Saramago’s works.


The image represents a detail of a panorama of the historical center of Porto, with the – the city cathedral overlooking the downtown – as its main focus.The appearance of the image brings to mind an old drawing or etching. Seemingly, this is an old photograph done in sepia technique, which gives it a particularly poetic touch and evokes nostalgia for the times long gone.

The book contains twelve other, duly credited images: Saramago’s text is accompanied with photographs commissioned from Dragoljub Zamurović, a well–known serbian artist. Strangely, there is no data about the source of the cover page photo.

A closer inspection reveals an interesting detail of the cover image – the sky was replaced with a background consisting of a fragment of an ancient map of Portugal. However, the origin of the map could not be determined. The part of the map title included, though, indicates that it may be from a Dutch or Flemish source. Also, the sepia effect was used with intention to conceal the fact that the initial photo was a fragment of a contemporary urban setting. This effect made the old and the new elements of urban tissue blend better.

The exact spot where the panoramic photo was taken can also be determined – it is the little belvedere in Rua da Bataria da Vitória, near São Bento da Vitória monastery.


I easily found an image very similar to the one actually used for the book cover through an online search. However, the panorama included contemporary structures, such as a number of residential buildings, or reconstruction of the tower next to the cathedral (work by Fernando Távora, developed between 1995 and 2002, built on the foundations of the so called Casa dos 24, I already wrote about).


The contemporary structures were mostly excluded by cropping the picture.


Then, artistic filters were applied using graphic software, to blend older and newer structures. The original background was replaced with an image of an ancient map of Portugal.


It is even possible to determine approximately how old the image actually used for the book cover is, without particular field investigation. The following image (kindly provided by Manuel Morais, as well as the details of the location where it was taken) is from September 2007, while the above panorama that was then cropped was taken by Francisco Bernardo in November 2009. The roof of the deteriorated building next to the yellow house on the photos had already collapsed between 2007 and 2009, so the initial photo (where the roof still existed) has to be older than that period, but also more recent than 2002, when Fernando Távora’s tower was completed.


Saramago, member of the Portuguese communist party since 1969, considered himself an atheist and pessimist, and was also well known as a severe critic of catholicism. However, in the introduction of the book, the writer himself emphasized that he had no intent to advise, and also that his journey was just one of the possible stories, representing both the person experiencing and the places experienced. It is his version of a journey through Portuguese culture, encompassing 588 settlements, from far north to extreme south of the country.

Significance of artistic and built heritage for understanding contemporary Portuguese cultural identity was decisive to Saramago. Among the sites visited, a great number is dedicated to religious buildings and sites, being the Church powerful and dedicated to creating lasting values. Thus, the unknown designer’s choice of the cover image is not surprising, despite the writer’s political views.

Thank you, M!

More about the amazing Dragoljub Zamurović: (will get back to his artistic photography!)


More on the “codfish clothesline”

A while ago, I had to create a two-minute film explaining contemporaneity. Since my main research interest is the contemporary life of Portuguese heritage, I tried to do it through a story of the “codfish clothesline” (or “estendal do bairro”), the chef Ljubomir Stanišić’s dish I already mentioned here on the blog.

“Codfish clothesline” is an artwork – dish playfully addressing the Portuguese cultural identity, as seen through the eyes of a foreigner. But the chef has more intricate messages on the contemporaneity. I did some research and several keywords emerged: hungry planet, poverty vs. wealth, conflict vs. freedom. The FAO has recently announced that about 1/3 of all world food is wasted! That’s why I find the message on being rational and respectful towards food extremely important. Poverty and limitations sometimes inspire us to look at things/resources differently and be inventive. Aren’t inhabitants of Porto still nicknamed Tripeiros? The third message of the chef is about freedom, freedom to live his dreams. I noticed he declares as a Yugoslav, even though Yugoslavia fell apart decades ago. I guess it’s his way to cope and free himself of our silly divisions. And the road trip life with entire family he’s undertaking right now, it’s stepping way out of the comfort zone into more daring, more amazing adventures, and it deserves all admiration, I believe!


The film: (music comes from certain Andrew Bell)

The road trip details:

The REHAB 2014 conference

Three days in March (19th to 21st) are reserved for the International Conference on Preservation, Maintenance and Rehabilitation of Historical Buildings and Structures (REHAB 2014), taking place in Tomar, Portugal. It is organized by the Green Lines Institute for Sustainable Development. It sounds so interesting for all the heritage people with its nine main topics, ranging from theoretical considerations  to matters of inclusivity or new materials applied in rehabilitation.


Two more good things about the conference: the deadline for abstract submission is extended until December 31st, 2013, and the dear lady and a great expert Görun Arun I know from Mostar TA-MIR seminars will be in their Scientific Committee. BUT the registration fee is über-pricey – 400 € regardless of being a presenter or attendant. Well, something to keep in mind and decide about when the time comes.

The link to the conference:

Hmmm, what do I know about Tomar? Just one fact so far, it has a world heritage site, the Christ’s Convent. I adore this drawing from the travel sketchbook of a Parisian blogger/artist nicknamed Flinflin:


Portugal, zelena zemlja (Portugal, the green country).

The contemporary links between the Balkans and Portugal in literature have a history starting with Ivo Andrić’s travelogue about Portugal, from the third decade of the 20th century. Andrić (1892-1975) was a Serbian and Yugoslav writer, academic and Nobel prize winner (1961). He was born and raised in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1928, he was in diplomatic service at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in Madrid.


As a diplomat, Andrić has lived in a number of European capitals and often wrote down impressions on the countries and people. He carefully prepared for the trips, getting to know about their history and traditions from the bibliographical sources, which were also bases of his writings.

His travelogue Portugal, zelena zemlja  (Portugal, the green country) was published in 1931.

There is a translation of a few fragments of this travelogue into Portuguese available at Scribd:

José Saramago. Viagem pelo Portugal (1981)


José Saramago. Viagem pelo Portugal (1981).

The cover of the recently translated Serbian edition, published by Laguna (Belgrade) within the collection of Saramago’s works.
The book documents months of Saramago’s travels through Portugal of 1979, often off the beaten paths. Along with the refined experience of his homeland, the travelogue marks the writer’s personal, spiritual journey. It was written after the Salazar dictatorship ended and should also understood as a way of rethinking Portuguese identity in the new socio-political context. Source: personal library, book acquired in 2012.