Porto in Pictures: a City of Contrasts
Author: Emma Higgins // June 27th 2016
For most of my walk through the city, my eyes are glued to rooftops. They dart around, eager to capture tiny details on the buildings that rise up either side of me. One moment I’m looking at shimmering tiles, glazed in fiery orange or emerald green, the next I’m watching lines of washing floating in the breeze, hanging from a block patched with corrugated sheet metal.
At almost every turn, I notice someone popping their head out of a shuttered window, or step onto a balcony up above me. The emerged residents gaze downwards for a while, surveying the flow of people below them. I stop to watch a few: they tend to linger for a few minutes, heads craning left and right, before returning back inside. I hear glass panes in the doors shudder as they close up behind them.
The heat is stifling. Along the busier streets a saturated smell of spluttering exhausts is noticeable in the air. I nip down the quiet avenues where possible, ambling on the shady side of pavements with directionless footsteps.
I leave old town, and my view changes. The tall, slim buildings that pack the central district become less prominent, replaced with architecture that look like they were built in the 70s and 80s. Ornate flourishes become few and far between, and regular patterns take over – lines and geometric shapes repeated across walls that stretch across half a block.
I pass an empty shopping mall with blacked-out windows. All is silent but for a little dog with a tuft of wiry hair on its head who keeps guard with a feeble yap at passersby. No one is around to stop his noise.
I reach the banks of the River Douro on the east side of town, and traffic whizzes along the bridges over my head. The sun turns the water’s surface a blinding white, a porcelain coating that tourist boats slice through every few minutes.
I hike up to the opening of Dom Luís I Bridge and begin to walk across it, now above the rooftops that seemed far away just moments ago. I reach the middle; the Ribeira district sprawls out to my right and port cellars dot the bank on my left. Trams flow in both directions across the bridge with me, gliding just centimetres from my feet and breaking my stream of thought when the whir by.
I linger on the bridge a while to soak in the city split below me.