vora, Portugal


March 2 & 3, 2000

Ive made it to vora! This is a mid-evil town with Internet access (see a picture of where Im typing from at http://www.ciberevora.pt ). How cool is that? Ive gotten some great sleep, food, and finally, a shower.

Its really quite amazing how these places hundreds of years old have been re-fitted with new plumbing, electricity and all the best of the modern world without changing the tone.

The hostel is full here with a bunch of European class trips going on, so Ive made my way to a pension. I have my own room with a shared bathroom, but I think Im the only one here. The room is simple, like where youd expect a monk to stay. There is a good view of the courtyard and a dank mid-evil smell in parts of the hall and my room. Its very homey though.

For dinner I go to a restaurant. When they put bread, veggies or anything else on the table, there is a hefty fee. I think its a game they play... how can we triple the customers bill today? This time I am hungry and dont ask for it to be taken away. I pick something on the menu that sounds fun and get a new dish. I think the long title would translate to "salty meat covered with an egg and french fries with a side order of white rice."

Having a room within the city walls is something great. I really dont even have to carry a day pack! It makes a huge difference to walk around so freely and be able to get to my guidebook, spoon, film and sweater with a walk half way down the hill. My bag is a tiny bit lighter than when Ive started my journey though. Ive lost (subconsciously deliberately I think), my bag of give away goodies and ditched some stretched out underwear.

Ive got a system going where I havent used my towel yet. Heres the jist of it: Take shower Dry with dirty clothes Put on clean clothes Put on dirty socks like gloves Wash clothes in sink Hang them to dry where ever you can find a place

Ive been told that less showers equate to less changes of clothes, but fresh socks are a must and a clean shirt is a luxury I try to keep.

The weather here is, on average, perfect. Its a bit cool in the morning, but for most of the day, its very warm in the sun and cool in the shade. I zig zag in and out of the shady alleys and feel just fine.

Im looking quite "Euro" too. With a beret, a shorter hair cut and a bad shave, Id blend right in if I were a foot shorter, had a tan and spoke Portuguese!

My morning stroll brings me to an interesting chapel. What would you do with the bones of 5000 long dead monks? Why not build a chapel? Hollow eye sockets glare around the room making the center cross invisible as reminders of mortality dangle on the walls. For the first time I touch a human skill. Its sort of slimy actually. This place gives new meaning to being chilled to the bone.

Back to my room mid-day, I close the window and capture the peak of the days warmth and some flies. Off to a local caf for lunch, I point to something on the menu and the deli-man asks, "You want hamburger?"

"S, s!" And there is a hamburger on my table by literal definition. A bun with some some well sliced ham. Yummy.

Off to the town square, savory smoke from roasting chestnuts being sold off motorcycle vending carts competing on each side of the street welcomes the visitor. I find the nearby museum and other sites worth walking around or past and later come back here to look for some night life. With my new hair, cap and clean clothes, Im looking pretty good. Feeling good anyway.

The garbage men are out wearing uniforms that make them look like Robocops. These guys really hustle... they literally run to the bags of trash and throw them into the truck. Traffic is backed up for two blocks behind them. All the streets are one lane, but wide enough that you only need to find a doorway to get out of the way of a passing car. Thats wider than old Lisbon where you had to not only find a doorway to stand it, but exhaling deeply is required too.

Ive got the name of a club from the girl working at the Internet "caf." I end up there before 10pm and ask wheres the music to a girl in the street. She looks at my quizzically, "At this hora?" Well, yes. She explains to me that the place doesnt open until closer to 11pm, but the people dont really come until later. When do the people come? 2am they start to come out she tells me. You can go to a bar until then. 2am even on a work night?! "S!"

I take a walk around and go to bed. If I cant sleep tonight, I know where Ill be going. But I slept well, packed my bags and took a stroll to the town center again. The weather is perfect all around today.

I walk up the hill and theres a little jig in the construction workers strut. Music is playing and birds dance through the slit of light above the narrow and winding streets. Its Carnival 2000! A parade of school children is going on! Dressed up in all kinds of costumes, they dance and prance through the square. The tots are dressed too, but pulled by tractor on a shaded cart. Being over a foot over the average height has a big advantage now. Im getting a good view where ever I stand!

Now Im getting ready to leave these cobble stones and take the bus down to the Southern coast. A bite to eat and I blow a kiss to the walls and end up at the bus terminal ready for the next adventure.


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