Where to begin in describing Braga? It’s been in the back of my mind as an Easter destination for many years, but I had not really taken on board that this is Portugal’s 3rd largest city, and not a small place. In retrospect I might have chosen a hotel with parking, but the priority was to overlook the main street, so that I could watch a procession from my balcony. Which meant driving around town a time or four, but we did eventually find free parking. And a sight we found extraordinary. Some of the traffic lights in the city had a countdown system, so you knew how long your wait was going to be. At one, a young man walked out into the road, carrying his prop, and began to perform handstands and acrobatics as the lights counted down. With perfect timing and a cheeky grin, he righted himself and walked to the curb, holding out a cap for contributions, till the lights changed again. Don’t you love an opportunist?
Please open the galleries to read the captions:
That’s just one aspect of Braga! The religious capital of the north of Portugal, we knew we would find many churches and rich architecture. Stopping off at the Tourist Information office, we collected a map of the city and some good parking tips from the helpful and highly entertaining young man behind the counter. Did he know of any guided walking tours? And so we met lovely Rita! A young lady with a green umbrella, who very charmingly and informatively showed us her city. Starting from Porta Nova, she spent 2 hours regaling us with history and interesting facts. A graduate of Braga and a musician by profession, since Covid she supplements her income with tours. Such a pleasure to spend time with, opening doors for us that we certainly wouldn’t have entered otherwise.
After the tour we stopped off, on Rita’s recommendation, at the oldest cafe in Braga, ‘Frigideira’, where we sampled the pastry named after the cafe. It was a nice peaceful spot to relax in the sunshine and watch the world drift by… but not for too long. We needed to retrace our steps to take more photos.
One of my favourite parts of the city was the Santa Barbara gardens. It was the Wednesday before Easter and the flowers were in full and glorious bloom. As we paused to admire them we noticed a man scattering mini chocolate eggs into the clipped hedges. Barely had he finished when a small tribe of jubilant youngsters were set free by their teachers to hunt for them. Whoops of glee!
Did you spot the eggs? Later that same day, a rather special procession. ‘Burrinha’, Little Donkey, as it’s known, is one of the reasons I had come to Braga. A procession ‘for the people’, it started from Sao Vincente, a little way from the centre. We ate supper as the sun set, and found a place to absorb the atmosphere, just before 9.00. People bustled to and fro, looking for a good spot or meeting up with friends. Lights went on in the rooms overlooking the street, and curtains and bedspreads were dangled for decoration. The church glowed violet blue in the distance, and two white horses tossed their heads, waiting for a signal from their riders to start. A cast of Bible characters, including Noah and the Ark, Joseph and Mary and, of course, the donkey, paraded before us. With huge enthusiasm, waving and singing as they went, young and old represented their community. Finally all had streamed past and we followed along with the good humoured crowd, unable to reach home until the procession had completed its circuit of the city. A lasting memory, and a magnificent day!
So much I haven’t shared! And still to come, the other reason I went to Braga- Bom Jesus de Monte. I think you’ll like it.