~porto: capital of suadade~

December 23rd, 2008

This pretty much sums it up. View from Dom Luís Bridge.

Palacio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace) in the distance.

Perhaps we should begin by speaking of suadade, which translates from Portuguese “as an inexplicable sense of longing, an unnamed and enigmatic yearning of the soul…”
(from Nick Cave’s Love Song lecture, Vienna, 1999.)


What, asks you, does the happy man with contraband muffins in each hand and song in his heart have to do with suadade? Nothing. Nada. His heartsong is light and hopeful–he is still at the heavenly parador. However, he is about to willingly sojourn south to Porto, the undisputed (in my blogland) capital of suadade.

Main drag Rua Mousinho da Silveira.




Lisbon has Fado–and we will get to that in time—but the straight up yearning that no ruby glass of Port will blunt comes from the land that Time–and most of it’s citizens–forgot.
Porto is an industrialized city built in the estuary of the Douro river in northern Portugal. Port is made in the city across the river, Vila Nova de Gaia.

Gothic cloisters of Se Cathedral.


In general, a feeling of abandonment prevails, as the city core has depopulated over the last decades, leaving the very old, very young, the very poor, and a lot of lovely empty, crumbling buildings.

Even crumbling the tiled buildings are lovely.

A high drama scene: kitty spying on caged bird through the window.

Some travel is relaxing, some romantic, some exciting, some instructional. Apparently we came to Porto to learn. One thing I learned is that until I set foot in a new place, it exists in my mind as an idealized 19th or maybe 20th century version of itself. It’s shocking when certain sadness or effronteries greet you upon arrival.



This travel Bucket o’ Reality is not unlike the first time a new lover does whatever doesn’t fit with the notion you have of them, possibly involving tube socks. Or seeming like part of the Third World while still being a chunk of European continent.



There is a significant area of Porto that is quite fancy, and what appears to be a much larger one of neglect and squalor. We found ourselves wondering why the wealthy citizens and government appeared to do nothing for this part of the population and architecture. Then I thought, which would be what? Pour some money in, fix it up, hike up the rent, and push them out? Well, no…that’s Brooklyn. And there is the dilemma, if your heart is in real estate and not social welfare.




Not since my mom and I (aged sixteen) traveled to Jamaica expecting something Hawaii-ish (having never before left the country–cut us some slack please!) have I had such a complicated travel experience, thought in this case it was all in my head. Everyone we met in Porto was kind in a way that tells you not too many tourists come through–just a few Port-lovers on pilgrimage.
In any case it was a radical departure from Galicia, heart-breaking, provoking much suadade.

One Response to “~porto: capital of suadade~”

  1. […] of them unknown–some would be less than perfect. (see: heart-wrenchingly depressed Porto and flooded with drunken dudes […]

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