More Ancient Graffiti

Yesterday we left Porto and had a lunch stop in GuimarĂ£es, another pleasant town with another castle, lots of churches, and a palace functioning as a museum filled with antique home furnishings, including reproductions of several monumental tapestries. It had two very large rooms whose ceilings looked like one of the Viking ships we’d seen earlier upside down; one of them had eleven tables like Ray has (they called them trestle tables) arranged as one very large table. The highlight of the visit was a conversation with four young Mormon missionaries. Ray observed that not only didn’t they know much about other religions (Didn’t know who Santiago de Compostela was, didn’t know that Limbo had just been mothballed, were entirely unconversant about the Cathars, Bogomils, Muslims, and other predecessors in heresy of Joseph Smith), they didn’t know that much about theirs (that Negroes had only been lately admitted to the category of creatures having souls). It was nice to speak English with them at full speed, something we’ve missed.

We meandered back to the Douro river valley and the area where Port grapes are grown (as opposed to Porto, where they’re aged and bottled), arriving in Vila Nova de Foz Coa. The entire area is doing really well — there is a tremendous amount of house-building happening, presumably because sales of port are doing well. Grapevines and olive trees are growing everywhere you look. They trim the olive trees really short, and the grape vines grow naturally close to the ground.

This morning we looked out the window of our hotel and saw two enormous modern windmill blades being individually trucked down the road. Each one must have been 200 feet long — I can’t think of any road I’ve been on which was straight enough to accommodate them. I hope they got where they’re going OK.

Then we went on tours of two rock engraving sites along the Coa river (Foz Coa means mouth of the Coa, where it empties into the Douro). They are said to be most remarkable for having survived for centuries in the open air, as opposed to in a cave. The oldest ones are thought to be 23000 years old. There are many rocks with several superimposed drawings, each thought to be a vastly different age (one might be 23000, another 10000, etc.), directly next to rocks which are entirely untouched. The drawings are mostly outlines of horses, goats, bulls, and deer, some with heads in multiple positions. A book we bought (hardback and in Portuguese, unfortunately) shows some of the engravings at sites or parts of sites which weren’t open, some featuring drawings of humans and various body parts.

We’ve reserved a third tour for tomorrow morning, but I think we’ll blow it off because we have an 11-hour drive to Barcelona, and I don’t want to start it at 1 PM Portugal time, getting there at 1 AM Barcelona time.