30 June, 2011

Aveiro, the "Portuguese Venice"

I know - those long boats and canals look familiar. At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking those are gondolas on the Grand Canal in Venice. Nope. Although similar to gondolas, these are called moliceiros, and the locale is Aveiro in Portugal.

Not to worry if you hadn't heard of Aveiro, neither have most of the Spanish people I've met. Located just an hour outside of Porto, this small city is often dubbed the "Portuguese Venice" because of its similarities with that more illustrious Italian city. 

Having visited three big cities in a row - Granada, Sevilla and Lisbon - I wanted a break from the crowds, and needed a place to simply relax and be free from the pressures of sightseeing.

There are lots of smaller towns that touted their features in glossy brochures, but Aveiro stood out because of the novelty factor. Like any tourist, I was curious about those canals and long boats, not having any plans of visiting touristy Venice anytime soon (I took the gondola ride there ten years ago), I figured the city and moliceiro ride would be a good substitute.

Clearly the forty-five minute jaunt on the canals was going to be the highlight of my stay here. After a short wait to gather the minimum six passengers (on a weekend!), we set sail and passed underneath numerous bridges (the most interesting is pictured above with Aveiro's emblem), saw the huge McDonald's logo pasted on the huge mall dominating the center of town, and a few other noteworthy buildings. The architecture along the banks doesn't exactly inspire comparisons with Bruges or Amsterdam, to be honest.

Moreover, sorry to disappoint romantics, but there is no hunky gondolier in striped shirt rowing the moliceiro  and belting out opera arias as you sip expensive champagne. Commentary is provided by a staff person who struggled to be heard above the din of the motor as he alternated among Portuguese, French and English, with varying levels of proficiency in each. 

That proved to be the only touristy thing I did in Aveiro, and two days passed by quickly spent just strolling around, visiting the upscale mall with all the name brands, and eating a lot of sweets. So, it wasn't quite like the real Venice, but then that was probably for the best.

1 comment:

Centro de Portugal said...

Thank you so much for your marvellous text! Aveiro is indeed one of the top destinations of Centro de Portugal region! Follow us on Facebook and become a fan: