30 March 2012

Afonso Henriques
Guimarães is an important historical city of Portugal.  Its history traces back the 9th century, the formation of Portugal, the birthplace of Portugal nationality.  Probably it's because the first Portugese Alfonso was borne here.  The town centre is Unesco historical site. This year, 2012, Guimarães is chosen as the European Capital of Culture.  It explains the tourist crowds.

Our first unplanned spot is Guimarães Vila Flor Palace and Cultural Centre.  The palace was constructured in mid-17th century.  It is decorated with granite statues of the first kings of Portugal and surrounded by a 3-terraced garden.  It was refurbished in 2005 when a Cultural Centre of the same name as built.

The second spot waiting to welcome us is the Church of S. Francisco. Inside the decoration is rich.  Gathering or mass was in place when we entered.  We were picked by a man working there, led to the front left hand corner when an old man was talking about the church to a tiny group of French.  Well, it's not a paid tour but the man working there conducting the tour costless, from a passion of loving the church and country to showcase the beauty.  Further inside is a beautiful courtyard.  The building also serves as an elderly home.  Old people moving, resting...... It looks like a place of antiquity.

We then took a detour to appreciate the beautiful Church of S. Gualter with two spires.  The construction began in 18th century but the spires were added in 19th century.  We did not visit the inside but headed to the historical centre due to short of time.  The morning light put the church facade in a shadow.  Photo shoot is best in the afternoon.

Slowly we arrived at the Square of Santiago.  It is believed as the earliest settlement in Guimarães, founded by Frankish knights who came with Count Dom Henrique, the father of Portugal’s first king. It is one of the most beautiful spots in Guimarães.  A cosy pleasure to have lunch sitting in the open square.  Well, don't have high expectation of the food.

Next to the square stands the Church of N. Sra. de Oliveira, Romanesque style, construction dated towards the end of 14th century.  Inside the church decoration is minimal.  I like the raw form.

Heading north from the square of Santiago took us to the Palace of the Dukes of Brangança.  It was built in early 15th century by Afonso, Count of Barcelos, the illegitimate son of John I of Portugal.  16th century marked the decay of the palace.  In 19th century local people turned it to a personal quarry.  Until 1910 it was classified as national momument and became the official residence for the presidency.

Around the palace are the Chapel of S. Miguel, the first king was baptised according to legend, and Guimarães Castle.  It is dated back to 10th century, constructed to defend against Muslims and Norman attacks.

Guimarães is not only the few tourist spots but has its charm with the medieval atmosphere.  A few shots of the architecture around to leave you a final impression. 

Our last stop is a cafe in a very beautiful building.  Once into the opened-door venue, the sight was elderly people chatting to spend the afternoon together.  Even the waiter was aged. The hot chocolate and coffee were sweet.  A feel of going through a time tunnel.......  Next to the coffee house is the wall showing 'Aqui Nasceu Portugal', Portugal was born here.