In addition to our day-to-day activities and duties in the organisation, as volunteers we have free time which, if well managed, can be put to very good use. In my case it doesn’t always work out, but this time I succeeded. Even before Christmas, at the beginning of december, I attended the second training course for volunteers (mid-term training, organised by the National Agency), which took place in Braga. Most people are in the middle of their project. During this training, we can share our comments, get advice and help to solve the problems we face during the implementation of our project. It is also a good time for reflection about our future life.
The timing of the training coincided with the annual conference organised by the National Agencies, where this year’s theme was:
“O FUTURO JÁ COMEÇOU, o futuro da participação visto pelos jovens”.
After the conference, we had the opportunity to watch the match of the Portuguese national team against Uruguay, together with the President of Portugal. The match ended 2-0 in favour of Portugal in the 1/8 finals of the World Cup in Qatar.
The next day after the training was a day off work, so why not use it in some useful way. So I stayed a day longer to get to know a popular city in the north of Portugal – Porto. The city of inspiration for J.K. Rowling’s my favourite book series from my teenage years, ‘Harry Potter’. This is the place where the first book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was (probably) written and the ideas for continuations. The author spent a lot of time in the very famous library of the Lello & Irmão Bookshop, which is now very popular. The atmosphere of this place is unique, somewhat mysterious and fairytale-like.Inside, stained-glass windows in the ceiling, bookcases climbing to the ceiling, a beautiful winding wooden staircase, the smell of old and new books, a trolley on rails for delivering books. As time goes by, the place becomes more and more popular and is overrun with waves of tourists, so there is no way for the quiet contemplation that this place deserves. The entrance fee is 5 € and the waiting time to enter can be as long as 40 minutes. It is difficult to take a picture of the interior without a crowd of people, hence the photo after it closes. Some also say that the author wrote the first draft of the book on a napkin in the now famous Majestic Café.
I was surprised to encounter students on the streets of Porto clad in the black cloaks, with which Rowling dressed the students of Hogwarts School of Magic. Students in Portugal are not compelled to wear them, although the care for tradition is so strong that students without capes are hardly seen.
The most famous site and symbol of Porto is undoubtedly the bridge over the Duero River – Ponte Dom Luis 1, where the metro line crosses in both directions on its upper level and there is a pedestrian walkway on the two outer sides.
At first glance, it may appear to be one of the largest churches you’ve ever seen. But if you look closely, you will notice that they are actually two separate churches, built on either side of the narrowest house in the world.
The Baroque-style Carmo Church (right) and the Carmelitas (left).
At the end of the day, it is a must to see the sunset, from one of the viewpoints, which is one of the popular ways to spend time in Portugal, something I have not encountered in Poland. At such viewpoints, you can meet a lot of people, sit together with friends, sipping wine and having a nice time.