It has been a while since I last visited Aveiro so this October I decided to book online with Zeca Aveiro some of the tours I wanted to go on there. Once again I decided to go by train. The journey started at 8.09 am. I paid 7.50€ for a return ticket from Porto to Aveiro. One hour after I arrived at my destination. My first stop was obviously Aveiro’s train station. This beautiful station from 1916 is covered in blue and white tiles displaying facts of the regional life in Aveiro but also from other places in Portugal. Take a look at some pictures I collected from there.
Leaving the train station and following the avenue straight ahead you will arrive to the heart of the city where the famous boats called Moliceiros are. These boats were used in the past to transport moliço which is a kind of algae/seaweed used to fertilise the agricultural fields which made them really productive and fertile. Today these boats are used to navigate the four channels that cross the city of Aveiro: Canal de São Roque, Canal Central, Canal das Pirâmides and Canal do Cojo.
Whilst navigating the channels, Mr António provided some useful information to understand how Aveiro used to be in the past and how it has developed and changed throughout the years. You will learn more about the beautiful red clay ceramic factory which today is the Congress Centre, the architecture of the city, the beautiful buildings in Art Nouveaux, the bridge with six entries and six exits unique in all Iberic Peninsula, the white gold known as salt and its economic importance for this city, the Salinas where salt is extracted from and a lot more. Mr António nicely answered all my questions and he even made the journey more enjoyable when he put a fado song from Ana Moura (a famous Portuguese fadista).
My next stop was Salinas Cale do Oiro where I was received by Mariana Alves who was my guide through this visit. She was very nice and provided me with a lot of information. I learnt that in order to produce salt we need 3 things: sun, wind (both have an important role for evaporation to happen) and salty water. In Aveiro salt is only produced during summer time (from June to September) whilst in Algarve because the weather conditions are more favourable, salt is produced all year.
All the water filling Aveiro’s channels is called Ria de Aveiro, the reason why it’s called ria instead of rio it’s because it’s a mix of salty water from the Atlantic ocean and the water from Vouga river.
During the 60’s Aveiro used to have around 270 salinas but today there are only nine. The reason for the drastic reduction is related to the fact that in the past salt was used for conservation, the fishing boats used salt to conserve and preserve fish and codfish but since freezers and fridges were invented salt was no longer used; also local people used to buy salt directly from Aveiro’s Salinas but in our days people prefer to go and get it from the supermarkets.
Salt was really important even during the Roman times it was used as a coin as Romans used to pay their soldiers in salt. And even if you think about your food and the lack of taste it would have if salt wasn’t added to it. So as you can see the industry of salt was very important for the development of this beautiful city. In these Salinas it is produced three types of salt: sal grosso (a thicker salt), flor do sal (a thinner and crystalline salt) and licornia (a plant used by famous chefs of cuisine).
Today in these Salinas there are also salty swimming pools that can be used during Summer for treatments as salt has healing properties; you can experience what happens at the Dead Sea as your body will float in these salty waters.
I also had the chance to meet one of the two marnotos (men that work in the Salinas to extract the salt), Mr Manuel Gandarinha. It is a pity that young people aren’t attracted to follow older people’s teachings and keep these traditions alive.
The Salinas are also a great place to watch the migratory birds.
I truly enjoyed this experience and I do recommend you do the same if you have the chance to go and visit Aveiro.
My morning tour ended with a tasty experience where I had the chance to savour some of the sweet specialties produced in Aveiro: Ovos moles (soft eggs) originally made by the nuns from the Convent who used sugar, egg yolks mixed together and put inside a rice paper, simply divine! Raivas a traditional biscuit made with a very thin dough that easily breaks, all of this was served with a strong liquor that in the past women used to give to their husbands before they went to the sea to warm them up. What a tasty experience! You definitely should try.
Another highlight of my visit was Museu de Aveiro which used to be the feminine Dominican convent built in the 15th century. This convent was the house of the nuns that lived secluded, without contact with the exterior and devoted their life to God. Princess Saint Joana, daughter of the king D. Afonso V, lived and died here. In this sumptuous museum you can admire the exquisite golden woodwork and the magnificent tiles. The baroque church is absolutely stunning, once you enter it you will be amazed by the superb interior.
In the same place you also have Aveiro’s Cathedral. Also from the 15th century and in a baroque style it has a beautiful façade.
Take some time to walk through this picturesque city and find other amazing places like Igreja da Misericórdia and admire the beautiful blue and white tiles that cover the front of the church.
Admire the statues in the bridges.
Visit the fish market that offers a variety of fresh fish, fruit and vegetables.
Attracted by the smell, I couldn’t resist stopping by a traditional shop and buy some coffee. I absolutely love those shops that offer you products that you can only find there with exceptional quality; the interior of these shops is beautiful, you feel you were transported back in time, such a wonder.
Before I went back to my train I still had time to go to oldest confectionary of ovos moles (soft eggs) in Aveiro, Confeitaria Peixinho and buy some to take home.
I certainly had a fantastic day and I will come back for sure.