Portugal in the Box – #31

Sunday 29th June 2008

Miranda do Douro

I spent a lot of yesterday evening and of the day today trying to catch up a little bit with all the ink sketches I have done along the trip, putting some watercolour… I managed to finish some, and it is a good feeling, but of course I did some new ones in the morning as we rode to the town on the bikes, and they too demand colour…
We spent some hours outside with the bikes today, first by the medieval part of the town, then by a little river which the town has arranged in a lovely way. Bike tracks, bridges, and a great cafe by the river, where I spoke to a Portuguese man, the cafe owner, again one of the ones who spent most of his life abroad, 34 years in Paris. He loves France, but he loves his country too, and he agreed with me that the Spaniards have changed a lot, the word „arrogant“ coming up some different times.
Kevin and me are trying not to fall too much into this antipathy with the Spaniards as we live there and for me it is a basic need that I like the people from the country I live in. But it becomes more and more difficult. Today for example, I was sitting on a little wall, sketching, quite apart from the crowd of Spanish tourists who had invaded the church. Suddenly one older guy headed in my direction, shouting all the time:
!I knew it, I knew it!“
As he was closer to me, he had a very superficial, furtive glance at my sketching book and then looking at me, he repeated, again and again:
„I knew it, I knew it!“
I really disliked that man, he had a very arrogant face, and manners as if he were the King of the world. I asked him:
„What did you know?“
„I knew that you were drawing!“
What a deep knowledge, really!!!
Then he said:
„Very good, very good, you are a great artist!“
and went away again. I could swear he was not aware at all of what I was drawing, the glance he had at it was much too short.
Well, I can´t help it, I hate this behaviour. The disturbing, and the superficiality. It makes me feel sick, really. In the 4 weeks since we’ve been here, there was not one Portuguese person disturbing me when I was drawing. Sometimes I could feel that they were curious, but they always controlled their curiosity and left me alone.

By the way we were visiting the church too, and were amazed by a strange, small statue in a glass class. It featured a little man, with some green court clothes on, and some kind of melon hat, and a lot of little fancy dresses were hanging around him in the case. A very strange thing for a church, considering too the fact that the little man had a Japanese face. We were wondering what that might be and exactly at that moment the Spanish group with their guide approached the little man. I stood there a while, listening to what the Portuguese guide had to tell about the statue. The story was quite hilarious, in fact extremely naive, but told in a very serious way. The little man was a little boy, who appeared every time when the Spanish armies wanted to invade Miranda. The little boy always went to alert the small military presence who were living in this fort here, who themselves went to Porto and Lisbon to get the big Portuguese armies. In the meanwhile the little boy was standing at the entry of the town and after a while the Spanish armies decided to go away, conscious that they had no chance to invade the town with the little boy standing there!!!! As the big Portuguese armies finally arrived, the Spaniards were gone for a long time already!
The little boy has become a symbol of protection of the town and the pregnant woman pray to him to protect their new-born sons (notice, not their girls!). The town changes the clothes of the little boy according to the seasons.
And the melon hat? Well, at that time the Portuguese were following the English fashion and the little boy had a melon hat. But the first hat he had was made out of cardboard as he had no money to let a real one come from England, and this is the reason why they called the little boy:
„The cardboard Jesus“
I won´t repeat the word which Kevin said as I told him the story, but of course he could not help feeling very proud about the part concerning the English fashion!!!
Well, if I had belonged to the group I would have asked the guide:
„And why the Japanese face?“

By the way there is another thing which seems to be worth a series of photos or drawings in Portugal. Unfortunately I noticed it only some days ago: the little sugar bags they serve with the coffee are always quite beautiful and interesting. Today by the cafe at the river, I found them simply great. On a bright red background, is written:
„Make somebody feel special and dedicate him a book…“
and under that line is featured a book, always a different one of course. What an idea, isn´t it?
Really the Portuguese amaze me with their ideas. You can feel this creativity everywhere and all the time. Nerxt time when we will come to Portugal, I will certainly go to some museums and look how they paint, as I have no idea! I wonder if this creativity is reflected in their art too.

So, it is later in the evening now, about 10h PM, we will soon have our dinner outside, again, by candle light. By the way, it was funny tonight as a little wind came up. The awning outisde was making such noises that I had the feeling to be in a sailing boat… I quite loved it!

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5 Responses to “Portugal in the Box – #31”

  1. Susan Cornelis Says:

    Loved the story about the Cardboard Jesus! Your trip seems much more peaceful at this point than at the beginning with all the festivals.

  2. Miki Says:

    Well Susan,it is not quite true, the biggest festival is about to come! Unfortunately I stopped writing around that time as we totally lost the internet connection in the last 15 days…
    I loved the Cardboard Jesus story too… it is so wonderfully fresh and naive. I have started to learn Portuguese today, because I have the feeling there is a lot of wonderful stories to listen to in that land…

  3. I drew it through the Grapevine… « Café Crem: “Back to Coffee Cups!” Says:

    […] place. This photo was taken in Miranda do Douro on such an occasion, I was sketching in the town (read the story) while Kevin was sitting on this lovely terrace in the shadow of the grapevine. After a while I […]

  4. Bonny Says:

    Your story about the Cardboard Jesus gives us such an interesting insight to the tradions and beliefs of the Portugese people. There are stories like tat in Italy, too. I find that people in Europe are more superstitious than we are here, at least in our cities. I guess we’ve lost
    that trait as we hurry through our busy lives in the big cities we live in.

    Good luck with the Portugese language! I get a vocabulary word e-mailed to me every day in Italian and German. It is free. Just an idea for you… Check http://www.transparentlanguage.com and choose their free vocabulary ‘word of the day’.

  5. Miki Says:

    Great idea with the e-mailed word everyday. I will try it, it seems to me the right amount as I really have no time left right now! But Bonny, you speak already quite perfectly German, don’t you?
    Yes, perhaps we are more superstitious in Europe, at least in the Southern countries like Portugal and Italy. In Spain I never had the feeling it was the case, but I might be wrong. In France though we are definitely not superstitious! I guess the French think that they are much too clever for that… 🙂


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