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Trains, Friends, Yoga and Port Wine

I am sitting in the TGV train from Bordeaux to Paris, traveling at 320 kph (199 mph) and thinking to myself “that’s the way transportation has to be in Europe”. 2.5 times faster than a car on the same route, no need for the drive to and from the airport when flying, no annoying security checks and long waiting times at the airport, and in 2 hrs and 8 minutes from city center to city center, faster than any plane journey and much more convenient and relaxed.

I have been to Porto before, when I was 18 years old and on Interrail. (Interrail is a European rail pass which allows you to travel for a flat rate on any number of trains and with any number of stops for several weeks throughout Europe.) At that time it was normal to travel longer distances by train and budget airlines basically did not exist. I also remember taking the overnight sleeper train once from Vienna to Amsterdam, a sleeper train route which only recently has been reintroduced. Sleeper trains have gained a lot of popularity in recent years, because people realize that with the advancing climate change, we have to change the way we travel. It was a brief stopover that time in Porto and I do not remember much, apart from sampling some delicious port wine with my two friends and travel companions, one of whom came to visit us in Porto this time with his wife. We couldn’t find the port wine tavern anymore where we enjoyed what was probably our first port wine in life, but drank a Porto Tonic close to where we believe the tavern would have been those days, sitting in the Jardim do Morro in Gaia overlooking the Douro river and witnessing the sun setting. Porto is a really cute city and the views from various points in the city are extremely beautiful and just don’t get old.

We enjoyed our month’s stay in Porto a lot. We stayed in the bairro Bonfim and it was really a good end (bon fim) to our stay in Portugal. Our apartment was in close proximity to a lot of typical Portuguese houses with their beautiful tiles and I therefore enjoyed my walks in the neighborhood a lot. We were again centrally located enough to be able to walk to most places, living a mere 20-minute walk from the Dom LuÍs bridge away. The ruinous and new houses next to each other is a part of Porto’s charm. It’s not all shiny and you have the feeling that there is space for creativity and new things. You can see quite some street art and we even saw some in the form of tiles, something I haven’t seen anywhere else in the world.

I tried to keep the healthy lifestyle going, which I started in Lisbon. We ate a lot of vegetarian food also thanks to having two excellent vegetarian restaurants in town, offering very reasonably priced dishes. I continued with my running routine, running mostly around 5 km and also went for yoga twice, to a very friendly yoga studio as the name “Cozy Yoga” already implies, trying for the first time one Vinyasa yoga class and doing one of my usual Hatha sessions. It made me think that one advantage of living in a different place every month is that I can try different yoga styles and get to learn from different teachers. My list of things I want to do in each place is getting longer. So far I have decided on getting a piece of art everywhere, reading a book by an author of the country and now taking at least one yoga class.

Speaking of art, we also happened to see an amazing piece of art bei Ai Weiwei in the Parque de Serralves with friends who came to Porto and had just seen one of his exhibitions in Vienna. This park is really magical and pretty and we saw the 32 meter high Ai Weiwei sculpture in the form of a tree trunk from far away. It looked so hyper realistic that even when getting as close as a few centimeters to the trunk, it was hard to believe that this was actually not a dead tree trunk, but an iron sculpture, which depicts the environmental destruction caused by humans.

There is nothing like friends and if you can’t see them because you are living a nomadic life thousands of kilometers away, what else can you wish for, but them coming to the town you’re presently living in. Porto even rewarded us twice with this pleasure.

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