This is a series about books to read as a tourist. I don’t mean travel guides, but fiction books. Writing and reading are great ways to re-visit beloved places and to reminisce about past travels.
I’m starting off easy, not with London or Paris that have loads and loads of books written about them. I start with Porto. Situated on the banks of the Duomo it is well worth a visit, (check the photo above).
Book/s to read when in Porto (Portugal).
I think that the second-best book to read before or during visiting Porto is : The Philosopher’s Stone, otherwise known as the first Harry Potter book. Yes, you read it correctly. Porto turned out to be a surprisingly Potteresque city.
I arrived to Porto in the beginning of September, just at the time when schools and universities resumed. I was standing outside the ostentatious building of the bolsa (the old Porto stock and commodities market) looking onto the plaza when I noticed a bizarre ritual performed by young people wearing orange capes and brandishing brooms, i.e, broomsticks. I watched fascinated as they performed a ritual that is quite prevalent in Portuguese universities. Later, we strolled in the busy streets and were surrounded by Tunas- groups of students playing and singing, all were wearing black capes (Trajes).
António de Oliveira Salazar was the dominant ruler of Portugal for close to 50 years, running it as a dictatorship. It’s quite obvious that Salazar Slytherin’s name derives from him. Too many coincidences made me research and find out that J.k. Rowling lived in Porto with her first husband. It’s very clear that Porto and Portugal feature in the Harry Potter books.
But that was just a discussion of the second-best book to read while in Portugal. A more apparent choice and one that is certainly infused with much more local flavor : The missing head of Damasceno Monteiro by Antonio Tabucchi.
This was the book I read while I was there. It was a real treat to read about the fat lawyer who lives in the Rua das Flores (The Flowers street) and then be able to walk up the Rua on that same day. It was fun to salivate over a caldo verde which is served in the book in a traditional restaurant, and hey presto to be able to order green soup my for lunch. The book also features the city of Lisbon which I visited later. It is a murder mystery, and has a political background that is both unique and universal (treatment of the Gypsy, i.e, minorities and refugees).
I’m not saying it’s a better book than Harry Potter. I’m saying that it’s a very Portuguese book. If you ever go to Portugal or just want a book that’s not your usual run-of-the-mill murder mystery- grab this one.