A view of the city and its surroundings
Egidio Santos, Rabelo-boot in de Douro-rivier
Around Porto heralds 2001. the year in which Rotterdam and
Porto will be the cultural capitals of Europe. The exhibition
in the Kunsthal - Porto's debut in Rotterdam - surveys the city's
cultural history and presents not only superb masterpieces from
its museums but also the tradition of the region's celebrated
wine. Porto and Rotterdam have a lot in common. Like Rotterdam.
Porto is Portugal's second major city, center of a strong economic
region. The dynamic. bustling port on the Rio Douro is the most
important city in the northern coastal region. It gave its name
to the kingdom of Portugal, which was founded in the 12th century.
From the 14th century Porto developed steadily into a major port
and commercial centre which was oriented chiefly towards Northern
Europe (notably Flanders). Its heyday was in the 17th and 18th
centuries. to which the baroque churches, merchants' elegant
residences and wide boulevards bear witness.
The history of the area is illustrated with paintings, sculptures,
texts and old maps. The Douro valley has been inhabited since
the Palaeolithic period. The exhibits include a selection of
examples of the region's heritage: prehistoric stone sculptures,
a beautiful 'stele' from Roman times and a fourteenth-century
Madonna from the pre-Romanic Temple of S. Pedro de Balsemao.
A glimpse of Porto's religious tradition is provided by two photographers,
Adriano Heitman and Carel van Hees, who took pictures of the
'Noite de S. Joao'. the festival of John the Baptist. whose name-day
is celebrated all over the North of Portugal in the night of
23/24 June. An impression of present-day Porto is conveyed by
architectural photographs and eight panoramas by Hans van der
Meer, a commission issued in 1999 by the Portuguese Center of
Photography at Porto. Two laid tables, one historical, the other
modern, illustrate the country's design traditions. Architect
Alvaro Siza. who may be regarded as the personification of modern
Portugal, is represented with a model of the Museu Serralves,
which he designed for Porto. Also on show is the model of the
city's new House of Music. designed by the Rotterdam architect
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue.
Porto and port are inextricably linked. The river Douro connects
the region where the wine is produced with the city that exports
it. The exhibition shows an extensive overview of the important
cultural tradition of port. The grapes are grown on the terraced
vineyards of the Douro region. It is a harsh climate for wine.
with hot summers and freezing winters. and many of the vineyards
can only be reached on foot. After the extremely labour-intensive
harvest the grapes are poured into granite vats and 'treading'
can begin. although nowadays machines are often used to crush
the grapes. In the spring the young wine is transported to the
suburb of Vila Nova de Gaia. where it matures in oak barrels
in the 'adegas' or storehouses. In the exhibition there are models
of the 'barcos rabelos', the tall sailing ships formerly used
to transport the wine. The barrels were only three-quarters full
so that they would float if the boat keeled over on the river.
which was difficult to navigate. Visitors to the Kunsthal can
taste the three types of red port - Ruby. Tawny and Vintage.