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Viseu, so difficult to get to.

places + travel

I happened to visit Viseu some time back for the purpose of running an errand. Little did I know that my journey that began at 7am in the morning would finally end at 11.30am in the afternoon.

Oh. My. Word.

Viseu is smack in the middle of the northern half of Portugal and honestly, not very far away in terms of distance from where I am. Unfortunately, there are no trains for the public transport user such as myself, so a trip there requires navigating the local intercity bus system, which includes both express buses and regular buses.

Now, if there is one thing that is vastly different about traveling in Singapore (where I’m from), is the specific bus times. In my homeland, buses come every 10-20 minutes, depending on the population and time of the day. Over here, however, you’ve really got to ensure you’re on time for every connection, otherwise you might end up waiting for a few hours or worse still, have no way to get to your destination until the next day! Such grief can obviously be avoiding by planning your route carefully. But I realise also that I’m quite spoiled by Singaporean public transport.

Due to my arrival at close to midday, I didn’t have much time to explore the city since I had to catch the bus back to Coimbra to take the train home at about 4pm or so. There was no way I was going to risk being stranded (!!). Nonetheless, I did take a walk from the bus station to the centre part of town, which took 10-15 minutes. It was uphill, but not entirely unbearable since I had been acclimatised to climbing steeper slopes in various cities (Coimbra, I’m talking about you).

One of the things I really liked about the centre of town was the main square – a large expanse of cobblestones and intricate masonry that’s quite ubiquitous across the country. Here, you can find the municipal office building and plenty of old folks sitting in the sunshine. In towns like these, the majority of the population you’ll find out on the streets for most of the day are the grandparents. They’ve long since retired and are spending their days drinking espressos and chatting with friends under the sun.

In the middle of the praça [square] is a nice little café which serves sandwiches and soup for lunch. Lunch hour rush usually starts at 1pm, but I was already starving having been on the road since 7am sans breakfast and also wanted to beat the working crowd, so I tucked in at noon.

Fuelled by a decent amount of food, I decided to take a walk in the vicinity. I had heard there was a cathedral nearby, Sé Cathedral of Viseu, and thought it might be worth a look. It mean, it was alright, but after living in the country for more than a year, I’ve seen tons of cathedrals by now and most of them are fairly similar. If you’re new to this type of architecture though, go for it. Portuguese churches are actually quite beautifully crafted. I’m just jaded.

Throughout it all, the walking through parks and alleyways, checking out buildings and quaint little shops, the most memorable thing for me that day was meeting an old British man outside a souvenir shop. He was incredibly chatty and said it was his 10th time visiting the country. He loves it here so much that he wants to retire here. He also shared with me that he was back again for a final time before an operation which he wasn’t sure whether he would survive. That made me a little sad, so I offered to pray for him which he gently declined and went on to share about his beliefs. At the end of our pleasant conversation I told him that I would nonetheless still pray for him in my own time and that I hope he would have a successful operation. Of course at this point, I have no idea what transpired, but I sincerely hope he is doing well.

So Viseu was memorable in a way. However, it’s certainly a one-time trip for me, for obvious reasons.

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