July 22, 2017

Braga, Portugal. October, 2009

When we left Santiago de Compostela this Saturday morning, it was shrouded in misty fog, a bit of drizzle, the damp chill of early autumn in Galicia. Almost miraculously, as the bus headed south from Vigo and crossed the border into Portugal, the sun came out, bright and warm. A sign of good things to come. The first, our stop in Braga. Though the guidebooks and online sites indicated there were lockers to store our luggage at the Braga bus station, they’re weren’t. So we carried it the few blocks to the tourist office to inquire. A wonderful young man told us they were just closing for lunch but we could leave our heavy bags with them as long as we picked them up by 5pm closing time. Welcome to Portugal. And off we went to catch the bus to the Santuário Bom Jesús do Monte, Braga’s #1 attraction just outside of town. Up, up, up the double switchback stairs, up past the grottos representing the Stations of the Cross, up to the basilica at the very top, which houses a number of three-dimensional tableaux of religious/historical scenes...as well as a dolorous statue of the Blessed Virgin with seven full-size swords piercing her heart. Braga, we were told, is the most religious and conservative spot in the country. Yes, indeed. That afternoon, we took the train further south to the somewhat looser university town of Coimbra.

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