Gord: We are staying two nights in Vila Nova de Foz Côa, which would have been of no interest to us or the many other tourists here prior to 1991. At that time a dam was proposed for the Côa river just above its confluence with the Douro. During the environmental impact assessment process an extensive collection of rock engravings were discovered. The power company continued to work on the dam and the preservation of the engravings became a political issue complete with a supportive rap song “gravures não sabem nadar” (engravings don’t know how to swim). The engravings eventually won (sorry Dad) and Unesco designation followed.
The area is still an active research area so the engravings can only visited on tours organized by the related museum. We were fortunate to get on a two hour tour with six other tourists and our guide. The engravings are made by pecking or scratching the smooth surface of the schist rock. They have been made during various periods, from the Paleolithic (depictions of animals), the Iron Age (which includes images of warriors on horseback), through the historic period (Christian symbols). We saw some of the earliest engravings, which are 30,000 years old. They were representations of aurochs (cattle forbears), Mongolian horses, goats and other animals. Although these are engravings rather than paintings they show stylistic similarities to the paintings at Lascaux, Altamira and other Paleolithic sites. It is quite moving to see works of art that are that old, knowing that the artists lived in an entirely different world, yet are physically indistinguishable from us.
Ruth: Gord’s Portuguese colleague Rick insisted that we stay in at least one Posada ( A luxury guesthouse similar to Paradors in Spain), so here we are in Vila Foz de Coa at the “Posada de Juventude”. That’s the name given to Youth hostels in Portugal.