Spain and Portugal

The ferry brings us in only 90 minutes from Morocco, past the rock of Gibraltar, to the European mainland in Algeciras. We step on the gas and drive on to Seville. There, just one week before Easter, the Semana Santa begins. Between Palm Sunday and Good Friday, up to eight different processions a day pass through the streets to the big cathedral. The focus is on the ancient and preciously decorated images of Jesus and Mary. These heavy pedestals are carried by 12 men. Every 100m they have to be set down and breathed, and every half hour the entire carrier crew is changed. The accompanying penitents, who appear depending upon brotherhood in differently colored cowls with pointed hoods, remind of the Ku-Klux-Klan. 

 

But in between there is still enough time to look at the beautiful historic buildings and stroll through the narrow streets. The capital of Andalusia has more than 700,000 inhabitants and is the fourth largest city in Spain. The Cathedral of Santa Maria, built between 1420 and 1520, is considered the third largest in the world, after St. Peter's in Rome and St. Paul's in London, and is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. The interior is truly massive and the art treasures are uncountable. The bell tower is 92m high and you can climb up a ramp to a platform and from there you have a beautiful view over the city.  

 

The Real Alcazar is the oldest royal residence in Europe and even today the king resides here when he is in town. Pedro the I, nicknamed the Cruel, had it built for him in 1364. A visit of the palace with the connected gardens in which one can stay for hours is a must despite an endless queue.

Another highlight is the bullring that was already built in the 18th century and is considered to be one of the largest in Spain. There is even an own operating theatre where horn wounds can be quickly treated. Every day, there are several guided tours during which one can get a good impression, even if there is no bullfight. 

 

Beside the countless historical buildings and places there are of course also the many pubs and tapas bars where you can really immerse into the Spanish way of life. During the three days we spent in the city we enjoyed this as much as the many sightseeings. Let yourself be inspired by the pictures. Sevilla is worth a trip and we liked it better than Barcelona. 

We drive on towards Portugal and take a break of two days on a campground shortly before the border in order to process all the impressions of the last days. Then we go to Portugal to the Algarve. Our first stop is Tavira, a nice town for a city stroll.

In Faro we circle in vain in the narrow streets in search of a parking place and finally give up. But in Armacao de Pera, a few kilometres behind Albufeira, we find a nice parking place directly at the kilometre long sandy beach. There we stay two days and pass the time with long barefoot walks, eat fresh fish and drink good wine. 

We continue along the Algarve with beautiful photo stops and long walks along the typical bays and cliffs in best photo weather.

Unfortunately the weather changes and it becomes rainy and much cooler. In addition, with the dimensions of our monster mobile we hardly get into the narrow alleys of the many fishing villages. And when we are inside we don't find a parking place, because almost everywhere the parking places have a height limit of 2m. So we drive a little faster than planned to Sagres to the most southwestern point of Europe. In Luz we visit a friend of our son Felix who has a restaurant there and shows us a very nice overnight place directly at the sea. 

In Odeceixe river and Atlantic come together and have created a beautiful sandy beach at the mouth and we stay one night. Unfortunately it is too cold for swimming. Then we make some distance, leave out Lisbon because we know the city from earlier visits, and drive further north to Obidos. Unfortunately, we are not alone in this beautiful little town because it is just a chocolate festival and accordingly there are whole armies of coaches on the way. But nevertheless it is worth a stroll through the picturesque place that is surrounded by a city wall.  

On the way to Porto we make a stop at the beautiful beach of Nazare with a "living museum" for Bacalhau, the traditional Portuguese stockfish and in Aveira, a beautiful town with canals like in Venice. 

In Porto we go to a campsite just outside the sea. The bus departs directly in front of our front door and brings us very relaxed in 25min to the center. Well, relaxed is perhaps not quite right because the bus drivers race through the narrow alleys and right and left hardly fits a picture newspaper between house wall and parked cars. Even a crash of the right side mirror doesn't bother our driver and doesn't our driver or motivates him to slow down.

Porto is not for people with foot problems. It's always going up and down all the time and you have to cover some meters of altitude. We find the city beautiful and ugly at the same time. Many houses look as if they would collapse at any moment and at every corner there is a construction site. The main attraction is the Waterfront of the Douro River. There, one has a nice view to the city and on the left side of the river there are also the many port wine tastings. Lucky enough friends from Germany are on a short vacation in the city and so we don't have to do the delicious food and the many port wine tastings alone and have a lot of fun together.  

From Porto we decide to leave the coast for the time being and drive through the Douro valley to Leon. There is a nice camper site close to the city where you can easily reach the centre on foot. We stroll through the beautiful alleys and eat delicious tapas with sparkling wine. The highlight is the beautiful gothic cathedral from the 13th century which was built in only 50 years. The dimensions are enormous and the design of the interior with its countless works of art and the 125 colorful windows is unique and we liked it very much. 

Shortly after Leon we meet Ritschi and Hermann from Bad Tölz who are walking the Jakobsweg with their daughter Anna, 800km from the Spanish border to Santiago de Compostella. That means Ritschi and Anna are walking and Hermann accompanies them with BayerMAN. So the mobile and comfortable hostel is always in reach. We spend a nice evening together and in the morning our ways separate again. 

In Santillana del Mar we stroll through the small medieval town that is completely under monument protection and then we continue to Bilbao. Also here, there is again a camper van parking place on the mountain with a wonderful view to the city and a bus takes us from there to the center within 30 minutes. Since the Guggenheim Museum was opened in 1997, the city has developed into a modern art center and is one of the most popular city destinations in Europe.

At the bank of the Ria de Bilbao there is the impressive museum building of the architect Paul Gehry who also designed the Concert Hall in Los Angeles that was built in 2003 and that we could see last year.  Fixed and changing exhibitions can be seen on 11,000 sqm of exhibition space. We liked best the huge walk-in steel installations by Richard Serra that turn the feeling of space upside down.

The old town is completely car-free and a stroll through the narrow streets is really fun. Just like the many tasty tapas, which are called pintxos here, and are offered for consumption in the showcases of the various bars. Then add one or two glasses of sparkling white wine and the world is fine. 

Now it is enough for us with tapas, pintxos, wine, narrow streets and cathedrals. We skip San Sebastian and drive straight on to Bordeaux. There we visit a winery, of course with wine tasting, where you can also spend the night. The remaining 1000 kilometres to Germany we make with three overnight stops. 

Now we make a short travel break and then it goes approx. in the middle of June further to Turkey and Iran. We will be happy if you continue to accompany us on our travels and will of course continue to report. Until then have fun reading and looking at pictures. 

And finally a few nice snapshots

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