Postcard from... Porto
Porto’s Mercado do Bolhao market, the best known of northern Portugal’s capital city, is hugely colourful and bustling. But the two-storey market’s dense, twisting patchwork of tiny sales counters and stalls, offering everything from crates of live hens to wooden domino sets, port-tasting sessions and sackfuls of dujao and mantiga beans, contrasts painfully with the battered building it occupies.
Not to mention the two plush shopping malls – all elevators, split level shopping floors and acres of glass windows – situated less than a stone’s throw away.
The Bolhao – the Bubble – meanwhile, looks to be close to sinking into the land marshes that reputedly lurk below.
Segments of its upper floor landings, overlooking a huge, unevenly surfaced open-air courtyard hosting long lines of stalls, are supported by networks of equally rickety-looking scaffolding. Its broad stone stairways are cracked and crumbling and it’s hard to find a wall not begging for a coat of fresh paint.
Protected by two towering original 19th century wrought iron gates, inside there’s nothing as modern as a lift or escalator. In fact with its quantities of extremely fresh local food produce, alongside stalls offering peacock feathers, seashells from the nearby Atlantic, newly cut flowers and even giant-size wooden cutlery, the Bolhao feels like a throwback to times when shopping centres did not exist.
Quite how long the market can remain in its current state of permanent decay, though, remains to be seen.
And why are 'southern' ways of speaking spreading north?
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