Day 15: And Now, A Famous Cockerel

We haven’t been sleeping well, so today was an early start and we were out the door by 8:40am to get a better look at Braga. It was drizzling when we started, but that soon let up and there were brief intervals of actual blue sky.

Main Braga thoroughfare

Main Braga thoroughfare

There is something very alluring about Braga. It’s the 4th largest city in Portugal yet I don’t know how much tourist traffic it gets. There was a real, livable feel to it, especially as people were buzzing about getting started on their day, and overall it had a positive vibe and an interesting mix of very old and very new architecture.

Naturally they have a castle and cathedral, as any self-respecting Portuguese town seems to have, but this particular cathedral had not one, but two gold gilded pipe organs vaulted up in the ceiling (entry €2/person). They were very ornate and I’m sure wake up the entire town when all those pipes were fired up on full blast.

Not THE famous Barcelos Cockerel (this design, in fact, is a result of dictator Salazar's wish of revamping Portugal)

Not THE famous Barcelos Cockerel (this design, in fact, is a result of dictator Salazar’s wish of revamping Portugal)

After walking about town for a long while we headed back to the Ibis under the threat of dark clouds, rounded up the car, and drove to the nearby town of Barcelos in a driving, pouring rain. Fortunately, right around the time Jim found a great parking spot the rain subsided and sunny skies started to emerge again. This was good because the Barcelos stop was one I had been especially looking forward to due to the very famous Cockerel Story.

Now, you may have already heard the famous Barcelos Cockerel Story before, and stop me if you have, but it basically goes like this: a crime was committed in town about the same time an unwitting, innocent stranger is passing through on a pilgrimage. Of course, all fingers are immediately pointed at him as the perpetrator and he is sentenced to hang. He pleads his innocence, and begs to see the judge who sentenced him. So they drag him over to see the judge, who happens to be hosting a lively dinner party that includes a roasted cockerel on the banquet table. The condemned man points to the cockerel and avers that he is so innocent that that very same dead roasted cockerel will crow when they hang him. The judge thinks he is loony and doesn’t commute his sentence, but decides not to eat the cockerel, you know, just in case.

Still not THE famous Barcelos Cockerel (although getting closer...)

Still not THE famous Barcelos Cockerel (although getting closer…)

The very next day, and at the very same moment the chair was being kicked out from under the hanging man, dang it if that cockerel didn’t leap up from the table and crow its little well-done heart out. The judge immediately ran down to the gallows and found the man still alive due to a faulty knot in the rope. The man is freed, the judge is embarrassed, and I’m a little unclear what became of the spirited roasted cockerel.

And this is exactly the reason we found ourselves in Barcelos. We located the TI for a map and after the very sweet TI woman finished pointing out a few churches, chapels, and other assorted ancient ruins I asked where we could find the giant cockerel monument. You came to see the cockerel?, she asked, a little confused. Yes, doesn’t everyone come to Barcelos just to see the famed giant cockerel?

(As an aside, she also asked us where we were from. Jim asked her to guess, and she looked directly at me and said, well, my first thought was you are German but the lady is too short, so I’m going to guess Dutch?  Then she added that we spoke pretty good English, which made us blush.  Awwww, go on…)

Off we went, finding some ancient bits along the way before finding the main attraction. There he was, larger than life and standing proud and tall. Aaaah, the famous Barcelos Cockerel. Our work in Barcelos was complete.

This is it! This is THE Famous Barcelos Cockerel monument!

This is it! This is THE Famous Barcelos Cockerel monument!

Back in the car, we decided since the weather was somewhat holding out we would try to get a closer look at Bom Jesus do Monte (Good Jesus of the Mount). The design of Bom Jesus, with the Baroque crisscross staircase, inspired similar architecture throughout Portugal (and Brazil), and the church itself was just elevated to Basilica status in July of this year by Pope Francis. I’m not entirely certain what that means, but it sounds like a big deal whenever a pope gets involved.

There are 4 ways to get to the top: one is to drive, one is to take the funicular (€1.20/each), one is to sweat your way up the almost 600 stone steps on foot, and the other is to sweat your way up the almost 600 stone steps in agony by doing it on your knees like the pilgrims do annually. This should come as no surprise, but we took the funicular (which, by the way, moves entirely by water counterbalancing).

We were the only ones in the funicular car, and at the top we found not only a beautiful basilica, but almost no people. It was nice to roam the grounds in relative quiet before making our way down the almost 600 stone steps on foot.

Bom Jesus do Monte

Bom Jesus do Monte

As it was only mid-afternoon and we had time to kill, our next move was to drive up to Portugal’s only national park, Peneda-Geres. It only took an hour to get there (and there’s a TI at the roundabout of N304 and N308-1, south of Admeus), but it was overcast and dark clouds were in the neighborhood.

Up the mountainside we went, following narrow, steep, switchback roads.  We stopped at a few viewpoints, hiked up to the Cascata do Arado (waterfall), and appropriately marveled at the natural beauty before coming back down the mountainside. Along the way down we were caught up in a goat jam, as 2 local herders and their dogs were bringing the motley crew back to the barn. We sat in the car quietly waiting for them to pass, and it was at that time I decided goat herding looks like one of the best jobs on the planet.

The skies opened up and it started pouring like we hadn’t seen in, oh, a day or so, as we drove back to Braga. We grabbed a quick bite to eat on the outskirts of town before retiring to the room, exhausted.  All of the cathedrals, castles, cockerels, and cork were starting to wear us out, and it was decided that our next move would involve relaxation by another ‘c’:  the Atlantic.

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Peneda-Geres hillside, with switchback roads

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Little Miss Cleo, all alone in the lot

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Cascata do Arado

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Goat jam

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