Those lovely blue tiles

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Amber Christian
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One of the things that has really struck me since arriving in Portugal is the beautiful tile work on so many buildings. It is everywhere, and I love it! I find it exquisite. It makes me wonder how Portugal ended up with so much of this tile? The tile is called Azulejos. We saw this throughout Portugal, and here were some of our favorites:


One hot, sunny afternoon we visited the Museu Nacional do Azulejo in Lisbon to learn more about the tile. I am at the stage with travel where I don't like going to all that many museums- can you relate? I've been to so many museums, and sometimes my brain just goes on overload in museums. So a museum needs to be a little different to catch my attention. A museum devoted to tiles? Not something I would normally see.

As I wander down history lane, I learn that the blue tiles didn't originate in Portugal. It goes back to ancient Assyria. In many countries where Islam is predominate, the blue tiles are part of the art and cultural expression. This reminds me that Portugal wasn't always a nation the way we know it today. Part of it's history was dominated by the Moors. The Moors brought a different religion and its customs. Originally, people were not depicted in the Moorish tiles for religious religions. But long after the Moors were pushed out of Portugal, the tile making tradition remained. Tiles started depicting people, scenes, and history of Portugal. The tradition continues today, with modern twists on tiles and styles in different parts of Portugal.


While the tiles were beautiful in the tile museum, the tiles at Sao Bento train station took everything to a whole new level. The train station was built on the ruins of a convent in Porto. It is one of the most beautiful train stations in Europe! Okay, let's set the scene. You walk in the entrance to the train station. All around you are these amazing tile images of different scenes from Portugal and Portuguese history. Pictures simply do not do justice to the beauty of the tiles surrounding you.

The train station is bustling with passengers coming and going, and tourists gawking and taking in the station. As you stand in place and slowly turn around, you see one beautiful set of images after the next. It's really enchanting.

I can see why this is considered a national monument in Portugal.


The train station is Pinhao has its own set of tile images. On the surface, you might be tempted to say "But the scale in Sao Bento is so much better". And yes, the images are larger in Sao Bento. However, what makes the Pinhao images unique as how they depict the Douro region. This image is showing the grape harvest. The old traditional grape baskets that were used to carry the grapes used to make Port. Baskets would practically be overflowing during harvest as the harvest used to be done by hand. You start getting into the whole wine making history of the Douro region and imagine what it would be like.

As you slowly walk around the train station, the whole exterior is covered with these murals, showing the seasons and life in Douro. The lovely terraced hills, the wine making process and what makes the Douro region unique.

The train station in Pinhao doesn't take long to see, but give you a wonderful opportunity to step back into history.

These beautiful blue tiles all over Portugal are memorable and special. It gives me a new appreciation for something very important in Portuguese culture.

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