Learning Portuguese in a walk in Serralves

Check one more video of an outdoor class of Portuguese language and culture. This time in Serralves.

OdP’ team

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New press release

Oficina de Português issued a new press release to spread the word about the best Portuguese learning experience in Porto.

Check it out: The best way to learn Portuguese in Portugal.

OdP’s team

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Guimarães – A brief view over Portugal’s Cradle

When you want to know something about Portugal what do you think of in the first place? Portugal’s history? Portuguese explorers of the 15th and 16th century? The great touristic destination with its beaches and golf courses? Well, we think that if you are now starting to know something about Portugal, maybe it’s better to start from the beginning… of Portugal. So let us introduce you to its birth place – Guimarães. The first Capital City of Portugal.

If you’re going to travel in Portugal do not miss this city. Take a close look into Portugal’s map and you will find it in the north of Portugal, near Porto (the second largest city). To have a brief overview about this wonderful place we chose the flashback mode. So let’s start from nowadays and look backwards into the past.

Guimarães was recently named by The New York Times as one of the 41 places to go in 2011. It is described as “a city of youth fired up by its art scene”. In fact it is said to be one of the ‘younger’ cities in Europe with half its inhabitants under the age of 30. In 2012, this vibrant and history rich city will be the European Capital of Culture bringing even more dynamism into it. This European Union initiative dates back to 1985 when Greek and French Ministers of Culture joined efforts to promote an annual European city to be named Capital of Culture for one year thus generating a cultural movement sometimes never seen on the selected cities but, in most cases, one that lasts forever. Namely because of the new cultural mindset created and, obviously, because of infrastructures built for the year of events. Porto was another Portuguese city that benefited from this status when in 2001 it was European Capital of Culture. For example, Casa da Música was a landmark built for the event (although it was not ready in time for it) and it rises today as modern Porto’s major concert hall.

A view of magnificent Guimarães.In Guimarães the mindset already exists as well as some infrastructures. The main cultural venue is the Vila Flor Cultural Center. Created to be “a driving force behind the decentralization of culture”, this organization is the culmination of wider efforts of the people and institutions of Guimarães to become a cultural beacon in Iberia. And its location alone is worth a visit. The 18th century palace, with its gardens and architecture mix, takes you into the realm of Portugal’s heritage but also modernity.

As you can see, Guimarães has all the goods for a perfect cultural immersion in Portugal. The New York Times insists in naming it a place to visit in 2011 but we think that what they want is to tell everyone that 2011 is a great year to visit all low cost Portuguese destinations in this year of austerity and weak economic growth – and it is. Although Guimarães will be one of our must-visit cities in 2011, it will be one of our homes in 2012. The expected cultural offer next year will meet Europe’s demand and it will surely bring the whole cultural world to Portugal and Guimarães.

But the arguments to visit this city are far from running out. It is the cradle of Portugal. It has a Unesco World Heritage Site classified city historic center. It has a rich culture with great gastronomy and traditions and a coast line 30 minutes away by car. It has some golf courses nearby and it has landscapes that will stick in your mind (and camera) perfectly for ages. And it’s right outside of Porto, the capital of northern Portugal with international low cost flights arriving every day.

But let’s focus on one more argument – D. Afonso Henriques. He was the first Portuguese king and founded Portugal in Guimarães. Portuguese nationality, language and culture emerged from here in the 12th century when, in 1128, Afonso Henriques fought his mother’s troops and won. Still today the Portuguese maintain an especially odd relationship with their mothers and defy them in such manner that… ok we’re just joking now. But truth be told. Afonso did beat his mother with blood to found this noble country, free to be an independent kingdom (only recognized by past rulers and other European kingdoms in 1143 with Zamora’s treaty and by the church in 1179), born in Guimarães and brought up to be a 15th century worldwide potency, along with our Iberian neighbors. No kidding about this last part. We even split the world in two along the way just to keep it simple… So from Guimarães to the whole world passing through Algarve and Africa, Portuguese were first led by this man who was called The Conqueror.

And so this cycle closes (at least for now). The Portuguese path began in Guimarães and nowadays, especially next year, all paths must end there to behold Portuguese and European culture in its splendor. And where the Portuguese identity, culture and language emerged we hope that the world can submerge into Portuguese culture and learn a bit more about this great country. And you may just take advantage of one of our Portuguese Language and Culture Immersion Courses to help you on that task.

OdP’s Team

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Casa da Música – The Cultural Landmark

It’s the most modern piece of architecture in Porto. No one can refute this statement. But is it a beautiful building or even is it loved by Porto’s inhabitants? That’s something different.

Statue in Rotunda da BoavistaBoavista, the district where Casa da Música was built, was actually the new 19th century economic center of Porto. Avenida da Boavista, the 5Km traditional avenue that crosses Rotunda da Boavista (picture on the right), is one of the most interesting architectural streets in Porto. It shows a large display of 19th century family palaces that are worth a few pictures. This avenue extends from the Military Hospital to the sea and it is still one of the most important economic areas of the city. So Casa da Música was actually built in an interesting place in Porto but a very traditional one as well. And this was probably what shocked Porto in the first place at the time of its opening. People in general hated the building and wished it was gone.

Ever since it was built, initially for the 2001 Porto European Capital of Culture, it has had this strange effect on common people. It looks like a huge box landed next to Rotunda da Boavista right after having fallen from outer space. It could actually be a kind of space ship if you look at it from its main entrance. Even the stairs that give access to the main lobby look like they were pulled out from a space ship. But like all the space ships (I assume) the interior is magnificent and intriguing. The guided tours show an endless display of pointy corners, wavy glass walls and stainless steel walls. The stair cases are all different and vertigo like – it is only when you reach the first step of the stair cases that you really see a stair case and feel confident about descending to another floor. Casa da Música was designed with different levels both above and beneath the ground level.

Exterior view of Casa da MusicaRem Koolhass, the Dutch architect behind that angular design, planned a highly functional and flexible space with 2 main auditoriums, which are obviously impressive. Sala Suggia, the main auditorium, even looks cosy and open, in spite of being in the middle of that huge box with only a few windows. And the rest of the building seems to present itself as a spectacular labyrinth of stairs, corridors and pierced walls. The materials  Koolhass used are simple but full of impact: concrete, stainless steel, glass and interestingly enough tiles thus integrating the Portuguese and Dutch tradition of the cobalt blue tile work in the VIP Room (below), which is actually visible from the outside.

From a cultural point of view Casa da Música has brought a healthy diversity of sounds to Porto all concentrated in the same concert hall. It is possible to buy tickets to a classical music concert at the same time as to a Fado or a rock concert. It was meant to be the House of All Music and it is. And it was also meant to have an educational purpose, which also is effective. Casa da Música actually offers children their special experimental music rooms where they can have contact with rudimentary forms of sound thus becoming aware of the raw ways of making music.

Casa da Música houses 3 orchestras and provides people in Porto with a chance to experience music of all sorts, from classical to contemporary. It holds low cost concerts on Sunday morning for just about 5€.

VIP room in Casa da MusicaCasa da Música also dedicates each year to a country. 2010 was Austria’s and 2011 is the EUA’s year. This means that a great part of its activities will be centered in the American culture in order to give Porto’s inhabitants an overview of a foreign culture without leaving their city. Still under the motto of Porto European Capital of Culture and the city’s leitmotiv – Bridges, Casa da Música goes on extending bridges to other cultures.

So all in all, after the initial shock, Casa da Música has definitely been well integrated in Porto’s daily life, heading probably to a better place in the future in what concerns people’s hearts. It has revived an already bustling part of the city and has considerably increased Porto’s cultural offer.

One of our teacher guided tours is to Casa da Música as we consider it an important part of the city’s iconography and consequently of its cultural background, which we want to to convey to our students in the most authentic way possible. From our point of view learning Portuguese includes every aspect of the Portuguese culture.

OdP’s Team

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José Saramago’s profile

Look at your bed side table… Chances are that you may have a novel by Saramago on it! Being one of the Portuguese language best-selling authors it is likely that you’ve either heard of him or read something about or by him. If neither, act now and solve the problem. You don’t know what you’re missing. Here’s some help for you: a short article on him by one of our Portuguese Teachers that often recommends Saramago to advanced students during our Portuguese lessons!

It is true that a writer’s quality is not measurable by the number of prizes received or by the number of books written, but a writer who won more than 20 prizes in Literature (including the Nobel Prize), who wrote more than 30 books, who has almost 40 “Honoris Causa” PhD degrees and was distinguished more than 40 times all over the world has to be very good. José Saramago’s controversial ideas are still the main focus of many philosophical arguments, literary articles, Portuguese language lessons and everyday’s conversations.

José Saramago Photograph - One of the most important personalities for Portuguese Culture in the last decadesHis ideas concerning religion and the international fight against terrorism are very clear and revolutionary. He even talked of himself as a “revolutionary journalist” when he was the director of Diário de Notícias. He has always used words as weapons; he tried to fight using words, using the Portuguese language to set his points of view. His novel Blindness, adapted to cinema, is the evidence of the statement above. For some, he has a harsh and severe way of exposing his points of view, for others even it is even unbearable as he sharply uses Portuguese expressions and words along the novel. You get this sense of discomfort throughout the book as the insulting question arises, “Can’t you see what’s going on around you?!” , or even the menacing future reality “that’s what will happen to all of us if we keep on closing our eyes to what’s around us”. Blindness can become chaos, and that’s what Saramago says in a brilliant way.

He was brilliantly shocking in what he did. He is still described by his wife Pilar as “transgressor”.

The documentary “José & Pilar” recently opened in cinemas throughout the world to give us a real and more personal view of Saramago and his daily work and life. As you watch the film, you get an extraordinary feeling of compassion for that old man and at the same time, for fans of the Portuguese language and literature, an extraordinary sense of loss.

The documentary ends as Saramago has this outrageous idea of writing a novel about Caim, the son of Adam and Eve. So when you’re ready to think of Saramago as a dead writer, you have a reminder of his immortal genius as he is pictured once again as a transgressor.

Another mark left by him is the José Saramago Foundation whose main goals are the preservation of his literary work, the help and spread of the Portuguese language in the name of the old and the new Portuguese writers as well as the exchange of Lusophone Literatures. Furthermore, he wanted this Foundation to be based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and its activities and principles to also focus on the environmental problems and the destruction of the planet by global warming, before it’s too late.

62 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and 12 years after winning the Nobel Prize, the members of the José Saramago Foundation organized a meeting, in Lisbon, where these subjects were reminded, discussed again, and the speech made when he was receiving the Nobel In Stockholm was reread and remembered. And 12 years after writing it, it still makes total sense nowadays. Even more every day. And it has to, otherwise the world will be submerged into blindness.

So if you’re not satisfied with the current order in the world, if you do not agree with the political systems ruling, if you do not see where you’re heading as a member of society you must read Saramago! And you should do it in Portuguese! He is one of the best authors to read in Portuguese as he manipulates words and sentences as a true master.

If you have already read Saramago in your language and loved him, there is no turning back – you’re hooked! The next step has to be learning Portuguese and being able to savouring each word as he originally intended.

OdP’s Team

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Press release about learning Portuguese in Porto with OdP

Hi,

Read the press release about the experience of learning Portuguese in Porto with Oficina de Português. Give us your feedback about it.

OdP’s Team

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Christopher Columbus and the uncertainty of his birth place

Christopher Columbus and the uncertainty of his birth place.

Cristóvão Colombo, Cristobal Colón, Cristoforo Colombo. Portugal, Spain and Italy, they all claim to be the country where the sailor, to whom is given America discovery, was from. For Americans he’s simply Christofer Columbus, the hero (or villain) that sailed his ships, leaded by the Santa Maria, towards the discovery of their New World.

Most of the information we can find on the internet refers to a Genovese Columbus, son of a family of weavers and cheesemongers, who lived in Italy until the age of 18. The lack of support of the Italian kings is pointed out as being the main reason that made him head to the Iberian Peninsula. But this story goes much further…

Antonio Gramsci, Italian politician and philosopher from the 19th century, says that the birth place of Columbus in one point of Europe instead of another is what matters the least, the sailor himself always affirmed not to have any bonds with Italy. From the 15th century up until the French Revolution, the essence of the Italian genius lays on its European dimension. According Gramsci’s practical point of view, it’s definitely easier to take this situation as being European, as it concerns all Europe after all. Or southern Europe, for those who find this European dimension fair. When we think about this, we shouldn’t forget which roles both Portugal and Spain had, we shouldn’t forget that we were sharing almost the same language, the same aims on the Discoveries, the same religion, and the same world. Remember Tordesilhas treaty? Yes, in some point in world’s history, there was a line that divided the globe (or what was known about it back then) into two halfs. So, even though I’m not an expert in these matters, I cannot consider some arguments and statements I’ve been reading. For instance, the way the name of the sailor is written doesn’t prove his nationality. If in some documents it’s written Cristobal Colón and in others the form Cristoban or Cristóvão is used doesn’t mean we’re talking about different personalities, as well as it doesn’t say anything clear about his nationality.

But we cannot overlook the theory that Columbus was Portuguese. And the controversy is old. It’s been almost a century since Portuguese historian, Patrocinio Ribeiro, wrote a book where he claimed that the adventurer was born in Portugal. More precisely in Cuba, in the Alentejo region of Portugal, where we can see a statue of him (below). One of the Colombus statue in Cuba, Portugalarguments behind this theory is obviously linked to the alleged fact that Columbus named the island south of Florida after his birth place. Quite simple isn’t it? This theory, as others that you might know about, was recently underlined by a Portuguese author that wrote a fictional novel where he points out this alleged fact.

I am proud of the History of my country, I’ve studied the adventures of these sailors over and over at school, Portugal had colonies in every continent and thanks to that, the Portuguese language and culture is spread all over the world. If it’s true that we were the first getting inside a boat and heading towards the unknown world, then the Spanish, the French, the British, the Germans, the Italians, the Dutch took the same path and found, populated and strengthen their colonies, with the same purposes, with the same nobleness. We all naturally study the same topics with the same enthusiasm.

So, let’s see Christopher Columbus as a southern European adventurer…who happened to discover the New Continent. Both Portuguese and Spanish language are spoken there, in a large scale. Both cultures have a huge dimension in central and southern America. If I’m allowed, I’ll just keep on waiting for the results of the one thousand researches on this topic still going on at the moment.

One thing is for sure: the wife of the great explorer Columbus, Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, was Portuguese born in Porto Santo in the Madeira Archipelago. At least, the majority of the historians says so…

OdP’s Team

(check this article in our website and know more by exploring the links in the text)

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