2008 EUROMEETING IN
Since 14 years,
the members of the European Group of Retired Staff from Saving Banks, Banks and
Related Institutions have been fighting with passion and honor in order to live
decently and with recognition, in a more and more selfish and materialistic
between 600 retired people from Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Belgium, England, Scotland, Sweden and Germany was held
last April. The aim was to exchange and share points of view. This year, the
Euromeeting was hosted by the Albufeira, the biggest holiday centre in the
region of Algarve.
It is a place
where the sea, the famous beaches, the cliffs and reefs play the main role. The
pace of life is determined by the tourism.
It is worth visiting the old part of a town which was once a fishermen
village, with its narrow patios and Arabian style arches. There you can feel the
atmosphere of yesteryear. The most beautiful structures are the Igreja da
Misericordia and the church of Sao
This year motto
during the General Assembly was “the discrimination to the elderly in healthcare
and socio-political fields”. The representants talked about the situation of
pensioners in their respective countries and gave their opinion on the changes
that need to be done.
expressed will be gathered in a final report that will be sent to the AGE
Platform and to the European Parliament in Brussels, in order to force the Ombudsman to do what is necessary to take clear decisions
about the situation of the elderly, and to draw up new
We were all
taken aback when we learned that Mr. Franco Salza had unfortunately resigned
from the presidency of the European Group. At the present time, the Italian
Federation is going through economic difficulties due to several proceedings it
got involved in on behalf of retired people and which exceeded the budget; and
also due to the fact that the banks withdrew their subsidies. So during a time
the Italians will be sympathizing members, in the expectation that the problems
will soon be resolved.
presented this year invited orator: Mr.Göran Collert, President of the Pension
Funds of Swedish Saving Banks. As an expert on pension issues, he gave us clear
and direct information about pensions in Sweden and in Europe. Once more we could see that the situation differs
from one country to another. There is still plenty of work to do to erase those
differences in Europe.
thanks to well organized trips along the south cost of Portugal, we discovered the Algarve. The
region is delimited by sandy beaches on the east side and by bays and riffs on
the west side. There is no industry there and the region only lives on tourism.
There are 500.000 inhabitants, and during the high season, nearly 1 million of
Portuguese and between 6 and 8 million tourists from abroad make their way to
the Algarve. It is hardly thinkable to go
there on summer holidays.
During our first trip, we visited the busy market of Loulé. We were
impressed by a wide variety of fish, fruits and vegetables. Then we visited a
small church at the top of a hillock, consecrated to Nuestra Senhora da Piedade
(Our Lady of Piety). From that place we could look out on to the town, the
country and the sea.
During the Holy Week, a historic procession carries the portrait of
Nuestra Senhora da Piedade from the chapel in the mountain down to the local
church, on the outskirts of the town. Two weeks later, the procession, in a
festive mood and gathering even more people carries the portrait back to the
Then we went to Alte, a typical village of the Algarve. The
streets of the old town have preserved much of their traditional character.
Walking through narrow alleys, flanked with whitewashed houses with minarets on
the roofs, we arrived to the basilica of San Sebastián, which inside is decorated with
extraordinary azulejos (earthenware) in a Sevillan style. Two tree-lined
fountains, Fonte Pequena and Fonte Grande proved to be a good place to
take a rest.
The next day,
with our guide Paolo, we traveled through the Albufeira and its golf courses,
built by British people, until we arrived to Vilamoura. This modern holiday
centre was only created for tourists. We went for a walk along the elegant
promenade full of cafes and shops. The football supporters, as for them, went to
the pub “Numero 7”, whose owner, Figo, plays in the
Portuguese national football team.
Not far from
Vilamoura is the National Park of
In Almancil we
visited the most beautiful church of the Algarve: the baroque chapel of San Lorenzo. It was built during the XVII century by noble
people from the north of the country. The 1755 earthquake did not caused many
damages. The central altar,
decorated with gold, is monumental. The walls, the roof and the cupolas are
totally covered with white and blue azulejos, showing scenes of fishing,
agriculture and the saint's life.
To arrive to the
pedestrian zone of Faro, the capital of Algarve, we walked through the
ancient central entry, the Arco da Villa. Paolo brought us from the cloister of
San Francisco, which was turned into a gastronomy
school, to the church of Carmen. We were very impressed by the
magnificent inside decoration, the rococo style frescos on the roof above the
altar, the organ made of real carved wood with Chinese drawings, and the
pictures representing the Christ's Calvary in
the old sacristy. This sumptuously decorated church also made us shudder since
there is a chapel inside with 1245 skulls.
cathedral at the centre of the place Largo de Se dates back from the middle of
the XIII century. Old and elegant buildings surround the cathedral, among them
an Episcopal palace of the XVIII century and the City Council.
With a moto
launch you can go from Faro to the lagoon beaches, in the natural park of Ria
The little town
of Olhao stands
with its squared houses of flat roofs and Arabic style terraces. The most
interesting place of the town is the central market, wreathed with towers
and cupolas. There you can buy fish, sea shells, meat, fruits and
The region produces 90% of the sea salt. The fields and salt marches
along the shore of the town of Castro
Marim exist from several centuries. Because of a heavy
rain we could only see from the bus windows the medieval fortress.
Antonio, at the Spanish border, we could buy
law-priced clothes. During the afternoon, the sky cleared and we could go for a
walk on the streets of Tavira, a romantic village of fishermen, with a
lot of spots worth visiting. We enjoyed the panoramic view over the
River, the roman bridge and
the vast sand beaches. The picturesque houses of the old part of the town have
little pyramidal towers – called four-sided roofs or treasure chamber- that date
back to the XVIII century. These towers are one of the most typical features of
the east of the Algarve. In the whole region, the
highest number of churches is to be found in Tavira. The most richly decorated
is the church of
Nuestra Senhora da
Misericordia (Our lady of Mercy), with its
baroque pictures made of azulejos and representing the Charity, and its
porch with the statues of Paul, Peter and Our Lady.
In the inland, we went from La Laguna, the bigger vineyard of the
Algarve, to the town of
remained during three centuries the first capital of the region and the see.
During the middle Ages, Silves was the most appreciated fortress of the
Algarve, which explains the
vast Moorish Castle. The surrounding wall with its eleven towers offers a
panoramic view on the tile roofs of the town and on the south side of the Serra
de Monchique. Under the castle, there is a three-nave church which was a mosque
built by the Arab during the XIII century. It was destroyed by the earthquake
and then rebuilt with red sandstone. The high Gothic presbytery with its three
big stained glass windows is impressive. Our guide Paolo was born in Silves. To
our great delight, we met part of his family during the visit.
In the past,
Silves was known for its cork industry and its important river port. However,
the river silted up more and more. Nowadays, Silves is the first producer of
citrus fruits in Portugal.
fields of orange trees, we arrived to Carveiro, an old village of fishermen.
There we tasted delicious vines of Oporto, honey and almonds liqueurs.
During the XV
century, in the reign of Henry the Navigator, various Portuguese expeditions to
Africa left from Lagos harbor. Those expeditions brought the
first black slaves to Europe. In
huge market of slaves was created in Lagos, and the buildings still exist today. The
salve trade was not prohibited until the XVIII century.
With Paolo we
visited the church of Sao Antonio, the patron saint of Portugal, and he explained to us how
the wood was sculpted during the Portuguese Baroque: drawings of hunting,
fishing and battles. The paintings represent the miracles performed by the
saint. In the neighboring museum there are roman and prehistoric remains.
At midday, we
had a succulent meal in the open air on a terrace of the market. The grilled
sardines were exquisite. With regained strength and good mood, we continued the
visits: the bridge
of Piedade, a rock
surrounded by strange bays and with a spectacular view on the Bahía de Lagos.
This place marks the beginning of the Algarve. Between the sandy bays, red
and yellow shiny rocks rise at an attitude of 328 feet.
We went through the Natural Park of Sao Vicente, along little houses and
nearly virgin landscapes, and we arrive to Sagres. The fishing port stands away
from the foothills of the Atlantic cost. The fortress and a chapel remind us one
of the most famous Portuguese: Henry the Navigator, the Infant of
In Cabo de Sao
Vicente we reached the extreme south west of Europe. Barely 500 years ago, people thought that this
place was the end of the world. The cost is really steep, sheer, and rocky. The
stormy waves continually lash against the porous and calcareous rocks. From that
place, the most powerful lighthouse on the whole continent gives out light for
around, deep in the Atlantic. With this
unforgettable view on the tempestuous sea we ended a week of excursions, a very
For the German
group, it is always a pleasure to meet our European friends, and we want to
thank the Organization and the travel agency, and the work they have done to
make possible the celebration of this Euromeeting.
Our best regards
to the new president, Mr. José Roberto López, to whom we wish the best success.
Let us be pleased of our future and new collaboration.
for reasons of health, I could not join you in the Algarve. However, my thoughts
were with you at any time.
I seize the
opportunity to thank all the shows of affection and wishes of recovery I
received from you.
See you next