Group of European Pensioners from Savings Banks and Financial Institutions


Index of documents > Euromeetings Magazine > Euromeetings Number 22

The Group of European Pensioners from Savings Banks and Financial Institutions invited us to Portugal for the third time. After visiting the Algarve and Lisbon, this time we went to the northern part of the country, Esposende, on the Green Coast. 200 participants from Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Great Britain and Germany spent a wonderful week in the Axis Ofir Beach Resort, on the wild and fine sand coast of the Atlantic; and during the excursions into the country we were delighted by the forests, groves and uncountable vineyards in the Douro Valley.     

During the several reunions important issues were discussed and the decisions made were unveiled. Some Spanish associations decided to be once again part of the Group. 

The main topic of this edition was: “Europe at a crossroads between populism, the answer to migrations, disintegration and the future.” 
The participants from the different countries made their contributions on the subject in the plenary assembly. The working groups drew conclusions from all the speeches in interesting rounds of discussion. These conclusions will be sent to  AGE, which is the European platform of pensioners based in Brussels.   
126 associations and organizations of pensioners are part of it with 140 million members.

Our main goal should be supporting Europe, letting citizens take part in open and transparent debates and not falling into isolation and protectionism. This applies to foreign and economic policy, which must act with responsibility concerning the refugees issue as well as the fight against economic and social inequality among European citizens.   

Europe will continue being a constant project and the current crisis will not end unless we carry out structural reforms. All of us can contribute to this, because Europe can only continue existing if there is tolerance and collaboration. 

The board of directors and Viajes Transvia know how to surprise us each time with a comprehensive program, apart from the debates and the meetings.
Our first excursion took us to the church of the pilgrims Bom Jesus do Monte. At the top of the city of Braga, there is a staircase with 600 steps, interrupted by small terraces and decorated with statues, which leads to the noble Baroque church. We avoided climbing so many steps and we used the world’s oldest water ballast functional train (it was built in 1882). After enjoying a breathtaking view of the city and its surrounding forests we headed to Braga to visit one of the oldest churches in Portugal, the so called Se (cathedral), inside which are the tombs of many historical personalities of the country.   

The following day we set off with the first light of dawn. We were going to take a one-hour-long boat trip along the Douro River on a rabelo, a typical ship which was formerly used to transport merchandise, mostly port wine barrels; we sailed under the six bridges of Porto and enjoyed the view on both sides of the riverbank. Later we were shown the winery “Ferreira” in Vila Nova de Gaia through a guided-tour, where we were able to taste different Porto wines. We finished the evening with a live singing and dance show in the restaurant Herança Magna, in which we also enjoyed a wonderful meal.  

At the mouth of the river Lima, between the sea and the mountains, is Viana do Castelo. This city was a very significant starting point during the time of the voyages of the discoverers towards the “unknown land”. We visited the Santa Luzia church, which has five domes from the 18th century, arches of Romanesque inspiration and Renaissance balconies. 

Guimarães is a beautiful and historic city and is considered to be the founding place of Portugal, since Portugal’s first King, Alfonso Enrique was born here in 1110. On the sacred top, above the city, is the crenellated castle, with its 27-meter high tower. The castle is considered one of the best preserved Roman castles in Portugal. A bit further down is the Ducal Palace. In the great chambers there were impressive pieces of furniture, Flemish tapestry and collections of weapons. UNESCO declared the old town of Guimarães a world heritage site.

On Thursday we went to Barcelos and visited the biggest weekly flea market in Portugal, located in Campo da Republica. The symbol of Barcelos is the Galo, (rooster), and is offered as a souvenir in various forms.

The legend tells of a farmer who had been condemned to death, despite being innocent. Before his execution, he demanded to speak with the judge one last time. This was eating a roast chicken, when the condemned told him that the rooster was going to jump off the plate and was going to sing very loud at the time of his execution, as a sign of his innocence. So it was. Following this, they pardoned him and, subsequently, the farmer made an offering to the church: a clay rooster.

We went through one of the most beautiful landscapes of Portugal when we went to the Douro Valley.
The grapes of the famous first class Port wine grow on the slopes of the River Douro, a river known as the “father of wine”.
The natural climate of this region has a positive effect on the vines.

We could see this in the traditional luxury and family vineyard of Quinta de Pacheca. We participated in a guided tour and enjoyed the regional products of gourmet cuisine and of course the excellent wine, which we were able to buy there directly. The bottle has already arrived in Germany and, in fact, part of it has has already been consumed. All the more reason to come back soon!
When we continued the trip, we discovered another large farm, surrounded by a beautiful garden; the baroque palace Casa de Mateus. The interior decoration of the house, which nowadays is a museum, has beautifully elaborated wooden ceilings, as well as paintings, silver and ceramics from different periods.

Located on the top of a hill of the beautiful and well-kept city of Lamego is the sanctuary of the Senhora dos Remedios, on which a rococo chapel was built in 1761. A double staircase of 613 steps, with a total of 18 statues, leads to the church, which is a  pilgrimage destination.

Our last excursion took us to Porto, the second largest city in Portugal. In the old town, which is a world heritage site, we visited the Se do Porto cathedral. It combines Gothic and Romanesque elements. We admired the cloister with very nice painted tiles, the organ and the golden image of the shiny altar.

From the Serra do Pilar monastery we enjoyed an incomparable view of this historic and diverse city, and of the Douro River itself. A magnificent two-story bridge, the Ponte Dom Luis, with a layout for cars and a level for pedestrians and the metro crosses the river from one bank to the other. The bridge connects Vila Nova de Gaia, on the south bank, with the Ribeira district, Porto's old town. We took a last walk through the paved and narrow streets where you can find numerous restaurants, cafes and bars.

As usual, this wonderful week ended too fast. The German group thanks Cândido and Santiago and all the organizers and assistants of the event and hopes to see them again next year in Seville.

Christa Saia