Salt on the lips, wind on the neck, sun on the face: With undulating sails and spray on the bow, you cross the lagoon Aveiro in a wooden boat. Moliceiros are the names of the historic sailors who used to harvest algae here, which farmers used as natural fertilizer on their fields. But that’s history: out of more than 1,000, only ten of the colorful traditional boats in Murtosa municipality remain. One of these is owned by Veronica Fonseca, who arranges tours for visitors.
Once on board, you will never leave the place. Flocks of flamingos search for food in the Aveiro Lagoon. With the naked eye, one can see the animals wading through the shallow water, their eyes just above the surface. Like baleen whales, they filter food out of the water with their bent coke beaks, but the birds’ food is much smaller. The characteristic pink plumage develops because flamingos store the pigments found in algae, bacteria and crabs in their feathers.
Arrival Eurowings flies from Stuttgart to Porto (www.eurowings.com). We continue to the lagoon Aveiro in a rental car.
Accommodation Centrally located in Aveiro: Hotel Alfonso V, DR / F from 70 euros, www.hotelafonsov.pt. In a former porcelain factory: Montebelo Vista Alegre Hotel, DR / F from 100 euros, www.montebelohotels.com.
Eating and drinking Delicious fish at Bela Ria in Ilhavo, www.fb.com/RestauranteBelaRia, at Canastra do Fidalgo in Costa Nova, www.canastradofidalgo.pt and at Marina by Luis Lavrador in Gafanha de Nazare, www.marinabyluislavrador.eatbu.com
Activities All about Bacalhau at Ilhavo Museum, www.museumaritimo.cm-ilhavo.pt Traditional sailing, www.terradeagua.com. Channel tour in Aveiro, www.vivaaria.com
General information www.centerofportugal.com HBE
Now, at low tide, other two-legged creatures are also out in the lagoon. The sandbanks are the target for countless small boats. The fishermen collect mussels and sea snails, which are sold at the markets in the area – you will not find the specialties fresher anywhere else. The eels from their traps end up in cans, just like sardines, mackerel and squid from the Atlantic. The Comur factory, founded in 1942, now has its own museum and sells canned fish not only in its showrooms, but online worldwide. Little Portugal is a seafaring nation: Many hundreds of years ago, merchant ships were on their way to Africa, Southeast Asia and South America and returned loaded with exotic products. South of Porto on the Aveiro Lagoon is the main port of central Portugal. In Ilhavo, men once sailed out to fish for cod in the distant North Sea. “The salted and dried cod has a long shelf life, making it the perfect food for long trips,” says Jose Alberto Pequeno. “Without the fish, we Portuguese would never have been able to discover the world.” The 66-year-old himself spent decades on the water to get the nation’s favorite dish from the sea. Kilo bacalhau – as the fish is called in the country – is still eaten, even though Norway’s fishermen on Lofoten now provide supplies. Nobody wants to do without cod, says Jose Alberto Pequeno: “There are said to be 365 ways to cook cod in Portugal, one for each day of the year.” “The King of Fish” has many admirers: there is even a bacalhau fraternity. Ilhavos Maritime Museum also pays tribute to cod.
Aveiro is around the corner. There are no gondolas in the city, nor any Rialtobro, and no lots of tourists. The place, which is crossed by many canals, still looks like a little Venice. This is how it goes for the city trip on the water. The bow of the motorboat is not adorned with a mermaid, but it is painted quite revealing – here is a rather crude humor. But the architecture of Aveiro is also worth a look: Because the Bacalhau dealers did good business, they could afford magnificent Art Nouveau outbuildings. The salt to preserve the fish also came just around the corner. Not only classic sea salt is available in the beaches of Aveiro, but also noble salt flowers: Both chefs and confectioners swear by the taste of Flor de Sal. But who serves the best bacalhau on the lagoon? This is where the spirits divide. What is certain is that you will need time to prepare it: the cod must be in water for at least twelve hours before it can be boiled. In every other pub there is Bolinhos de Bacalhau, fried cod croquettes, as a snack. Jorge Pinhao from the restaurant Bela Ria has many proponents: He prepares the specialty in a tomato and pepper sauce. Elsewhere there is cod with chickpeas or in cabbage leaves. In the fishing town of Costa Nova, Leandro Mota and Joana Martins from the Canastra do Fidalgo restaurant bring specialties such as swim bladders and tongues to the table. The Bacalhau experts do not let anything get to the fillet, but they whisper to you to taste your cheeks as an appetizer: crispy fried they are a delicacy. Time for digestive migration! Around the corner are the most beautiful wooden houses on the coast, painted bright white as beach towels. From here, a wooden plank path leads across the dunes to the seemingly endless beach.