Are you looking for a peaceful, safe, traditional Spanish town to visit in Northern Spain? Then this is the one that we suggest: O Barco de Valdeorras or directly translated, “O Ship of Valdeorras!
We lived there for over a year and can highly recommend checking this gem out. Here is a brief overview of O Barco de Valdeorras (population of about 14 000) from Wikipedia:
O Barco de Valdeorras is a municipality in Ourense (province) in the Galicia region of north-west Spain. It lies towards the very north-east of Ourense province. Located in the Sil valley, lying in the Serra do Eixo, is the capital of the Valdeorras region. One of its economic foundations, besides mining and slate processing, is wine production, which qualified for the Designation of Origin Valdeorras. Remains of Roman and pre-Roman culture and several stately manor houses are the most important monuments in the town. It is also famous for its wines.
If you would like to read more about the meaning of this fascinating area’s name, then click here.
This is a review of O Barco de Valdeorras written by Clive Burkinshaw, focussing on the theme of the area that impacted him the most:
The Doors of the Ship of Valdeorras:
Doors and windows have been synonymous with human beings’ virtues for thousands of years. From the earliest communities, the entrance and exit to a home, building, and town, have formed a kind of identity for the people on the other side of it. They send a message, give an impression, and welcome or propel the onlooker. It all depends on who resides behind the door.
Most of the nuance and mystery associated with the character of a persons’ door has been lost to the modern industrial age.
Mechanical outputs and conformity have drained the life out of this frontal art form that adorned the structures of life. Dulled and familiar with the modern structures of urbanization, I had never paid attention, let alone noticed this tradition of virtue and value. This was until I walked down a quiet street (or ‘calle’ in Spanish), in a town called O Barco de Valdeorras.
On no account have I been one for walking. Hiking made more sense, because discovery is part of the activity of hiking, but just simply walking from point A to point B was a labor. Walking long distances is not typical where I grew up. The prospect of walking everywhere (due to not having our own transport) in this new town was not something I enjoyed or looked forward to. I had no other choice though.
I set out every morning, using a map on my phone to find the quickest or shortest route to my destination. Walking with time on my mind, I kept my eyes looking straight ahead, as if it made the distant point of focus closer. I made sure I had earphones in, listening to anything that could distract me from the walk.
One day, this all changed for me forever!
At one point on my walk I was forced to make a detour from my usual route and I walked up an alley that connected two main walkways. The sheer silence and lack of people awoke my habitual demeanour. I stopped to take it in.
I removed my headphones, and at first fumbled for my phone to reset my map route. The glint of sun on a stained-glass door transom (an area above a door, usually with glass to allow light to enter through it) caught my eye and I looked up.
The door below it drew my attention like a quiet whisper. The stained-glass fixture was handmade. I could tell by the lines of varying thickness and width between the glass shards, that a person had carefully and meticulously crafted this work of art. It was not a standard size, but rather a custom size. The detail and finish rang of an era gone by when crafts men and women loved their creations into being.
Majestically, it stood there with a sense of pride. Not just a functional piece of hardware, but a time piece.
A portal if you will, placed deliberately in the way, that speaks and listens, and watches all who pass by and through its passage to life within.
Had I not by chance moved to this beautiful little town, I may have never been awakened to this lost art form. I then noticed that each door I passed was not the same as the one before it. Not only were they not the same, they were unique. At first it was interesting, but then I became curious. As my observations slowed down, I was fascinated and enthralled by this phenomenon.
The doors of this incredible town in the north-west area of Spain known as Galicia, have stories to tell. They tell of family, of deep-rooted history; generations of people molded by time, good and bad, traditions and culture. Life and death have passed through these doors, and values and virtues have formed in the hearts of the occupants. The very heart is displayed in these doors to their homes. It is a sense of identity, of worth, of character, right from the texture to the finish.
I could see that these doors were art, unique signatures of self.
The people, as I came to know, from behind these doors, lived up to and embodied these sometimes ancient and meaning-filled doors to their homes. A kind, generous and passionate people are the life of this town. They cherish the young and protect the old.
Love, life, friendship, celebration and pride resonates in this town nestled in the valley below the passing highways.
In case you are interested or just wondering, the above photographs were all taken by Clive Burkinshaw.
If you would like to read more about O Barco de Valdeorras, and the other gems that it has to offer, click here: