For some of the best views of the famous Ria de Aveiro, get ready to climb a never-ending spiral staircase with 288 steps. You will find yourself on the top of the tallest lighthouse of Portugal (and the second tallest of the Iberian Peninsula) - Farol de Aveiro, also known as "Farol da Barra" ("farol" means lighthouse in Portuguese). It actually does not look as high, because it stands on a completely flat terrain, but after making your way up you will sure agree that in fact it is.
Long before it became a tourist attraction, visiting this lighthouse was my favourite thing to do on a Wednesday afternoon, the only day when the building is open for public. Although every time you see the same: the Ocean, the beach, and the lagoon, each time the view is completely different! The colours change, the waves are different, there may be a "nevoeiro" (Portuguese for: fog, mist), in the summer hundreds of parasols pop up along the beach, or simply you spot a detail you haven't seen before. Two things never change: it's always windy up there, and there's always this feeling that you are at the very end of the continent.
When I say there are tourists, it still only means a few dozens of people each Wednesday. Last year this lighthouse was visited by 9723 people. You can enter between 14h and 17h and the visit, which is free of charge, takes up to 30 minutes. Not that it's boring to stay longer, but eventually people are asked to go down, so that another group can go up. There is an elevator, but the visitors can't use it. The lighthouse keepers are smiling and patient, yet, they don't speak English. Instead, you will be offered a leaflet with the most important information and you will have an access to a small museum-like room where the functioning of the lighthouse is explained. The keepers, a few of them, do all maintenance themselves, from electrical, painting, gardening, and the lighthouse and its surroundings do look impressively well-arranged and neat.
The lighthouse keepers love telling the stories of living their life near the sea and about their brave colleagues all over the country. They speak nostalgically of their profession and remind that more than half of their colleagues already lost their jobs when the process became more automatised. There are still 25 families of lighthouse keepers living in the lighthouses around Portugal, facing daily the unpredictable winds and the sea, but at the same time having the best views from their dinning rooms. Only one lighthouse keeper in Portugal is a woman.
The impressive red-and-white stone tower was built in 1893, after several accidents that happened nearby, and at that time it was the 6th tallest in the world, with its 62 meters. Initially, the light source was obtained by incandescence of the petroleum vapor and only in 1936 the system was electrified.
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