Moliceiro Ride on Aveiro's CanalsFebruary 19 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 12 °C
“When in Aveiro, one must take the lovely Moliceiro Boat ride along the Ria!” Would you turn that ad down if you saw it? Especially if the skies were blue and it was 20C and we were in the So-called “Venice of Portugal”?
All the roads that we walked on, followed the canals that went through Aveiro. The boats, moliceiros, that we saw on the canals were not always tourist boats. During the 19th century, they were used in seaweed harvesting. This ‘seaweed’ was also mixed with the sludge that accumulated in the bottom of the river. After being collected, it was laid down on threshing floors to dry and once dry was used as a fertilizer in the sandy soils which belonged to farmers in the area. But as seaweed was progressively replaced by chemical fertilizers, this activity declined throughout the 20th century.
A few decades ago, the old Aveiro “Ria” shipyards were reactivated in order to bring the moliceiros back to life and to teach willing learners the old manual manufacturing techniques used to build these boats. These new boats began to be used as tourist boats. Small and colourful, painted in the bow and the stern with traditional bright coloured drawings which represent historical facts or show religious scenes, moliceiros cruise through the “Ria”, giving tourists a good overview of the city of Aveiro, old and new.
We decided on a 45 minute tour of the four canals of the city - the Central Canal, the Pyramid Canal, the São Roque Canal and the Cojo Canal. The captain started his engine and we were off.
The Central Canal runs through the historic centre of the city and all of the beautiful Art Nouveau houses.
Continuing on, we arrived at the Pyramids Canal, which provides access to salt fields of Aveiro. We thought it was named the Pyramid Canal due to the way that the salt is piled up into pyramidal shapes on the shore. But no, it is because of two columns, that look like pyramids, next to the sluice that controls the change in water levels due to the tides entering the city. This system maintains the water levels and keeps the river stable and safe for navigation.
We backtracked a bit and went down the famous “São Roque” waterway. The “São João” Bridge is pretty low and we had to go through a small tunnel. It was a little tight.
We loved going under a very peculiar, circular, iron pedestrian loop bridge which connected the most historic part of the city to a leisure park on the other bank. People were walking their dogs, bicycling and doing exercises on outdoor equipment.
We passed warehouses full of salt and fish. Close by, down another small canal, was the daily fish market.
Returning to the docks where we had started out, we continued down the Cojo Canal, past the very modern Aveiro Forum, an outdoor shopping mall and went under the “Carcavelos” Bridge, also known as Valentine’s Bridge. Built in 1953, 11 years after the original bridge fell apart, it became a place where lovebirds could tie ribbons to the railings. Locks could have been used but ahead-thinking planners pushed for a lighter and more colourful way to decorate the bridge.
At the end of this very trendy area, we came to the impressive Fonte Nova factory which made tiles for the outside of houses at the beginning of the 1900’s.
After about 40 minutes we returned to the small pier in front of a beautiful building called the Capitancy building, dating from the 15th Century. It used to be a tidal mill and now is the head office of the municipal assembly. The structure is resting on a set of arcs that we could see as the tide was low. Earlier we had gone into it, to see a display of striking photographs taken all over the world by National Geographic professional photographers - Exodus.
And so we ended our moliceiro ride. A pleasant boat ride on a beautiful spring-like day.Read more