Difference between revisions of "Pontevedra (city)"
Revision as of 14:13, 17 April 2008
Pontevedra is the capital city of the province of the same name, one of four that make up Galicia, an autonomous community within Spain.
Although Vigo, in the Southeastern corner of the province, is a far larger city, Pontevedra is beautifully picturesque and unsurpassed in the province for its historical and artistic importance. The Rias Bajas (Rias Baixas) coastal region has an abundance of natural beauty (mountains, green hills, rivers, lakes, estuaries, and seashores). The old city center is well preserved and contains numerous historic buildings and monuments. Pontevedra is proud of its cultural and natural heritage.
The city itself is built on a hill, with some streets sloping down toward the Lérez River. The majority of the town occupies the south bank of the river, although it has spread out in all directions in recent years.
Both Galician (Galego) and Spanish are commonly spoken, but signage is increasingly in the local language. Galego shares characteristics of Portuguese and French, as well as Spanish, and anyone conversant in the Romance languages shouldn't have a hard time understanding written Galician.
The climate is mild and rainy year round, with the humidity that one would expect of a coastal area receiving significant precipitation. While summer is the "high season" for tourists, pleasant weather is to be had throughout the year.
Archeological evidence shows that the town existed as far back as Roman times. The city took its name from the nearby bridge, "Pontus Veteri" (Old Bridge). From the Middle Ages through the end of the 16th century, the city was one of the main ports and most populous cities in Galicia, though it afterwards declined first due to the disappearance the Castillian Crown, then later because of successive wars. During the 19th century the Spanish provinces were created and Pontevedra was designed as a provincial capital, bringing new institutions, industries, and population to the city.
Until the Spanish Civil War, Pontevedra was a social and cultural center, but after the war, as power was centralized in Madrid, industry migrated to Vigo because of the excellent port facilities. Pontevedra is currently undergoing a cultural renaissance, and its population is increasing due to the urbanization of the province.
Bus service is common to/from many destinations in Spain, Portugal, and beyond. The bus station is located on Rúa da Estación, Tel: (0034) 986 852 408.
Peinador Airport (Vigo) and Lavacolla Airport (Santiago de Compostela) are only about 30-40 minutes from Pontevedra via the Atlantico highway (AP-9). Flights from those cities connect to Madrid, as well as other cities in Spain and Europe (London, Paris, Geneva, and Frankfurt).
The city is ideally sized for walking, and nearly all of the items of historical/artistic interest are within easy walking distance of the city center, right in front of the Capilla de la Peregrina. Local buses are available and reasonably priced, and taxis are plentiful. Fares are typically small because distances are not large.
Car Rentals (unnecessary in the city, but may be useful to tour the countryside):
The old city, located at the top of modern Pontevedra, contains several worthwhile sites.
La Capilla de la Peregrina: very ornate old chapel, whose bells chime the hours.
La Basílica de Santa María
La Iglesia de Santo Domingo: medieval ruins.
Public Square: Where everyone goes to stroll in the evenings. When the weather is cold, nothing beats stopping at a street vendor for a packet of fresh roasted chestnuts.
La Alameda: public park, beautiful at sundown, you can see the sun setting out across out to the ocean. Monument. Small zoo.
The farmers' market by the river: stop and get some "queso galego" and "pan galego."
Rias Baixas Tourism Board 
Find pulperías in the back streets and sample the octopus. It's delicious--and generally far cheaper than elsewhere in Spain. Pulpo a la Gallega is a wonderful dish of squid served on a bed of boiled potatoes, sprayed with olive oil and paprika. Like so much Spanish food it sounds ridiculously simple and is stunningly delicious
Galician gastronomy includes a wide variety of foods. Galician stew (caldo gallego) can be made with sausage (chorizo), ham, beef, or chicken, and contains chickpeas garbanzos), potatoes, cabbage, and other leafy vegetables. "Lacón con grelos" is very common all over the region: pork cooked with turnip, potatoes and chorizo. Both are typical winter dishes. Although fabada, made from fabas (large white beans), smoked morcilla (blood sausage), chorizo, and manteca (lard) is usually considered Asturian food, some excellent versions can also be found in Galicia.
Being so close to the sea, Galician cooking has plenty of seafood, including recipes for hake, turbot, sole, grouper and sea bass, squid, octopus, mussels, and velvet swimming crabs. And the list goes on: clams and oysters, spiny lobsters, European lobsters, triple-grooved shrimp, and scallops.
“Empanadas” are also popular: a flaky pastry stuffed with any of a variety of fillings, including ham, chicken, chorizo, potatoes and other vegetables, cheese, and olives.
Some typical desserts are: Santiago Tart (almond-based) and “filloas”, thin pancakes made from wheat. One of the best ways to end a walking tour is to stop in a pastelería and pick up a treat or two.
Galician wines have become much better known recently. In the back street pubs it is often served in a bowl, and you can pick the size bowl you want.
Pontevedra is generally a very safe city. However, as with nearly everywhere in Europe, be aware of pickpockets, who may work in groups to jostle or bump you while a confederate lifts your wallet. Carrying a photocopy of your passport and only the amount of money necessary for the day's purchases is always sound advice.
Police Telephone: (0034) 986 833 080
Ambulance Telephone: (0034) 986 850 823