Behind the scenes: European Capital of Culture in Guimaraes

Hit the North has been away. To a small city in northern Portugal with a name people can’t pronounce, a penchant for salted cod and an unhealthy interest in recreating Hammer Horror films in a uniquely Portuguese style.

It’s called Guimaraes and it’s the new European Capital of Culture. Look for Porto on the map and head northeast.

Better still, look out for the forthcoming stories about my trip, horror film premieres et al – links on my Twitter feed.

City Walls from Toural Square

And if you think Guimaraes is obscure, then the other Euro capital this year is Maribor in Slovenia. No, I don’t either.

But, before you say “Roll on Marseilles in 2013”, this former industrial city is not without its charms.

It was a strangely low-key trip and I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed by a culture-fest glut during my time, but their no-big-names approach to the Euro juggernaut is quite endearing.

And, while the cobbled backstreets off Oliveria Square were pretty quiet in mid January, I can see how the place will come alive with the spring, the first signs of which were already starting to manifest themselves across the northern Minho region.

One of these typically low-key events was a photographic exhibition at the new Centre for Art and Architectural Affairs (CAAA), where the young and enthusiastic team eagerly hung on my questions with answers ready in word-perfect English.

Shame I was feeling a bit low key and didn’t really have any.

In the end I didn’t use these images of old Guiamaraes, rescued from the Muralha Photography Collection, for my stories. But I did like them and I thought I could share a few here *.

Besides, it beats the stills from that vampire flick.

* I’ve now taken down the images after the organisers moaned. Perhaps if they had spent more time turning up for appointments and thinking about quality editorial, and less time moaning, we would all have taken more from this trip.

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