The Wild North of Portugal

NDR 2016

Breathtaking nature, curious traditions and unusual people: Portugal’s north is surprisingly diverse and largely undiscovered. There are daring bridge jumpers and real horse whisperers here. Imposing bulls compete against each other at the Chega de bois, and in the lagoon city of Aveiro it rains sugar cookies once a year in honor of Saint Gonçalinho.

Script and Direction: Maria-Christina Degen
Camera: Lars Pfeiffer, Uwe Kielhorn
Editing: Marc Accensi, Peter Klum
Production Assistants: Susann Levenig, Kerstin Walz
Production Management: Jürgen Jeserigk
Producer: Sven Ibald
Editing: Ralf Quibeldey, Monika Schäfer
Producer: Theodor Baltz / Medienkontor Movie GmbH

Portugal’s north is surprisingly diverse and largely undiscovered. Breathtaking nature, curious traditions and unusual people can be found here. Pastries raining down from the church tower Religion and tradition are close together in northern Portugal.

In Aveiro, it rains sweet pastries from heaven once a year in honor of Saint Gonçalinho. The so-called cavacas are thrown from the roof of the chapel. Then the coveted dessert is caught with crab nets, umbrellas or buckets. Christian charity is temporarily waived, cavacas are hard-fought prey. Zé Augusto Rocha is one of the “Mordomos” for the first time. You are the chosen ones to organize the São Gonçalinho festival this time in Aveiro. He and his 17 colleagues have to collect at least as much money as last year. But something is going wrong. Can Zé save the day with a new strategy?

The regatta of the Moliceiros in Portugal’s “Venice.” The dreamy lagoon city of Aveiro with its numerous canals is reminiscent of Venice. The moliceiros, narrow pine wood boats, are the hallmark of the city. It used to be used to transport algae, salt or fish. Today they are primarily a tourist attraction. Felisberto Amador is one of the last Moliceros boat builders and owns one himself. He wants to take part in the annual regatta as a skipper, the highlight of the year. But right from the start things are going very differently for him than planned.

Battle of the giants: the Chega de bois In midsummer in Medeiros, high up in the north of the country, the season of the Chega de bois begins, a battle of strength between two bulls of the special breed Barrosã. Horácio dos Santos is one of the youngest participants. His favorite bull Cabano taught the favorite to fear last year. The “battle of the giants” in Medeiros, very close to the small town of Montalegre, is the highlight of the year. For Horácio, this time means extreme tension. The expectations are high. And he can really use the prize money. But the final is a tremendous game. The opponent is much stronger than expected. Does Cabano have to give up his title?

The bridge jumpers of Porto In contrast to the lonely life in nature stands the hustle and bustle in the cities. In hardly any other city can this be felt as clearly as in Porto. The up-and-coming port city in a dreamlike setting at the mouth of the Douro was voted the best travel destination in Europe in 2014. The Ponte Dom Luis is the symbol of Porto. The bridge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and connects the old town with the neighboring town of Vila Nova de Gaia, where the large port wine storage facilities are located. In summer the bridge becomes the scene of an extraordinary test of courage.

Despite shipping traffic and strong currents, daredevils plunge into the waters of the Douro. At low tide it is about 25 meters to the water. For Anabela Moreira and her daughter Belinha, jumping bridges is a part of life. Despite the strong wind, the teenager Belinha even wants to dare to jump from the higher railing of the bridge this time. A bold plan. Will she actually make it?