Stories Told and Stories Untold in Porto

The most appealing benefit of travel, in my opinion, is how each place visited has a story to tell, or in some cases, keeps a story untold. I’ve spent the past week in Portugal and have experienced a continuous stream of told and untold stories. A stroll down any street will reveal bits of a city’s history, art, and architecture, but never the full story. Such was the case with this azulejos tile mural on the exterior wall of the Carmo Church in Porto, Portugal.
Azulejos Tile Mural on The Carmo Church PortoThe Igreja do Carmo was built between 1756 and 1768 in the rococo or late Baroque, style by a disciple of Nicolau Nasoni, Jose de Figueiredo Seixas. The Igreja do Carmo has an outstanding azulejo-covered exterior with the azulejos added in 1912. The tiles were made locally in Vila Nova de Gaia and designed by the artist Silvestro Silvestri. They depict scenes of the founding of the Carmelite Order and Mount Carmel. by Portugal Visitor

The architect, the artist, the city where the tiles were fabricated – stories that intersected once upon a time to achieve permanence and grace as more than two centuries have passed, yet the conversations, the human details, have been lost and can only be surmised.

Hazul Street Art PortoIt wasn’t long after visiting the Carmo Church that I came across an example of Porto’s cool street art, and with a bit of research on the artist came to realize this was no random work of art. Hazul is somewhat famous in the city and beyond. Reading about Hazul reveled more of his work on Instagram. In the end I was able to discover more of the artist’s story, but still don’t know the story behind this mini-mural – what he was thinking – that remains a mystery.

Port Wine Shipping Boat in Porto, Portugal 2019Established as a protected wine region in 1756, the Douro Valley produces the renowned Port wines that are shipped down the river to be stored in Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river from Porto. While these shipments are now made by truck, in years past they were transported in rabelo boats.

In a strange twist of fate, the conflict between France and England, which deprived the Brits of their much loved French wine, led to their discovering Port wines, for which they developed an enduring passion.

From the vineyard workers, to the winemakers and those who navigated the river in boats stacked with barrels, they shared a common story based on their love of Port wine.

I’m blessed to hear stories from the clients that I coach and help them to uncover the hidden gems that they can share with the world. And when I’m traveling, there’s this feeling of appreciation for those who created the world I’m discovering, but at the same time, there’s a feeling of frustration due to the fact that I can’t speak to them directly and dig deeper into their story.

It’s a paradox, that no matter how much we know, there’s a measure of untold story that remains, so it’s up to all of us to be storytellers, to let the rest of the world share pieces of our magical life.

Storytelling Defined

What image comes to mind when you hear that word? Maybe you envision someone speaking from a stage, or an actor delivering dialogue in a movie. Maybe your mind ventures far back in time to a campfire that’s surrounded by American cowboys, or maybe African tribesmen. In any case, you’re visualizing the art of spoken language, a process by which words are arranged in a manner that conveys meaning, transmitted from one human to another in the form of a story.

But in a very real sense, storytelling began long before humans could communicate with words, going back to a period in our evolution when thoughts could only be expressed with gestures and grunts. Storytelling at that juncture was all about survival: avoiding danger (animals that wanted to eat them) and finding food (animals that they wanted to eat). Some stories were also told visually, in the form of cave paintings as far back as 40,000 years.

Cave-Painting - Cueva de las Manos Hands

Cave-Painting - Cave of Altamira Bison

As language developed, human storytelling expanded from pressing issues of survival to recounting history, educating society, sharing new ideas, and entertaining the masses. Regardless of the intent, or intended audience, the process consisted of humans constructing their stories based on a deliberate selection of internal knowledge (what they thought was true, or what they wanted others to believe was true) combined with their own conscious and unconscious biases.

As this video illustrates, technology has changed the landscape of personal storytelling, largely due to the ability to share videos over the internet. From fictional accounts, to instructional how-tos and the spreading of ideas and opinions, such stories can be captured direct to camera, or by recording a talk that was given in a public forum.

Yet another technology that has allowed storytelling to have a much greater impact is podcasting. Stories predicting the demise of podcasts turned out to be premature (totally bogus) and instead we’ve seen the practice expand, with many podcasts targeting very specific audiences and formats.

As you begin the process of creating your story, keep in mind the global reach that video and audio provide, and the unique style of storytelling that works best within each of these formats.