My second-last day in Portugal, Pedro and I headed out for a day-trip to Viana do Castelo, a town with a gorgeous historic centre and strong ties to the sea.
Our first stop was the Basílica de Santa Luzia, a massive, domed, Neo-Byzantine construction that was clearly inspired by the architecture of the Sacré Coeur in Paris.
Something that always fascinates me about these large religious buildings is that they usually seem a heck of a lot smaller inside than what they appear on the outside – and the Basílica de Santa Luzia is no exception. The other surprise here is that this is a relatively recent construction – only finished in the 1950s.
From the Basílica, we drove into town and strolled through the narrow and very white streets in the beautiful, historic downtown area. We took time out for a Bola de Berlim and coffee, and then headed off to explore the Gil Eannes Hospital Ship, which is now permanently docked in the Viana do Castelo port.
This was a very cool museum!
The Gil Eannes Hospital Ship was built in 1955 in the Viana do Castelo shipyards. Its main purpose was to support the Portuguese cod fishing fleet in the seas around Newfoundland and Greenland, and aside from offering medical services to the fishermen, it also served as a maritime authority, mail ship, tug, ice breaker and general support ship for the Portuguese fishing vessels.
They’ve done an amazing job at restoring the ship, though it is clear that they are still working on it.
I was amazed to find how well-equipped the kitchen and galley was, though given the isolation of where the ship operated, I guess this shouldn’t have been surprising. I was most impressed that they had a whole separate bakery, as well as significant wine and grain stores.
But of course the main fascination for visiting this museum ship is to check out the medical aspects of it. One of the first things you discover as you make your way down through the ship is the x-ray lab.
Another interesting location was the pathology lab – this guy scared the crap out of me as I poked my head around the door initially. I was not expecting to see anyone!
And the operating theatre, with an elevator to bring passengers down to this low level in the ship, and a window through to a viewing room.
I thought this was so incredibly well done – very impressive!
There were many, many other interesting nooks and crannies, everything from a sterilization room, dispensary and hospital ward, through to the engine room and wireless rooms, through to a barber’s shop. And, of course, we had to get a picture in the bridge 🙂
So, an incredible restoration, where each of the rooms is well labelled. But what is currently missing is all the other interesting information. I had so many questions! On average, how many passengers did they have at any one time? What were the most common things they treated? How and how often did they re-supply the ship?
Still, totally worth the few Euro it costs to get in!