Cliché; that is what Goa is presumed to be. The perception one has of Goa is generally of beaches and parties. which are only a small section of this beautiful undiscovered state. I have traveled several times to Goa and this blissful coastal city never fails to amaze me. The astonishing history that this state holds is enough to give anyone wanderlust. The history of Goa as we know it today goes back to 1510 when the Portuguese general Afonso de Albuquerque defeated the ruling Bijapur sultan Yousuf Adil Shah and set up a permanent settlement in Velha Goa. Since then Goa has been a melting pot of cultures and architecture.
This time while traveling to Goa, I experienced one such wonderful example of the Portuguese influence on the culture of Goa and that was the quarters of Fontainhas. Known as Bairro das Fontainhas in Portuguese, they are old Latin Quarter in Panjim, the capital city of the state of Goa. Fontainhas was built in late eighteenth Century by a Goan expatriate named Antonio Joao de Sequeira and in today’s date, it is the only area in Goa where Portuguese is the main spoken language. Fontainhas is a place in Goa that will never fail to show you the dual existence of the Indian and Portuguese culture that it carries. By passing time, the beautiful Latin quarters have experienced an amalgamation of cultures.
The architecture and the road map of the Mediterranean nest have been kept undisturbed for many years. The beautiful old buildings with overhanging balconies are all painted in tones of yellow, green, or blue. Interestingly, a Portuguese tradition of painting their houses after monsoon every year is followed here without any exception. Even the confusing but adorably narrow and winding roads have not been changed. interestingly the names of the streets in the Latin quarters carry a history to it too. The 31st January Road or Rua 31 de Janeira in Fontainhas was named after the independence of Portugal from Spain on January 31, 1640. The south end of Fontainhas is adorned with The Chapel of St Sebastian which was constructed in 1880. It is the traditional venue for the annual festival of the Feast of our Lady of Livrament.
What actually surprised me about Fontainhas was the culinary excellence I experienced. Many residents living there have converted their houses into lodges, guesthouses, and restaurants. I went to Venite which is also a home cum restaurant. It is not an easy place to spot and the restaurant is on the 1st floor. The building has its own character, as you walk up the rickety stairs. The entrance of this restaurant is adorned with shells and once you are seated in there and once seated, there’s plenty of graffiti to enjoy, drawn by the hundreds of tourists from around the world who’ve dined here over the years.
In the month of February, the locales of Fontainhas organise an Art festival, during which they convert their heritage homes into a vintage artworks displaying the architectural features such as motifs around their balconies, elaborate doors and unique name plates. With the aim of preserving the rich Indo-Portuguese culture they hold various programs of dance, music and art. The walk through Fontainhas showed me a different and historic side of Goa which I will never forget. Anyone who plans a trip to Goa must visit this place to know a different side of the city.
Fontainhas is located about 20-25 km away from both Goa’s International Airport and Railway Station.This lesser known haven for Art enthusiasts is all about exploring the streets of Europe with the comfort of budget travel. So, I urge that the next time you plan a holiday in Goa, with friends or family, do visit Fontainhas. It’ll rejuvenate you in a way you’ve never known!
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