Monday, 26 September 2016

Travel tales: The knitted trees of Armacao de Pera

One of my favourite things about going to new place, whether it’s a bustling city or a rural village, is noticing the small, day-to-day details of a place.

Maybe it’s the writer in me, always sniffing out my next story, or maybe it’s my inner photographer, camera always poised to get the next shot, but I get a buzz from spotting the things that most people miss. It was this nosiness curiosity that got me fascinated with the poetry of Punta Umbria, the Fuertaventura-isms and, most recently, the knitted trees of Armacao de Pera.

Armacao de Pera is a small town on the Algarve, relying on the tourism and fishing industries. A wide, pedestrianised promenade runs the length of the town, the sandy beach on one side, the tourist shops on the other. A maze of back streets gives way to the ‘real’ town, home mainly to whitewashed holiday flats owned by Portuguese families. At roughly the central point of the promenade, set back slightly in a square on its own is a church. It’s not a big church, but it’s a beautiful one, whitewashed, with ornate blue tiles forming an arch over the door. So fixating is the church that most people don’t notice the trees to the left of it – or more specifically, what’s on the trees.

Each tree has its own knitted or crocheted sleeve, each sleeve about 2ft long, wrapped around the entirety of the trunk at adult eye height. Each knitted sleeve is different, not only in colour, but in style of knitting, so that you can imagine a group of locals sitting in a circle knitting them -- an arboreal army of trees, dressed in mismatching uniforms by the Portuguese WI. The sun and sea air have faded the wool so it’s impossible to tell whether the trees have been encased in their woolly clutches for months or for years.

The reason for the knitted sleeves? Art, presumably, or perhaps a tourist board initiative to tempt tourists into Instagramming the heck out of #armacaodepera. What can I say? It works.
The trees in nearby Loule are similarly adorned.
Just a few hundred feet up the promenade from the church is a terrace overlooking the beach, obscured for the most part by an ice cream parlour, but there for those curious enough to find it. Six benches skirt the edge of the terrace, each one encased in a woolly design. Tourists look nervous about sitting down while locals don’t think twice about it, looking as if they’ve been doing it for years. And maybe they have. Maybe guerrilla knitting is a way of life in Armacao de Pera.

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