When we came back from our around the word trip earlier this year, we still had 3 months before actually getting back to our corporate jobs. Each of us had a few side trips planned during this time and I grabbed the occasion to realise one of my dreams: walking the camino portugues from Porto to Santiago de Compostela, alone.
I also travelled only with 6kg light backpack! Click here to know how I did that!
To be honest, it freaked me out. I had a courage boost a few months earlier and booked the flight so I wouldn’t bail. But until the very last moment, actually until literately I started walking, I thought.. yeah, that really only seemed to be a good idea at the time.
I am not sure what scared me the most:
- walking 240km while not being very sportive
- being alone
- not having anything booked or planned in advance
- to fail, as simple as that
- not to find food or water on the way and faint
- not to find accommodation
- to feel lonely and excluded because in my mind everyone would do the camino with their BFF
Interestingly, everyone who learned that I am planning to walk the Camino Portugues alone, worried about my safety. And this was basically the ONLY thing I did not worry about at all.
However, *spoiler alert* none of the points above where actually a concern once I’ve started walking. It turned out just fine. I met wonderful people, did not faint nor starve, kept on going and did not feel lonely at all. There is the proverb “camino provides” and interestingly it’s true. You somehow always get exactly what you need. There is another saying “no vino, no camino” (no wine, no way) , but that’s a totally different story.
In the following I will list the camino route I took, including a comment about if it was a good idea and how I would do it differently today. However, just keep in mind I didn’t plan anything of it in advance and changed my plans along the way more than once a day 🙂
Check here if you are interested in knowing how much I spent on the camino! I wrote down a very detailed list of my expenses during my camino journey.
My Camino Porto to Santiago Route
Day 0: Paris – Porto
My plane landed in Porto in the afternoon. I had my accommodation booked as I was already worried about quite a few things, I wanted to arrive in Porto easy and relaxed. My hostel was close to the cathedral, the starting point of the my Camino Portugues. I spent the afternoon having a walk in the old town, eating ice cream, doing some window shopping, getting some food for the evening, and snacks for the first walking day. I also was looking out for people that looked like pilgrims but surprisingly couldn’t see many.
Day 1: Porto – Labruge 23.5km
When I woke up, I was questioning very hard what I was about to do and wondering if I am out of my ducking mind. It took me 20 minutes to get out of bed and actually going and I think I was rarely so unmotivated. Ever. However, I eventually started at 8am and walked up to the Cathedral of Oporto. I was quite relieved to see a couple of other pilgrims starting the camino portuguese with me, the first yellow arrows pointing the right direction and also got my first friendly “buen caminho” from a stranger. “Buen Caminho” is basically “hi” of the pilgrims and you say it basically to everyone crossing your way.
And then I walked. First just down the hill from the cathedral to the shore and then straight along the river. At this point there were no yellow arrows at all, but well, you hardly can get lost if you just have to follow the river… after 6km the river joins the Atlantic and then it’s just along the ocean until Matosinhos.
Until this point, I was walking on a sidewalk. Street on the right, ocean on the left. From Matosinhos they way changes though to a boardwalk along the beach and through the dunes. At around 4pm I arrived at the public pilgrim hostel, the Albergue in Labruge.
Except from a few brief encounters, I was walking alone on this first day and well, as I was traveling alone, that was kinda expected. However, on this very first evening in Labruge I met a few fellow pilgrims that completely changed my journey. It was such pleasure to find this community and to meet them again and again along the portuguese way. To walk a few days together, or just to meet in the evenings in the hostel. Or not to see for 3 days and then they suddenly and unexpected pop up from nowhere. I did not walk the camino to meet people but meeting people was the very best of the camino.
And to get back to facts, there are two different routes: the coastal route and the central route. I walked the portuguese camino coastal route for the first bit and joined then at Rates the central one. My reasoning was mainly the fact that the central road from Porto leads in the beginning through the suburbs of Porto, along the airport, highways and I just didn’t like the idea. Taking the coastal road in the beginning let me skip this ugly part and I could make up my mind later if I want to continue on the coastal route or join the central one.
About the accommodation in Labruge: it’s a public albergue that works on “donativo” – you donate what you can. It’s situated in an old school house and has a little kitchen with very basic equipment. 2 showers, toilets of course and a big outside area. The dormitories are having around 8 beds each. There is a little supermarket and a bakery just around the corner.
What I would do if I walked the camino Santiago portugues again: I would not walk until Labruge but spend the first night in Matosinhos. 23.5 km was too long for my first day and I felt the aftermaths for days in my feet and bones. Especially as the next stage was equally long. I would rather walk from Porto to Matosinhos, then to Vila do Conde and finally to Rates, basically split it up in 3 stages rather than 2.
Day 2: Labruge – Rates 22km
On day two I left the hostel around 7:30am with two girls that I met the evening before. The first stretch of todays stage followed again the boardwalk along the beach until Vila do Conde. It was very nice to walk, and somewhat convenient: 2 km or walk through the dunes, then a parking place with a café and then 2km of dunes again.. all along the way 🙂 However, the sun was very warm and burning, there was absolutely no shadow whatsoever and quite windy. All in all a combination that I am not very fond of and that’s why I decided to leave the coastal road and head inland direction Rates.
To be honest, the first part of the stretch that connects the coastal way with the central way wasn’t too great. It was quite a lot of suburb and street, steady up hill and I was still exhausted from the day before. It didn’t make it easier that there were no yellow arrows at this point and finding the directions were somewhat fiddly. Luckily I wasn’t walking alone at this point and my “camino sister” had it all figured out. I would have been lost without her!
Slowly the scenery got finally greener and the way led away from the streets and through little patches of forest and fields, until I reached the central road – and with it also the yellow arrows pointing the way!
On this point I would like to recommend using a camino app. I got the app “Wisely + the Camino Portugués” that is available offline and has all directions available. I am actually only only seeing now how bad the reviews are but I did liked it.
I arrived at the public camino albergue in Rates in the afternoon and I honstely didn’t know how. It was so hard, especially the last 5km. I seriously thought I wouldn’t make it. The arrival at albergue was so lovely though that I almost cried. We were welcomed like long awaited friends, got infused water, some candy and cakes.. there was even a volunteer nurse that took care of my wounded feet!
About the accommodation in Rates: The public albergue is located just in the centre of town with restaurants and a supermarket just around. It has a well equipped kitchen and several dorms with around 10 beds in each. Of course several showers and a nice outside area. It’s also on donation based.
What I would do if I walked the camino again: I would definitely stay in the official albergue again but would not eat in the restaurant just across the street. They have a cheap pilgrim menu but it tasted as cheap as it was.
Day 3: Rates – Barcelos 17km
From Rates it was very easy to stay on track. Every few meters there was a yellow arrow pointing the direction or a milestone indicating the distance to Santiago de Compostela. It was pretty impossible to get lost.
The stretch from Rates to Barcelos was beautiful. Through forests of eucalyptus trees, little villages, countryside..it was very idyllic. I was still suffering from the very hard first 2 days though and even woke up in the night with so much pain in my toes, that I wondered if I actually can continue walking. I had at this point 5 blisters on my feet and bruisers on my toes. The first 2km of day 3 were pure endurance and suffering in more or less silence. It got better while walking, either I got used to the pain or my body just gave up on signalising that there is a problem.. not sure about that 🙂
We – I was not walking alone since the first day – took it slow. It was basically: keep walking, keep walking, keep walking.. or translated to my very own walking mantra that helped me already to overcome some difficult parts on a trek in the Himalayas: one two three four – one two three four.. I am counting my steps. It helps me to keep the rhythm and to focus on something else than on how tired I am/how hard it is/how badly I hate to be here right now.
But then we arrived and we thought that we really deserve something nice, just for the fact that we are still here on the camino and did not give up: We booked a hotel room! Well, it was a double room that was only slightly more expensive then the albergue, but it had private showers and a good internet connections. It was pilgrim paradise with netflix. That’s where we stayed
Barcelos is a really nice town – when we were there it was in full celebration of a middle age festival, with music, food stalls and many middle age related activites. It was really cool!
What I would do if I walked the camino again: On this point, I would probably grant myself with a hotel room again. I would not eat again in the restaurant just across the street, Babette Restaurant. It looked super nice and the wine was good, but the food just wasn’t.
Maybe it was due to the relaxing night in the Hotel or because I learned how to properly deal with blisters (one blister band aid is just not enough), but day 4 was the first really good day. Many people told me that the first 3 days are the hardest and actually, during the first 3 days I could not imagine that I would ever feel great on the camino. But in the end, I did. it happened on the 4th day. It was one of the nicest stretches of the entire camino. We walked mainly through countryside – along vineyards and orchards, on dirt tracks through fields and we crossed some really cute little villages… always following the yellow arrow.
We did not really walk until Navio. We stopped slightly before at the most famous albergue along the Camino Portugues: at Casa Fernanda. It’s a private guesthouse but it not really is. It’s more… a home? It’s a place where you arrive, you sit and then you eat and drink and dance and sing and laugh, until you go to bed.
About Casa Fernanda: Fernanda and her husband Jacinto are actually one of the most hospitable humans I have ever met. They feed you, take care of you and make sure you’re alright.. it’s a wonderful and peaceful place that I can just recommend. Contrary to all the other places, we booked a day before and we were lucky to get a bed. It’s somewhat on donation basis but it’s suggested to give 20€ – for food throughout the afternoon, a super tasty homemade dinner, breakfast, wine (oh so much wine) and of course the bed.
What I would do if I walked the camino again: I would not change a thing. Ok that’s not true, I would drink less wine and go to bed earlier. But if I would walk the Camino again, I will make sure to stay there. It’s just a wonderful place.
And while I was all hyped the day before… I wasn’t on day 5. It was raining, I was tired and maybe a wee but hung over. The entire day was annoying. Especially because I took finally a decision that I was dreading since a couple of days: I would cheat.
When I planned the camino, I read that most pilgrims would arrive in 10 days. 24km a day. And as I had absolutely no idea how much I can walk as I just .. well, never walked really far, I thought that if any random person can do it, I can do it surely, too. Well, owned. I couldn’t and there went my entire planning. I had my flight back booked and I needed to arrive in Santiago on a certain day. But I was scared that
- I won’t make it and have to go back to Porto to catch my flight before I actually arrived in Santiago
- I will take a bus somewhen later, but then I am not getting the Compostela, the certificate that you get if you walked at least the last 100km
And so I cheated. I walked from Casa Fernanda 14.5km to Ponte de Lima, said bye (for now) to my pilgrim sister and took a bus to Valença. The ride was horrible! Serpentine mountain roads ftw. I got sick but luckily not THAT sick. From Valença in Portugal, I crossed the boarder to Spain and walked 3km to Tui, my first destination in Spain.
As I arrived very late for pilgrim time reckoning, I booked the hostel a few hours before. It was the weirdest place – a dorm with 40 bunk beds but only me and 3 men as guests. It felt so wrong that I called another hostel and asked if they have a place. Luckily they had but the day was so shit, I felt so lonely without my friend that I couldn’t keep it in any more and actually walked to my new albergue crying. But camino provides: I met 3 pilgrims on my way that not only showed me the way to the hostel, but also invited me to share dinner with them.
About the accommodation in Tui: I would definitely NOT stay again at the Albergue “Buen Camino” but I saw it had really good reviews and maybe I was just unlucky… however, I still wouldn’t. The hostel I stayed in was the Albergue Santo Domingo and I definitely would stay there again. The bathrooms were nice, actually like real private bathrooms not only shower cabins.
What I would do if I walked the camino again: I would calculate with 2 days more to avoid taking a bus. I also would make sure to have a bit more time in Tui because it looked like a beautiful village and it was a pity that I had absolutely no time there.
Day 6: Tui – O Porriño 17km
Meeting the super nice fellow pilgrims on the night before, I started the new day full of courage and actual joy. It felt great and so was the day I had ahead of me! It was one of the nicest stretch for me. I am sure it objectively wasn’t. It was a bit raining, it was quite a bit along streets and I took a wrong turn on one point. But I spend also a lot of time in forests, walked on old paved roads and crossed roman bridges, followed a river and passed through farmer lanes. It was just a great day and I could manage the 17km in no time and without any real effort. I arrived in O Porrinho at noon, before the official albergue even opened!
It was handy once more that I made no arrangements beforehand 🙂 At the time there was only one private albergue open and it was one of the best I stayed in.
I had a little walk in town but honestly, there is not really much to see in O Porrinho. I just had for a beer (and got tapas with it, and when I wanted to pay, the owner refilled my beer with a wink.. so I had almost dinner for 1,80€), got some groceries and called it a day. (it might have happened that I met people over dinner in the albergue who invited me for wine.. but well.. no vino, no camino)
About the accommodation in O Porrinho: Well, not albergue was not really nice in terms of beautiful or original, but pretty cheap with a lot of privacy. It was one big room, but all beds where in closed wooden departments with curtains. It was generally very clean, had a washing machine and a dryer. The kitchen wasn’t that good equipped, but enough to prepare a simple salad.
What I would do if I walked the camino again: Considering my good stamina, I could have walked further until Veigadana to shorten the next stage. It was a rather difficult one, but I think I would have ruined my good condition if I would have exceeded that day. It was good the way it was after all.
Day 7: O Porriño – Redondela 15.6km
As I skipped the hills between Ponte de Lima and Valença a few days earlier, this stage was definitely one of the most challenging. The first somewhat half until to Mos and then to Marco Miliário is mountain up. Just up, up, up .. and more up. It’s mainly over asphalt but not too unpleasant – some nice views, some very agreeable forest stretches but all in all nothing overly exciting.
I always thought that saying “up hill is easier than down hill” is just something amazingly fit and sportive people enjoy to rub into your face when you’re fighting your way up whatever hill. Well, it turns out it’s not.
Imagine it like that: you are walking slowly but steady up hill for about 10km, just for abruptly get back to your starting altitude over a distance of 500m. I never walked any way that steep. The slope was crazy, I had to walk in huge wiggly lines for not falling over! And I can sheepishly confirm now that walking down hill is motherducking hard and I will never argue that again.
When I arrived at the bottom, I sat down at a bus stop starring dead ahead. For about one hour. (Tip: just 100m up hill is a bar, stop there!) My foot was killing me. The previous day I started to have pain in my little toe, for no reason that I could identify. It felt like a giant bruiser, on the bone ^^. I guess it was just overstressed, but I got scared it would infect or something. Luckily it didn’t, I just got a blue nail … *2 months fast forward spoiler: what nail?*
From there it’s just an one hour walk until Redondela, which is a surprisingly big town actually. I stayed at the private albergue A Conserveira and was one of the first pilgrims to arrive. As a big surprise, another pilgrim sister – that I walked with since the first day on and off and that I didn’t think I would see again – arrived.. such a joy! And very appropriately there was a festival in town where the streets where covered in blossoms.
About the accommodation in Redondela: A Conserveira was one of the best places I stayed it. Cheap (10€), with a big kitchen and good facilities, and a lot of privacy. The bunk beds where all in cabin likes plywood boxes that gave the impression your in a private double room rather than a dormitory of 40.
What I would do if I walked the camino again: Except from stopping in that bar and having a drink instead of sitting dead inside at a bus stop… I wouldn’t change a thing.
Day 8: Redondela – Pontevedra 19.2km
I started walking with my friend but as she had a different rhythm than me, I was basically just trying to catch up. After a few kilometres I gave up and we agreed to meet in the public auberge in Pontevedra.
It was one of the absolute nicest days of my entire Camino experience. I felt great. The weather was perfect – sunny and warm but not too hot, the landscape was beautiful with a lot of forest and cute villages and meeting my friend gave me loads of energy. I felt so alive throughout the day, and at peace with myself. The last stretch was the most amazing. A beautiful forest trail along a stream and even though I had already quite some miles behind, walking was as easy as never before.
This was the first time that I realised that the camino got fuller. Until then I found myself often alone, with no other human being in sight. It wasn’t suddenly crowded and we didn’t walk snout to tail neither, but there were generally just more people around.
I stayed at the public albergue in Pontevedra that night the Virgen Peregrina Albergue. It’s the biggest I stayed in, with 2 Dorms with 40 beds each, 10 bunk beds on each side (if not more), 2 toilets and 3 showers.
I spend the afternoon catching up with my friends, did some groceries, laundry, had dinner and … enjoyed a massage! That’s right! There was a guy offering Shiatsu massages for a donation.
About the accommodation in Pontevedra: The hostel was quite big and – in my opinion – had not enough facilities. However, the kitchen was well equipped, the garden was spacious but I did had the worst night in Pontevedra. The girl in the bunk bed next to mine was coughing the entire fucking night. It was not only annoying, it woke up everyone, including the guy below me in the bunkbed. As soon as he turned around, the bed was shaking, which woke me up. If I was not already awake because she was coughing. Well… whether you are stuck a coughing person or not – after that night I would never pick the upper bunk again.
The hostel felt generally too anonymous for my taste and as if they simply tried to squeeze as many bunk into the dorms as possible. There wasn’t more than a metre between each bed.
What I would do if I walked the camino Porto to Santiago again: I wouldn’t stay in the public pilgrim hostel in Pontevedra again and definitely pick something more private and more central. It was just the worst place I stayed in.
Day 9: Pontevedra – Caldas de Reis 19.4km
I tried very hard to visually recall day 9, to remember how the landscape looked, where I had lunch, what I saw … but nope. I hardly can remember anything of it at all, except of some forest and walking uphill again. I do remember very vivid though that I managed to walk alongside with my friend without being under the impression to breathlessly catching up all the time. I remember that we were in ongoing conversations and in fact, I remember everything we talked about.
My memory really sets back in once we reached Caldas de Reis. It’s a beautiful town – maybe I am so sure of it because it was actually one of the few days where I was motivated enough to actually set off again and explore the town a bit. I even joined (parts of) a mess and took myself out for dinner to have some amazing tapas with wine. That I shared then with two girls from the table across. It was just one more of the endless examples on how the community of the camino is just beyond amazing.
About the accommodation in Caldas de Reis – We stayed in an okish albergue, La Posada de Doña Urraca that was central and nicely located next to a little river and an old fountain. As it was a public pilgrim hostel, it was a cheap stay again. The dorms where not too big, with 4 bunk beds, there were facilities to do laundry (by hand though) and 3 showers each. The kitchen was okish equipped but a bit dirty. The weird thing was the lightning; our room had no windows and the light was externally controlled. Means from 2 to 5pm (or so) it just went off and we could not turn it back on as there was no switch.
What I would do if I walked the camino again: it was a good day and I wouldn’t change a thing!
Day 10: Caldas de Reis – Padron 22km
Here it gets a bit messy. Knowing that our friend that I left in Ponte de Lima walked insane distances every day to catch up with us and was just one day behind us by now, we had to play around with the stages a bit. We initially planned to walk only until O Pino, which would have been like a half stage and wait for her until she would arrive the next around by noon to continue to Padron. However, O Pino seemed pretty lame and so we took actually a bus from O Pino to Padron, stayed there and walked back the next morning direction O Pino to meet her half way. This way we would have walked the correct amount of kilometres without staying in the boring O Pino. It’s ok if that is not making any sense to anyone but us 🙂
Padron was one of the best THE BEST places of all the camino. We arrived quite early, and to our big surprise, we did not only meet most of the people we kept on meeting during the previous days, but also many of the folks we met during the 2 very first nights! It somehow came all back together – we stumbled upon friends that walked the coastal road, others took a break on some point, or a bus on another – like me – and somehow we all met back that night in Padròn. It felt like the whole city was full of people I knew!
Padron was really beautiful to me. Walking didn’t bother me anymore and so I could set off again to explore town – there was so much music everywhere, people were dancing in the street, the weather was great, there was a food market and I totally loved the city scape!
About the accommodation in Padron Even though I swore to myself never to sleep in those gigantic dorms like in Pontevedra again..well I did in Padron and it was Okay! You were VERY close to your neighbour (bunks are back to back) but I just put up a towel for privacy. Plus, they were made from very solid wood and didn’t move an inch when someone was moving. The building itself was awesome – an old house with insane thick stone walls and a very rustic kitchen. There were only 2 showers and I felt the privacy decreased from hostel to hostel – there was not even a shower curtain anymore.
What I would do if I walked the camino again: I would have bought food at the market as most bars closed early after lunch but that’s about it.
Day 11: Padron – Cruces 6.9km
We walked half way back to O Pino to reconnect with our long lost pilgrim sister and it was the most amazing reunion. I thought I would never see her again and then camino provides. It felt (and still does) so precious to me to be able to end this journey with the 2 great women that I met in the first evening and that grew so dear to me. Funnily, she had another girl in tow, that both of my pilgrim sisters walked with for a while, independent from each other. So from then it was the 4 of us heading to Santiago!
We walked back to Padròn and had a way too long lunch – spending time catching up and enjoying each others company. We did pay for this long break and the late start though. The stretch from Padròn to Cruces was just so long and warm and quite boring to walk. In one word: Endless. That was purely due to the late lunch though, in reality Padron to Cruces are only 7km!
We arrived in Cruces in the late afternoon and – as expected – spent a memorable evening together. It was the last night of our camino journey and this realisation was hard to comprehend, to say at least.
However, we stayed in a relatively unusual hostel, the Cruces Inn. It had a big restaurant/bar and a pool, in the middle of nowhere and with us where only 3 other pilgrims.
About the accommodation in Cruces – it was really an unusual place but not disagreeable. The food was really good and so was the wine, the staff was very kind. The bathroom was horrible though – the shower had no curtain and the entire bathroom was basically swimming.
What I would do if I walked the camino again: Given that under normal circumstances, I would have started in Padron, I would have definitely have walked further until Teo.
Day 12: Cruces – Santiago 18.1km
That was the weirdest day of all. Knowing it comes to an end lead to a mix of fatalism, exhaustion, melancholy, excitement and absolutely no stamina. The last stretch was shit. Period. There were of course some nice bits through forest and fields, but also a lot of national roads, very steep hills, streets and suburbs and sometimes also quite some gap in trail signs and yellow arrows. We even found ourselves wondering where’s the Cathedral once we were in Santiago!
However, we made it. We arrived. I briefly had an image popping up where people lining the streets applauding for the new arriving pilgrims. Needless to say that this of course did not happen and arriving was a somewhat hard fall. A too sudden end to an extraordinary adventure. How could they have not applauded? Didn’t they know that we walked that unbelievable far? The camino was a big community and support system but even though, no one could in fact gasp how hard it was on a personal level to get through this. The community helps but in the end it’s you that just keeps on walking.
I felt *spoiler: weird comparison incoming* a bit like after giving birth to my first child – on the way from the hospital we stopped at a grocery store and I wondered how people could just be so oblivious when I just did the most miraculous thing of squeezing a tiny human out off my very body? How could life just go on?
… And then arrived at the cathedral and then that was it. We went to the pilgrim office to get the Compostela (the document that certificates that you did the camino), got some food, drinks, got a tattoo (we did) and went on with our lives…
…and until today I am still processing the fact that I walked whooping 210km on my own feet!
About the accommodation in Santiago – we were worried not to find an accommodation, after all, Santiago is also the end of the way more popular Camino Frances. However, we just booked a random airbnb, I won’t link it here as it was.. random and cheap but I wouldn’t recommend it. I wouldn’t advise against neither though, it was just… an airbnb. A bed to sleep in. However, if you never booked anything with airbnb and you think about it, click here to get a 15€ voucher!
What I would do if I walked the camino again: Retrospectively it would have been nice to spend the very last night as well in an official pilgrim albergue to get some closure from the camino Porto to Santiago. But at the time it seemed very nice to actually NOT to sleep in an albergue. However, what I am sure of is that I would try to keep the last day shorter in terms of distance.
Day 13: Fisterra, Addendum
We were not ready to say good bye just yet. Instead, we rented a car and took a road trip to Fisterra, the end of the world. Fisterra is for many pilgrims the end point of all caminos and it felt just right to end our joined journey there as well.
My flight from Porto left the early the next morning and I headed back Santiago de Compostela to Porto by bus. ( I booked my ticket a few days before here) It was a strange feeling to cover the distance I have tediously walked during 12 days in just 3h by bus. But it was nice to see some of the places I’ve been to again, and if just for a brief moment through the window of a bus. It was a storm of flash backs and somehow like a reset button.
The bus stopped right at the airport and as I had an early morning flight, I just spent the night at the airport. It wasn’t the most comfortable place but I probably slept more than in Pontevedra anyway.
What are your camino plans?
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How long is distance from Porto to Santiago de Compostela
The Camino trail from Porto to Santiago is 240.9km
It takes between 10 and 14 days.
The best time is from June to September.
Yes, there are busses leaving several times a day and it takes around 3h until Porto. The bus stops also at the airport.
If you are staying in official pilgrim hostels and prepare your food/benefit from pilgrim menus, you can calculate with 200-300€ a week
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