My acquaintance with Panjim was brief but memorable – I just couldn’t miss the chance to see Fontainhas (the Latin Quarter of the city) after everything I’ve heard about this place. My interest to the fusions of cultures is no secret, and Mumbai has been generously providing a feast for the eyes in the form of Indo-Saracenic Revival buildings. The subtle blend of Portuguese and Indian cultures always sounded promising, and although I got a taste of it in Margao before visiting Panjim, the curvy lanes of Fontainhas with its colorful houses were actually the quintessence of it.
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The history of Fontainhas
Panjim is a small city with a population of merely 115,000 inhabitants, located in a picturesque place where the powerful Mandovi river flows into the Arabian Sea. The history of Fontainhas begins in the end of the 18th century, when a wealthy Goan expat Antonio Joao de Sequeira reclaimed this land for his coconut plantation. The area derives its name from a spring-fed fountain – the Fonte Phoenix water reservoir. In the first half of the 19th century many headquarters of the Portuguese government were shifted to Panjim from Old Goa after several outbreaks of plaque and other infectious diseases. Very soon the portions of the Fontainhas area were sold to the residents without any particular city planning in mind, thus the winding roads and narrow streets. Today Fontainhas retain a strong Portuguese influence in architecture and general vibe of the place. Here you’ll find a lot of red tiled roofs, ornamental doors and windows, projecting balconies and Azulejo ceramic tiles for street names and house numbers.
A walk through Fontainhas
I started my walk from the Chapel of St. Sebastian. Built in the beginning of the 19th century, this simple yet charming structure was dedicated to Saint Sebastian who was supposed to protect people from rapid spreads of epidemic diseases, primarily plague.
Red tiled roof, neatly painted facades, balconies or their imitations, carefully chosen elements of decor – there are many such exteriors in the Latin Quarter.
Bright, cheerful color of a traditional house used to serve as a demonstration of financial well-being and respectability of its owners. Private houses couldn’t be painted white – only churches, chapels and cathedrals were privileged enough to be associated with the virtues of purity, innocence and goodness. Green, blue and different shades of brownish yellow are among the most popular colors of the buildings in the Latin Quarter of Panjim.
I didn’t get the sensation of being in Europe – the Indian element of the cultural fusion was rather strong. But it definitely felt different.
There were plenty of art galleries and quirky cafes in the neighbourhood. I didn’t go inside, but there is no doubt that exploring them would have been a treat.
I didn’t think I would ever use the words “quaint” and “school” in one sentence, but just look at this one!
And I had to control myself not to take photos of every single Azulejo I came upon – they are just too charming to resist 🙂
Travel tips for exploring Fontainhas (the Latin Quarter of Panjim)
~ The area is located within walking distance from the bus stand, so if you don’t feel like being ripped off by the rickshaw drivers, just walk there.
~ Fontainhas is best explored on foot, so make sure your footwear is comfortable enough.
~ A lot of buildings in the Latin Quarter are private houses, so it’s advisable to moderate one’s curiosity levels and photography ambitions.
Where to stay in Panjim
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