Portugal is a democratic republic placed on the West and Southwest parts of the Iberian Peninsula in Southwestern Europe. Portugal is bordered by Spain to the North and East and by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South. In addition, Portugal includes several island territories in the Atlantic, such as the Azores and Madeira.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF PORTUGAL
Portugal's history starts with the rise of a nation to a great world power, followed by a decline, and then resurgence. Portugal's influence in the modern world started in the 15th and 16th centuries, but after that the country lost much of its wealth with the destruction of Lisbon in a 1755 earthquake and occupation during the Napoleonic Wars.
The 1910 revolution deposed the monarchy; after that, for more than six decades, repressive governments ran the country. In 1974, a left-wing military revolution installed broad democratic reforms. The following year, Portugal granted independence to all of its African colonies.
Portugal is a founding member of NATO and entered the European Union in 1986.
GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
Continental Portugal is split by its main river, the Tejo. To the North the landscape is mountainous in the interior areas with plateaus, cut by breaking lines that allow the development of relevant agricultural areas. The South down as far as the Algarve features mostly rolling plains with a climate somewhat warmer and drier. Other major rivers include the Douro, the Minho and the Guadiana.
The islands of the Azores and Madeira are located in the Atlantic Ocean.
The continental portuguese coast is extensive with approximately 943 km. The coast developed fine beaches, famous worldwide. Portugal is one of the warmest European countries. In mainland Portugal, average temperatures are 13oC in the North and 18oC in the South. Spring and Summer months are usually sunny and the temperatures very high during July and August, with highs in the center of the country between 30oC and 35oC. Autumn and Winter are typically rainy, yet sunny days are not rare either, the temperatures rarely fall below 10oC.
Portugal is an ancient nation and for more than 800 years it has maintained its specific culture through a self-governing venture while being influenced by the various civilizations that crossed the Mediterranean world. Thus, it has always absorbed habits and traditions from such early civilizations and from the regions that it discovered and conquered throughout the world during the Portuguese empire, establishing a specific legacy.
Portuguese music is represented by a wide variety of forms. The most renowned Portuguese music is Fado, a form of melancholic music. The music is usually linked to the Portuguese guitar and the Portuguese word “saudade”. Although without an accurate equivalent in English, saudade is describable as a common human feeling; it occurs when one is in love with someone or something yet apart from him, her, or it. The style conveys a distinct mixture of sadness, pain, nostalgia, happiness and love. Some of its most internationally notable performers include Amália Rodrigues and Mariza.
Portuguese literature is one of the earliest western literatures, and as developed in the 13th century, through texts and songs.
The adventurer and poet Luís de Camões (1524-1580) wrote the epic “Os Lusíadas”, a work that he developed in his journeys in Africa and Asia. Modern Portuguese poetry, since the 19th century, is essentially rooted in a handful of relevant poets, ranging from neo- classicism to contemporary styles. One such famous poet is Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935), who wrote poetry in the voice, style and manner of many fictional poets under a large number of heteronyms. Modern literature also became internationally known, mostly through the works of Almeida Garrett, Alexandre Herculano, Camilo Castelo Branco, Eça de Queirós, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, António Lobo Antunes and the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature winner, José Saramago.
Portuguese traditional architecture is distinct precisely due to the variety of its influences, with several examples throughout the world, some of which are classified as world heritage sites. Modern Portugal has one of the best architecture schools in the world, renowned by the names of Souto Moura and Alvaro Siza Vieira.
Portugal formerly had a large empire, and the cuisine has influences in both directions.
The Portuguese are famous because of their gastronomy. They appreciate eating and drinking well. Staple foods in the Portuguese diet include fish, chicken, vegetables and fruits. Pork, goat, partridge, quail and rabbit are typical meats in Portugal.
Portuguese cuisine is characterized by rich, filling and full-flavoured dishes. The influence of Portugal's former colonial possessions is clear, especially in the wide variety of spices used.
Portugal is a sea-faring nation at heart, and this is reflected in the amount of fish and seafood consumed. Foremost amongst these is “bacalhau”, or salt cod, which is one of the Portuguese national dishes. Also popular are sardines, especially when grilled, as well as octopus, hake, lamprey and a variety of shellfish.
Vegetables that are popular in Portuguese cookery include tomatoes, cabbage and onions. There are many starchy dishes, such as “feijoada”, a rich bean stew, and “açorda”, a thick bread-based dish. Rice is widely used, as are potatoes.
Sweets are very popular. Perhaps most popular desserts include “arroz doce” - rice pudding - and “pudim flan” - a kind of creme caramel. Cakes and pastries are also very popular. Most towns will have a local speciality, usually egg or cream based pastry. Originally from Lisbon, but popular nationwide, as well as among the diaspora, are “Pastéis de Belém”. These are small, crispy, extremely rich custard tarts, which are best eaten with a strong coffe.
FESTIVALS AND HOLIDAYS
Festivals play a major role in Portugal's summers. Every city and town has its own or several festivals. The June Festivities are very popular, these festivities are dedicated to three saints known as Santos Populares and take place all over the country.
The three saints are Santo António, São João and São Pedro. A common denominator in these festivities are the wine and “água-pé” (a watered kind of wine), traditional bread along with sardines, marriages, traditional street dances and fireworks.
Especially in summer, Lisbon hosts a great number of festivals (Festas de Lisboa). Santo António is celebrated on the nights of the 12th and 13th, in Lisbon with “Marchas Populares” (a sort of street carnival) and festivities. In the meantime, several marriages known as “Casamentos de Santo António”, are celebrated at the same time.
Carnival is also widely celebrated in Portugal, some traditional carnivals dates back several centuries.
19th-25th February - Carnival
25th April - Liberty Day (parades, fireworks take place)
13th May- Pilgrimage to Fatima
13th June - Santo António's Day (Festas dos Santos Populares)
13th June - Pilgrimage to Fátima
23th-24th June - São João's Day (Festas dos Santos Populares)
28th-29th June - São Pedro's Day (Festas dos Santos Populares)
3rd July – 26th September - BAIXAnima Street Festival (street music, dance, theater, circus, weekends only)
July - Sintra Festival (Sintra hosts the most important classical music and ballet festivals in Portugal)
July - Estoril Jazz Festival (Cascais. The oldest jazz festival in Lisbon area. The festival presents famous musicians from the world of jazz) 9th-26th July - Cool Jazz Festival (Mafra, Sintra, Oeiras and Cascais. A unique music festival where jazz meets with other music styles such as Fado and Brazilian music)
Mid-August - Oceans Festival (rowing races, fireworks, food fair, theater, film)
1st November - Dia de todos os Santos (religious festival)
8th December - Feast of the Immaculate Conception (religious festival)