Through Portugal from north to south – and vice versa

I do as much as I can to travel through Portugal, and even though it is not among the hugest countries, I have only seen a fraction by now. I proudly present the current scope of the trips done – 35 municipalities:

278 municipalities in continental PortugalHowever, to get to know something about the rest of the territory I had to look at bibliographical sources, so here come a few lines referring to my current readings: Portugal de perto and Duas Linhas.

Portugal de perto

Portugal de perto by Nuno Ferreira has to do with the crisis period that emerged around 2007 (or is it just mid-age crisis of its author?!). At that time, the awarded travel journalist with 20 years of experience faced a period of unemployment and decided to do something crazy – walk through Portugal from south to north and get to know its people and its diverse landscapes more profoundly. This was an opposition to those last-minute tasks and breaking news and quick trips journalists do by nature of their job. Thankfully, some sponsors (namely, the Expresso newspaper) recognized the idea, and voila, now that the itinerary has been completed, we have the book available!

DSC06217However personal and referring to an old dream coming true, this entertaining travelogue is also a portrait of (rural) Portugal and its people as they really are. Offering a kind of unfocused view to the country and its landscapes, it is a reminder that the urban reality we live in is not at all the only there is!

Duas Linhas

The second book also deals with the problem of how to explore a complex and shifting thing such as a country’s contemporary identity, however in a more scientific way. Architects Pedro Campos Costa and Nuno Louro invented a methodology to approach Portuguese landscapes as defining elements of the country.

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On a map of Portugal, they imposed a set of parallel horizontal lines at each 10 kilometers, and two curves following the road infrastructure, outlining the country borders. Then they traveled from north to south, stopping at the defined points of intersection and making photographic documentation. The results of the survey were then gathered, analyzed and presented at an exhibition and in a book. The project dates from 2009, but for me it’s quite new, taking into account the stage of my own work and bibliographical research.

It turns out that the project confirmed the complexity of the territory, showing how littoral and interior stripes are two of all the many different and defining elements of the territory, and enabling fresh view into potentials and traps of urban development. Those were not so clearly visible using “conventional” methods for studies and planning.

The very inspiring work was presented in the book named Duas linhas, containing a selection of juxtaposed photos from the parallel registers, accompanied by interpretive texts by the two authors themselves and by invited contributors: Mário Alves, Álvaro Domingues, João Ferreira Nunes, Samuel Rego and João Seixas.

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Convento de Santa Maria de Bouro

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The former convent originating from 12th century and situated in the Braga district, was adapted into a hotel in the second half of 1990s. The architect was Eduardo Souto Moura, whose idea was to create “a new building within old walls”.

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According to my brief research, the traditional/historical hotels are quite popular in Portugal. There is a hotel chain “Pousadas de Portugal”, that was run by the state until 2003, when the Pestana Group took them over. This idea emerged in 1940s, upon the then minister Antonio Ferro’s initiative. There are 44 pousadas in historical buildings around Portugal now, with plans to open some more (and invite well known architects to do the conversions). The existing pousadas are divided into four groups: historical pousadas, historical design pousadas (the ones in historical buildings, but with modern architectural elements), nature pousadas, and charming pousadas (situated in “typical” buildings or places).

Hmmm, something to remember for further research and mapping!

World heritage sites in Portugal

Portugal has 15 properties inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The map shows the ones in continental Portugal (ordered from north to south):

UNESCO properties in continental Portugal

  • Historic Centre of Guimaraes (2001)
  • Historic Centre of Porto (1996)
  • Alto Douro Wine Region (2001)
  • Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Coa Valley and Siega Verde (1998)
  • University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia (2013)
  • Monastery of Batalha (1983)
  • Convent of Christ in Tomar (1983)
  • Monastery of Alcobaca (1989)
  • Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications (2012)
  • Cultural Landscape of Sintra (1995)
  • Monastery of Hieronymites and Tower of Belem in Lisbon (1983)
  • Historic Centre of Evora (1986)

There are also 11 properties submitted on the country’s Tentative list.

Source: http://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/PT/

Papa Quilometros

It’s not merely a cookbook, it’s a “journey through Portuguese gastronomy”, as the author, chef Ljubomir Stanišić presents it. It was first published in 2011, following his success in MasterChef Portugal and in running a fancy restaurant in Lisbon. There is also a TV show based on the book; I have seen some episodes on the Travel Channel, but it’s the book I prefer. eb5773952eca4796ff0fccc2e2e2ba34

How does a foreigner who loves and knows Portuguese culture and lifestyle see and interpret them in his domain? How does he link senses, heritage and geography of Portugal? Something to be investigated in my further work! The important thing is that we’re coming from the same cultural context …

Papa Quilometros was a present from a dear person, a serendipity that started an avalanche of ideas and actions bringing me … where? To be found out within some weeks.

José Saramago. Viagem pelo Portugal (1981)

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José Saramago. Viagem pelo Portugal (1981).

The cover of the recently translated Serbian edition, published by Laguna (Belgrade) within the collection of Saramago’s works.
The book documents months of Saramago’s travels through Portugal of 1979, often off the beaten paths. Along with the refined experience of his homeland, the travelogue marks the writer’s personal, spiritual journey. It was written after the Salazar dictatorship ended and should also understood as a way of rethinking Portuguese identity in the new socio-political context. Source: personal library, book acquired in 2012.