Way up in the north of Portugal there’s a region called Trás-os-Montes, which is known for several things: its rough and breathtaking landscape, the Mirandese language, the extreme weather (“nine months of winter and three months of hell”), the wonderful produce, men in skirts (I haven’t talked about that one, yet), the unique costumes (usually associated with Carnival, but also used at other times) and, last but not least, Miranda do Douro.
Here, Portugal and Spain are separated only by the river Douro. All along the northern border there are other places where a river makes a natural frontier between the two countries but it seems to me that this is where the river acts more like a unifying force, rather than a dividing one. Maybe because of the harsh circumstances? Some of the areas which are now covered by water were once the spots where the poorest people would grow their food. Eventually they noticed that their produce was actually better: those high cliffs on both sides meant more condensation and, therefore, more humidity, in a place where it can get very dry in those “three months of hell”.
We were on a boat cruise when we were there (highly recommend it!) and our guide said something which, to me, sums up very well the relationship between both sides of the river here. She was the daughter of a Portuguese father and a Spanish mother and said: “I don’t see myself as being neither Portuguese nor Spanish; I am of the river”.
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