One more post from the series dedicated to short video trips across Portugal, mixing some of the country’s music, culture, and landscapes! This time we will be leaving Lisbon behind and start making our way towards the north. Welcome to Central Portugal!
For many people living in the Lisbon area, anything to the north of, say, Leiria will immediately fall under the category of “north”; for many people living in Minho anything to the south of Porto will immediately fall under the category of “south”. This is half true and half joke! 😉
The vast region between Lisbon and Porto is an area which to me, growing up, was divided into Beira Alta, Beira Baixa, Beira Litoral, and Beira Interior, plus Estremadura. It was only in recent years that I came across the concept of “Central Portugal” (thanks, expats on Facebook!). It reminds me of a German teacher I had who explained to us that in German the preposition they used to say “I’m going to the Algarve” was the same they used to say “I’m going to the beach” because to them the Algarve was just basically one long beach.
Central Portugal is home to a big variety of landscapes as well as cultural and historical and backgrounds. Today’s blog post is by no means a thorough look into the region but intended mostly to show you some bits and pieces of this beautiful part of the country.
To begin our trip today I suggest we start off with a video that doesn’t really show a lot of detail but sets the mood just right. It’s a sweet song by the band Cuca Monga (they also showed up on the last post) and it features a horizon that can easily be identified as belonging to the hills in Central Portugal. If I had to bet, I’d say those landscapes were filmed somewhere in the Beira Baixa region. Trivia tidbit: this song includes a line from a song by Ágata, a famous pimba singer and diva of sorts. Why did they include that in the song? Because hipsters *shrugs*.
The next video, by a band called Ciclo Preparatório, gets extra points for showing landscapes and monuments. The building in front of which the band is playing is the one and only Convent of Christ in Tomar, about which thousands of pages have been written and not only in Portuguese. Did you know some people believe this is where the Holy Grail is hidden? Well, now you do!
Oh, but then there’s also the castle of Almourol. Granted, not the fanciest castle in Portugal but it’s surely among the fortifications with the most flair and best location. Both the castle of Almourol and the Convent of Christ were connected to the Knights Templar, by the way.
Last but not least a note about the female voice in this song and which belongs to Lena d’Água (and not to the girl in the band), a singer who was pretty famous from I’d say the late 70’s to the late 80’s. She was also part of a band called Salada de Frutas (yep, fruit salad). They were responsible for some hits which shed a less than pleasant light on the society of the time and, perhaps not surprisingly, are still relevant today. If you’re curious check out some of their songs, like “Demagogia”, “Olha o robot” and “Nuclear não, obrigado”.
To finish today’s post I’m sharing a video featuring part of Serra da Estrela plus a very special old building not far from that area. Although the video shows Lagoa Comprida which, to me, is one of the least interesting parts of Serra da Estrela (mean, I know!) it does serve the purpose of giving an idea of the sort of landscape you can expect in the region. There are, however, areas with more vegetation and more dramatic hills that would be far more interesting to show, but hey.
When you reach the 35:30 mark you’ll see an old abandoned building. The first time I came across those ruins was some years ago on the road to Sortelha (a lovely village with a lovely castle serving breathtaking looks). This used to be a hotel, by the name of Hotel Serra da Pena e das Termas Águas de Radium (Termas Águas de Radium meaning, literally, Radium waters thermal baths).
The info I found about this is a bit contradictory when it comes to details, so long story short: In the 1910’s uranium mines were a thing in the region and at the time radium was considered to be highly beneficial and used in many things, from bath salts to chocolates (yum!). It was at that time that a Spanish count brought his very ill daughter to the region and, he claimed, the waters cured her so he decided to open a hotel – this hotel. Second World War happened and people realised that, ooopsie, radioactive stuff isn’t good, which meant the closing down of the thermal baths in 1945.
On the next post we’ll be travelling further north. Stay tuned!
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