Posts Tagged With: mountain

A natural beauty

Piodão1Usually, when thinking of architecture, we tend to think of big buildings, whether modern or old. The way I see it, however, credit should also be given to more “popular” types of architecture, using natural materials – like stone!

piodão4Today I’m bringing you a few snapshots of one of the most famous schist villages from Central Portugal, the village of Piodão.

piodão2Located close to the Serra da Estrela region, Piodão is one of a total of 27 schist villages in the heart of the country. In a place with an abbundance of schist as well as zigs and zags, ups and downs, what do you build your houses with? Why, schist, of course!

piodão3Getting to know these villages is very much worth the trouble of getting away from the city and maybe even getting lost on your way back because the GPS isn’t working and it’s a rainy night and you can’t see s**t. Not that it ever happened to me! This is also the part of the country where you’ll find some of the most beautiful river beaches.

piodão5Enjoy!

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Categories: History, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Highlands – Portuguese style

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Sometimes travel doesn’t have much to do with monuments or with a huge checklist of things you have to do in order to “have fun”.

Sometimes travel is just about soaking up the energies from the place you’re visiting and about collecting memories. Personally, I like to daydream a little.

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When in Castro Laboreiro (which I mentioned before) I couldn’t helpt but get a “Lord of the Rings” kind of feeling. I was sure that at any minute I would see a legion of soldiers (or orcs!) coming from around the mountain.

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Then I remembered my favourite part from the Latin classes I took in college. Despite being fairly technologically advanced Romans were superstitious and, might I add, a little too full of themselves.

Apparently, it took them a long time to enter the area we now call Serra da Estrela because, among other things, they must have thought it was a good idea to bring horses to a mountainous area! Oh, and Viriato played an important role, of course.

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Standing there, with the wind rushing past my face in the grey and cold weather, I wondered if the north of what we today call Portugal had other characters, similar to Viriato. Even if it never did I can only imagine that living here, especially centuries ago without the comfort we now have, made everyone a hero in their own way.

Do you daydream when you travel? 😉

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Categories: Activities, Nature, Places | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Strange things in strange places (part 3)

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The definition of strange is, obviously, a relative one. I keep being surprised by things which, to me, are puzzling – sanctuaries are one of them – and I’m fully aware that what I think of as “strange” clearly wasn’t so to whoever built them.

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Can you see two little white peaks in the upper third of the photo? That’s where the sanctuary is!

In previous posts dedicated to this category I’ve mentioned a small sanctuary on top of a small hill in Gerês and a church on the beach. Today I bring you a sanctuary in a village right in the mountainous region of Peneda, part of the Peneda-Gerês National Park. This is the kind of thing that might get us thinking “why would anyone want to build a sanctuary in such a remote area?”. It’s worth remembering that this area, although scarcely populated today, wasn’t always so.

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Anyway, enough chitchat. 🙂

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The construction of the sanctuary of Senhora da Peneda started in the late 18th century and ended roughly 100 years later. There’s a main structure, which resembles the Bom Jesus sanctuary in Braga and then there are small chapels depicting scenes of the life of Christ – one of them, it seems, was paid for by the negus of Ethiopia! There’s also a small hotel, in what used to be lodgings for the pilgrims visiting the sanctuary.

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Like so many similar sanctuaries this one has a legend. In August 1220, so the story goes, Our Lady of Peneda appeared before a young shepherd girl and told her to ask the people of a nearby village to construct a chapel in her honor. When the girl told her parents about this they gave her no credit, thinking she was only a child and had probably made it up. The next day Our Lady of Peneda appeared again in the same place and told the girl that, since nobody believed her, she should go to another village where there was a woman who had been crippled for 18 years. She should tell the inhabitants of the place to bring the woman to her presence. The girl did as she was told and, lo and behold, as soon as the woman came near the image of Our Lady of Peneda she was free from her illness!

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As a side note I’d like to add that this is a place where you might just come across a few cows grazing – yes, in a sanctuary!

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Categories: History, Legends, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

And if life gives you stones…

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You use them! 🙂

As promised on my previous post today I will tell you about a specific type of architecture, let’s call it “folk architecture”.

Meet the espigueiros, built with stone (and sometimes a mix of stone and wood) and which have been, for centuries, allowing people in the Minho region to keep their corn dry and safe from rodents. Although they’re usually found in Minho you can also spot them in other parts of North and even Central Portugal. They’re a great example of how humans can survive and thrive in harsh conditions.

In a place where stone seems to be the most common construction material people came up with a way of protecting their crops using, well, stone! The espigueiros are used mainly to keep corn, but they’ve been around since before the Discoveries (probably since before the Middle Ages, actually).

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Here’s the deal, in a nutshell: Corn is harvested in Autumn and must be left to dry during the Winter, ie, when it’s cold and damp. These structures have vertical cuts on the side walls, making it possible for corn to dry without without letting mice get in to take a nibble. They also have different types of “marks” (usually on the locks), so the owners will know which espigueiro belongs to which family.

These particular examples of espigueiro can be seen near the castle of Lindoso and some of them were built in the 18th and 19th centuries!

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Categories: History | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

A castle on the limit

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Recently, I got to spend a few days in the Minho region, in the North of Portugal and let me tell that although this is a relatively small part of the country, it is packed with history and things to do and see.

You know when you look at a map and think that a small place will have nothing to see and no stories to tell? Don’t let yourself be fooled! Minho is packed with history and beautiful landscapes, making it a mix of brain and beauty! Old churches, monasteries and manor houses seem to pop up everywhere – besides pre-historic remains and landscapes that make you go “wow”.

Today I bring you a castle from Lindoso, a town located very very close to the border with Spain, in the area of the Peneda-Gerês National Park, which offers jaw-dropping views of the surrounding area, including the river Lima. This castle, classified as a national monument in 1910, is not big or of very intricate design but it served its purpose of defending the border. It was built in the 13th century and, like so many other fortifications, it went through some modernisation work throughout the times.

Near the castle you can also admire a different type of architecture, which will be topic of the next post. Let’s call it… a system that allows you to keep your corn dry and safe from rodents! 🙂 Stay tuned!

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Categories: Activities, History, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Building bridges

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First post of the year and anniversary post as well – today is the blog’s second birthday! Yay!

This past year was incredibly busy and it seemed to go by in a flash. I met great people, explored new places and learned a lot. There’s a website in the making and an increased presence in social media, besides a never ending bucket list for travel destinations and experiences in Portugal. I’d like to thank everyone who stops by, whether you’re fellow bloggers or interested in knowing more about Portugal – you rock! 😉

For today’s post I’m bringing you a bridge – but not just any bridge.

You can find this bridge in Castro Laboreiro, a town very very close to the border with Spain and in the area of the Peneda-Gerês National Park.
Castro Laboreiro is the kind of place that is older than you think might be possible and has a ton of history. Still, you risk missing out on a lot of things if you don’t pay attention. This bridge, for example, can be found by the side of the road and you may not actually notice it. Not much is known about it but, like many bridges in the region, it probably dates back to the time of the Roman empire. Can you imagine how many thousands of feet walked on it?

The surrounding area (which I’ll show in future posts) looks like it came straight from a scene from The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings, with breathtaking views of mountains and valleys.

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I’d like to wish everyone a wonderful 2015 with plenty of travel and good times! 🙂

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Categories: History, Nature, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Strange things in strange places

Bom Jesus das Mós

Well, to me at least.

In Portugal you’ll find lots of more or less strange monuments (many of them religious) in more or less strange places.

Here you can see part of the Bom Jesus das Mós, a small religious monument I came across with in Gerês. It was built between 1902 and 1912 and, from the top, you get a great view of the surrounding area.

Above all I think this monument caught my eye because it was built with the boulders as part of its structure (following a common characteristic found in houses in the region) but also because of the way the stairs were built: you have one common entrance, you can turn left or right on the next level but, in the end, to get to the top, there’s only one entrance as well.

Enjoy! 🙂

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Random photo of the week

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Taken somewhere in Serra da Estrela this is, I believe, a good example of how sometimes the rustic, more simple things, can also be the most beautiful – in all their simplicity.

If you’re wondering… no, this isn’t a home, but a shepherd’s hut. 😉 Meant to provide shelter from the elements this example shown here is actually a kind of “deluxe” hut, with a chimney and everything! 😀

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Random photo of the week

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Do you have any favourite place for the Winter? Somewhere where you like to go because of the snow and the white landscapes?

Well, have you ever thought of going there when it’s not snowing? You get to see everything that would otherwise be covered in frost and snow – like this waterfall in Serra da Estrela. Most of your favourite snow covered places will, in Spring and Summer, be filled with flowers, fruits and animals! What’s not to like about it?

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Categories: Nature, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Random photo of the week

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I’ve mentioned the Serra da Estrela region several times before, but, besides the mountainous landscape there’s also a valley. The river Zêzere‘s glaciar valley, to be more precise – and it offers a truly unique view.

Being 13km long (about 8 miles) this beautiful glaciar valley is one of the longest, if not the longest, in Europe.

There’s a hiking route which includes this valley, but you can just follow the road and enjoy the view!

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