See below our JRC colleagues' picks
We asked our JRC colleagues and friends to tell us about their best memories when visiting Portugal. Here is the result. Thanks for sharing these wonderful testimonies about our home country!!!
Discovering the roots and traditions of northern Portugal
My best experience in Portugal, and certainly one of the most authentic of my life, dates back to 2011 when I had the chance to enjoy the “L Burro I l Gueiteiro“ (the donkey and the bag-piper) music festival.
This festival is an itinerant trip to the music, culture, food and traditions of northern Portugal. A kaleidoscope of sounds, colors and flavors that make you feel rooted to your neighboring country while you get to know the open, kind and genuine character of northern Portuguese. During this pilgrimage, the traveler can discover rural areas with traditional (and organic!) farming practices, a rich biodiversity of fauna and flora and beautiful landscapes.
Folk music, puppets shows, traditional games, street markets and all the excellent Portuguese food is found everywhere along the small villages you walk through. In 2011 we crossed the small villages of Palaçoulo, Prado Gatão, Fonte d'Aldeia e Picote. If you, my dear reader, have the opportunity to go to the north part of Portugal, please do not miss the tasty “alheiras” and the challenging “francesinhas”. It’s worth trying!
Besides, there is, behind the festival, a nice and valuable initiative that is worth fighting for: the recuperation of the donkey Mirandes breed, which is in danger of extinction. I really hope neither this cute donkey breed nor the traditions and folk music from this wonderful place will ever disappear.
All in all, an experience to live intensively!
Discovering “Venice”, in Portugal
I am among the lucky ones, who have had the pleasure to visit Portugal many times, traveling from the windy coasts of the South, up to the wonderful city of Porto, in the North. I lost myself in a timeless rail station in Tua Valley, surrounded by the astonishing green of the vineyards. With the opportunity of a conference on algae, in 2016 I visited Aveiro, the so called “Portuguese Venice”.
The analogy with the Italian city of Venice is due to the "gondolas" (barcos moliceiros once used for collecting moliço seaweed), anchored in the many Ria de Aveiro canals. However, this appellation does not allow getting the real feeling this city can transmit you. Walking alongside the channels, tasting deep red wines, and practicing my poor Portuguese, with the always smiley and friendly faces of people around.
Aveiro is located in a fascinating geographical position, which allowed for a favourable economic development, mostly based on salt production, fishing and maritime trade. Today seaweed production is offering the possibility for new opportunities, to mitigate the environmental impact of fish farming, and create new products for food, feed, and cosmetic sectors.
When travelling around Portugal, I always enjoy the feeling of suspended atmosphere between its rich past and its dynamic present!
Learning traditional dances from North Portugal
To me Portugal has always been strongly related to dance and music. At the end of 2018, I had the opportunity to spend the New Year at an international folk festival in Porto with some Portuguese friends. One of the highlights was the Portuguese dances workshop. I had the opportunity to discover and learn to dance chulas and viras, traditional group dances from North Portugal, with a large group of people. The dances were accompanied by two musicians playing typical instruments; an adufe, a type of drum square-shaped, and a cavaquinho, a type of small guitar.
Both dances were performed in groups, with two lines of people facing in each other, sometimes pairing up in two or four. We learned the step sequence that included many jumps on one and two feet, turnings, all with the arms up to the sky, or ceiling in this case, as my friend Fátima in the photo.
The cheerful music, great atmosphere of the festival and the location in the wonderful and welcoming city of Porto made it a memorable time!
Memories from Lisbon
Some time ago, in 2007, the circumstances of life led me to live for almost two months in Lisbon. At that time, people used to travel without further ado, I mean without lots of preparation and consulting of information to "make sure" that you are not going to miss anything. I remember that just talking to someone from a fruit shop, we found a small apartment in the center of the city, on some stairs that went up from Rossio Square. Every night we would go down to have some Ginjinha in old bars, back then only frequented by local old men. In the mornings, I used to walk looking for the largest and richest bolo rei! But I particularly remember the visit to the Convent of Capuchos in Sintra, in solitude and magic!
The students festivities in Porto
May 2017, I was in Porto when I saw for first time students which were celebrating the end of graduation courses before the final exams. The streets and squares in Porto were packed with thousands of "newly liberated" students set apart by their top hats and walking sticks. The festival is called Queima das Fitas or Burning Ribbons. It is a traditional festivity of the students of Portuguese universities celebrating the end of graduation courses, symbolized by the ritual burning of the ribbons representing each faculty of the University. According to the ritual, studies are forgotten for a week of joy and all-night revelry.
The festivities run for a full week in beginning of May and it is one of the biggest student festivities in Europe. So if you are planning to go to Portugal around May don’t miss it. For me it was an amazing experience to see the feeling of those students on the festival.
I really loved my trip to Portugal thanks to my best friend who was with me and showed me around including the best life of Lisbon city.
Hiking in Sintra National Park, Porto Wine, Food (i.e. Francesinha) are my best experiences and things I loved during my Portugal trip.
My experience in the Azores islands
My experience in Portugal took place in a very special location: the Azores Islands. Here I had the chance to study, do traineeships and work altogether for almost 2 years, but not only. To get lost in the “Floresta de nuvens”, feel the silence inside of a volcano, the ocean roar, or spotting a whale passing by near to you are moments that last in my memory. The Azores are also a crossing point of the most motley people from all over the world, I made great friends! Azorean people are also difficult to forget, so warm, authentic and proud of their roots. Even once back in “mainland” I know the Portuguese islands will stay with me forever.
The BIG waves in Nazaré
Portugal is a land of the sea, with a beautiful, sometimes rough, coast. From the open Atlantic Ocean big waves are rolling in. Big waves? VERY BIG waves! Ever wondered where the highest waves on the planet occur? While single rogue waves, caused by the overlapping of waves, can appear in the open sea, Nazaré, ca. 100 km north of Lisbon, might feature the biggest regularly occurring waves on the whole planet!
The reason for this lies in the morphology of the coast. The swell direction and prevailing winds already favour wave development. A 230 km long underwater canyon, the largest in Europe, starting at a depth of 5000 m, reaches the coast at Nazaré and, through a complex interaction of depth reduction, converging waves and a seashore channel, pushes the water upwards*. Thus the waves reach enormous heights, even more than 30 m! Nazaré is famous among surfers and many world records have been set there. Just recently a surfer has claimed to have surfed a wave of 30.9 m height**.
Nazaré is a nice little town, probably very crowded when the big waves and the surfers appear. Small fishing boats on the beaches and fish drying on racks complement its picturesque charm. I have very nice memories from a short visit of Nazaré as a sunny, calm and silent town, but I need to come back to watch when the big waves are thundering on the beach……