The Portuguese National Day is celebrated on June 10th.
This day is not, like in most countries, the day where a new constitution was signed, or independence declared. This day marks the day when one of Portugal’s most famous poets died in the year 1580, Luis de Camoes.
Tourism is very important to Portugal; in 2018 tourism accounted for about 7 pct. of the GDP (Spain: 5.3; Italy: 5.5; Germany: 4; USA: 2.7); and tourism has grown much; 5.3 pct., compared to a European average of 2.5% during the last years. A bit more than 20 pct. of all jobs are in the travel and hospitality sector.
Lisbon has in the last years become a very hip city (home to Madonna); 10,000 Airbnb apartments in a city of 550 k inhabitants. Portuguese are normally very friendly and polite; often even a bit reserved/restrained. However, voices about “over-tourism” and increasing rents have gotten loud. The heavy tourism in some areas was not welcome.
Portugal is Algarve, beaches, Porto the old city of Coimbra (former capital); and of course, Madeira and Azores. My favorite is heading up the old inland roads (N2) on a Harley; great stuff!
The first time you order a meal in Portugal; don’t get surprised, as I did, if they serve you rice and potatoes / French fries at the same time. That’s the way they do it; probably, want to make sure you don’t leave the table hungry. Food is probably not the main reason one visits Portugal. However, if you make it to Madeira (about 900 km South of Mainland Portugal) make sure to try the Black Scabbardfish (Espada) with sweet bananas – grown on the island. It is a deep-sea fish caught by lines and hooks at night.
The story goes that fishermen in the small village Câmara de Lobos, just outside Funchal, had been drinking. One fisher rows out to fish; being drunk, he falls asleep and the line drops to the bottom where he at 1,700 meters catches the first Black Scabbard. Legendary Travel, a DMC from Madeira recommends; “Coming back to the Espada (scabbard fish), we advise first-time visitors to try the Espada com Banana dish first, which is offered in many local restaurants here on Madeira Island, before seeing the actual (lifeless) fish in the market (Mercado dos Lavradores). In case you already had the fish dish or you dare to make an acquaintance before you have tasted it, then you can visit the well-known Farmers market during our Funchal Delights half-day tour.” It is an ugly beast; really!
Câmara de Lobos is by the way an excellent place to eat your fish. The view of the natural harbor with the many small wooden boots in strong colors is very picturesque. Winston Churchill came here to paint.
Portugal now prepares to reopen after Covid-19. Temperatures will be measured at the airports, mass assemblies will not take place, and social distancing is expected.
Why Does Portugal Exist at All?
The question may seem provocative. It isn’t meant to be.
However, please look at a map of the Iberian Peninsula. Spain is 5 times bigger than Portugal; and today the ration between the populations is about the same – 10.8 vs. 49 million. In earlier centuries, the kings didn’t need many excuses to start conquering a weaker neighbor country. So, how come Spain didn’t invade Portugal?
The short answer is that Spain was not a united kingdom before 1512; and at that point, Portugal was too strong to be overrun. Portugal as one of the first European countries started on expeditions and soon had an empire together. This story we tell next year.