Portugal: The Land of Magic
If someone would have told me that I’ll be packing my things and going to Portugal that morning, I wouldn’t believe that it’s true. This country in southwestern Europe carries a lot of unique features and surprises. Neighboring only with Spain and the Atlantic Ocean gives it a very special and exotic vibe. As my trip was at the beginning of August, which is considered high season for Portugal, it was also in the middle of a pandemic. Looking at this situation with a ”glass is half full” point of view, at least I got a glimpse of the true life in Portugal with barely any tourists combined with the perfect weather. The first moment that took my breath away was already while landing in the country’s capital, Lisbon.
One of the first things that come to my mind when I remember Lisbon would be the street tiles or so-called Portuguese pavement. Other than being beautiful, it’s also very impressive since even today the flooring is attentively laid down by hand. Of course, it can be slippery and not the most pleasant place to drag a piece of luggage on, but it definitely brings out the magic with the variety of mosaic patterns. Anywhere you walk in the historic part of Lisbon can be considered as an attraction, for that reason one of the best neighborhoods to stay in would be the Alfama District with its narrow streets, steep hills and a lot of rental options, or Bairro Alto which is more of a party district.
Even though it’s not that big of a city, on my first night in Lisbon we managed to lose our way back to the car with no phone battery or personal belongings. The main reason is that at night, to a foreign eye, all the streets can look absolutely the same. While you are in Lisbon you don’t want to miss out on visiting the main attractions like Torre de Belém, Lisbon Cathedral, Vasco da Gama Bridge and St. George’s Castle. I’m sure that one way or another you will end up visiting the city’s main square, the Praça do Comércio since it’s in the center of all happenings. Another thing that you won’t be able to miss is the charming yellow tram 28 passing through the narrow streets of Lisbon.
People and customs
What I’ve noticed and liked about people in Portugal is that they have a generally strong character, but at the same time are very helpful and friendly. The further I went out of Lisbon, English became a little bit less spoken by the locals. I tried learning some Portuguese before arriving however what I was learning was more of a Brazilian version of the language, which to me doesn’t make much of a difference but from them, I have sensed some unappealing reactions against Brazilian culture, so I didn’t really feel comfortable using any of it during my stay.
Now that I’m mentioning the topic of Portuguese words, there is one that will always stay in my memory. The word ”Saudade” can’t be translated into any other language. The meaning of this word is deeply connected with the Portuguese culture, it’s a term that refers to the melancholic longing or yearning for something that is absent. Now I find myself recognizing the word ”Saudade” in many Portuguese songs since it’s often used as a theme in literature and music as it has a very beautiful and powerful meaning.
Getting around the country is very easy since the mainland of Portugal is only 218 km (135 mi) wide and 561 km (348 mi) long. This means that if you would drive from all the way North to all the way South, the trip would take you only around 6-7 hours. Anywhere you go, you will find many things and places named after the famous Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama. Like Vasco Da Gama bridge, shopping mall, streets, statues, etc. Even though the distance is not an issue, there are many places worth visiting and especially if you want to take some time to really enjoy them. Just 30 minutes drive away from Lisbon there is a popular resort town of Cascais. It’s a great mix of stylish and sophisticated with its history of a traditional fishing town. It seems like with every short drive you will discover more surprises, so moving a little bit further from Cascais you will find a surfing paradise of Guincho beach. It really makes you admire nature’s raw power and for me, it was a reminder of what I always imagined Portugal to be.
Something that almost every tourist gets advised to visit is a town named Sintra with its Moorish castle and the Palacio Nacional da Pena. On the other hand, the next place that I will mention is a town that will rarely be listed as an attraction yet it carries a special story for me. Town Leiria with its specific location gave me the chance to visit some of the most beautiful sceneries on this trip which are few unbelievably magical beaches as well as the town itself.
As a person whose biggest obsession is sandy beaches, I can hardly hide my strong enthusiasm for this topic. Something that I’ve always fantasized about would be miles of nothing but golden sand surrounded by cliffs and rock formations, and that’s exactly what I got the chance to see. With the Atlantic ocean giving such a powerful vibe, other than looking at it I didn’t use it much due to the waves being too rough. My first surprise was Nazaré, a town that looks like it fell right out of a postcard. This place by the beach was definitely not empty, there was a very lively atmosphere going on. I sure wouldn’t mind going back to that moment of sitting on that sand. The next location is one of my all-time favorite beaches and I never even got to know its name, which I prefer that it stays like a mystery place in my mind.
Being one of the oldest countries in Europe is something that can be felt with every dash of history, with getting to know people as they are and with all the majestic energy that this country simply has. It’s a place that made me feel many things and there are still many places that I didn’t get the chance to visit, like Algarve all the way south or Porto with its own unique stories. However, there is one thing that I’m sure of. If it’s magic that you’re looking for, you will find it right there, on the edge of Europe.