Yes, I’m biased. When it comes to Portugal, I tend to go through fire to protect their honor, which is understandable after living here almost for a decade now. Not in vain, everything is relative.
When we moved to Portugal in February 2010, I never thought that this would happen to me, I found a new home. Much faster than you would think, but what are the reasons and why I could fit in with such speed in a new place, in a completely alien environment?
The people and their hospitality
For me, it was incomprehensible at the beginning how people could be so friendly and open to complete strangers. This is even more valid for Northern Portugal, where family bonds and friendship are very important to the locals. It is not hard to understand than that we did not spend much time doing nothing, we were bombed with invitations all the time. Here is a lunch, there is a dinner, a weekend program, festa * festa and festa again,etc.
The best example is our first Christmas here. The fact was that we traveled so enthusiastically in the first year in the country that when the holidays came, we didn’t had any free days from work. When we told our relatives that we couldn’t go home this year at Christmas, they were not happy at all, which is understandable I think. However, when our Portuguese friends learned that we wanted to spend the holidays alone, then a serious competition had emerged among them to take the Hungarian couple to their Christmas party. Finally, they managed to decide who wins and we droped into a Portuguese family celebration where we were treated as if we had always lived here and with all the naturalness as possible.
I could write novels about this subject for sure. For someone who is nature-oriented, like me, this is Canaan itself. Ocean and beaches until you can see. Small, large, wide, narrow, steep, sandy, rocky and even more, ah yeah, river mouth type 🙂 Can’t get tired of it! We got used to the beach of Leça da Palmeira, which was the closest to our apartment in the first years, and we visit it most of the times even nowadays. If I had to choose one of the many, I would definitely choose Lagos beach. The only problem is that it is 600 km away.
Without any doubt the mountains and the countryside of Portugal are the most beautiful to me. First of all the Peneda-Gerês National Park. Every time I visit it, I get impressed with the bare mountain peaks, and the peacefulness of untouched nature. Only the Alvão Natural Park can pick up the fight with it. We have spent many time here lately, hiking and cycling, but it is a completely different experience than the Geres.
Most of the time, however, I spend in the Serras Do Porto mountains. We end up going here every week without exception. By bike, running or just with family and friends within a relaxed excursion. I am lucky, it is only 15-20 minutes to get there. This great place has a mountain bike park, trail running park and a lot of sport events are organized here.
Another hard topic, I like to eat, I’m not picky, I also taste the most extreme foods. Fortunately, the Portuguese are such, they love to eat as well, and this is also reflected in gastronomy. There are many fish and seafood based dishes in Portugal, with fresh ingredients, no canned mussels or what so ever! On the other hand there are meat based dishes to. Not the best place for vegans though, BUT the situation in this field has already improved because of the globalization and the trends.
Portuguese are also good at making cakes, sweets and cookies. There are centuries-old recipes which are preserved in the most protected desks of the monasteries. Almost every village or region has a couple of typical cakes, which, of course, is the best in Portugal, according to their makers. I am not going to talk about wines, because all the blog posts in the world wouldn’t be enough.
Each coin has two sides. It is not a gold mine, but who is not lazy and a bit resourceful, can easily create a pleasant life for themselves. Portugal also has a saying which I heard a few times in the worst years of the crisis: “We might be poor, but we have the ocean and the sun!”
I would add football to this, which is undoubtedly a serious religion around here 🙂
*Festa: Party. In Portuguese terms, it often means several days of partying, most of which is feasting and drinking.