The year 2038 will mark Portugals 900th anniversary as an independent nation. And, despite its misty nature, Portugal also happens to be the closest European neighbor to America.
Among its many accomplishments, Portugal was the first European nation to discard Latin in favor of its own unique language. Portugal's borders have also remained stable for centuries, giving them the longest-standing borders in Europe. But most importantly of all,. Portugal was the first nation to build a global economy. Its sea-faring explorations of the 1400s to 1600s opened up trade routes that reached Brazil to the West, Africa to the south, and Macau and India to the East.
Today Portugal offers some of the most exciting new buildings in Europe, from Porto's Casa da Música to Lisbon's Casino Lisboa and Two Portuguese Pulitzers architects that have renowned projects around the country. Its restaurants and cafes serve bold new dishes that combine traditional Portuguese cuisine with flavors of the other regions once explored by Portuguese mariners, making it an ultimate destination vacation for foodies. Portugals cities are also heavily influenced by the cultures of the distant lands influencing their cuisine, appealing to the history buff in every traveler.
So what defines Portugal? Start with its vast cork forests, move on to discovering its ancient castles and forts, check out its mighty cathedrals and abbeys, and explore its whitewashed towns and vibrant cities. The traditional songs of Fado the Portuguese version of the blues thrive among a new generation of Fadistas, who are the singers that turn the melancholy melodies into art.
Visitors still fill the arenas for Portuguese bullfights, where the bulls lives are always spared and the fighter always approaches on horseback. Portugals islands the Azores and Madeira also offer green landscapes and dramatic scenery, yet several of their cities compete as hotspots with the best in Europe.
Todays Portugal remains well seasoned with its past and is best enjoyed in juxtaposition to an uncertain but endless future.
In Eça de Queirozs The City and the Mountains, he describes his first vision of Portugal:
I awoke wrapped in a vast, sweet silence. There was a station, perfectly still and clean swept, with small white roses climbing the walls, and more roses in clumps in the garden, where blooming mimosa flowers gave off their scent. A pale young man in a honey-colored coat bent his cane on the ground as he watched the train pensively. Overhead shone the deep rich and soft blue sky in which my eyes were bathed.
Portugal remains as it always has been, a welcoming place to the visitor unpretentious, proud, humbled, nostaligic, and in many ways very mystical in its own self vision.
Today's Portugal beckons the traveler looking for authentic Europe with an inviting mix of the traditional and the modern. Come discover this land of explorers, and become one yourself!