VIAGEM NO PORTUGAL DE 1927
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE
Volume LII –November 1927, p. 567 to 610
AN ALTITUDINAL JOURNEY THROUGH PORTUGAL
Rugged Scenic Beauty, Colorful Costumes, and Ancient Castles Abound in Tiny Nation That Once Ruled a Vast Empire
B. HARRIET CHALMERS ADAMS AUTHOR OF’ “A LONGITUDINAL JOURNEY THROUGH CHILE” “ADVENTUROUS SONS OF CÁDIZ,” “ACROSS FRENCH AND SPANISH MOROCCO,” ETC., ETC., IN THIS NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE
“I’ve never been in Portugal” said the man with national prejudices, “but I’m sure it isn’t worth visiting—little country; small, dark, lazy people; revolutions.”
I have twice journeyed through Portugal and am fascinated by its marked scenic beauty, unique architecture, ancient survivals in costumes and customs, to say nothing of its glorious historical associations. It has a sturdy, industrious peasantry. Many of its northerners are fair and blue-eyed.
Last summer we waited a week in the Spanish seaport of Vigo for the current Portuguese rebellion to calm down, before heading south. ‘We were entering on a longitudinal and an altitudinal journey through Portugal. From the summits of wooded hills back from the coast we were to look down on the Lusitanian lowlands, on limpid streams winding through emerald valleys, on flower-spangled meadows reaching down to pine-fringed shores.
Noble Iberian rivers flow westward to the Atlantic. There is one which the Spaniards call the “Miño,” the Portuguese, the “Minho.” The international bridge which spans it unites green Galicia, in northwest Spain with northernmost Portugal. On the Spanish side of the river lies the gray fortress-town of Tuy, frowning across upon its Portuguese neighbor, Valença do Minho, whose crumbling battlements crown the hill.
We slip across the bridge by train, or automobile, in these prosaic days; but Tuy and Valença belong to a turbulent age of border warfare, of hard, valiant men, of blades dripping blood.*
* See, also, “The Greatness of little Portugal,” by Oswald Crawfurd, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for October, 1910.
Leaving Vigo at noon, the traveler can reach Oporto, Portugal’s second largest city, at 6 the same evening; but it is well to break the journey at Valença, Vianna do Castello, Braga, and Guimarães, four interesting, historic towns.
A MEDIEVAL MILITARY POST AT VALENÇA
Although the need of frontier garrisons is past, Valença still is a military post. Medieval in aspect, hidden behind great ramparts, the old warrior town surmounts a hill high above the Minho. Over the moat, through the tunnel, and tip the narrow, winding streets our automobile “honked,” warning swarms of children, cats, and chickens to run to safety.
Valença’s architecture differs from that of Spanish Tuy, across the way. Portuguese houses run to granite, painted white, with trimmings in the natural hue; to blue and white glazed wall tiles, the manufacture of which is a national industry inherited from the Moors.
Leaving the automobile for the railway, we found the coaches on local trains not always so clean and comfortable as those in Spain; the customs and train guards less neatly garbed; the paper currency, in exchanging our Spanish pesetas for Portuguese escudos, more ragged. But these were minor details. The people were hospitable and courteous. The customs guard even put on clean, white cotton gloves before examining our luggage!
“The garden of Portugal,” as the Portuguese call their lovely ever-green northern country, is nearly as rich in flowers as California.* Even the railway stations are embowered in red and pink rambler roses. There are picturesque mills, with huge water wheels, beside the clear streams, and every fern-bordered patch of cultivated ground is, so carefully tended that not a blade of grass seems out of place. Trellised six feet above the ground, on tall, granite posts, are sturdy vines whose grapes yield the tart red wine of the region.
* See, also, “The Woods and Gardens of Portugal,” by Martin Hume, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for October, 1910.
The railway follows the Minho River to the ocean and then parallels the Atlantic.
The peasants of the north differ little in blood and heritage from their Galician neighbors. Both speak more or less the same language, the dialect of the Spanish Gallegos being classed as Portuguese, a tongue less changed than Castilian from the Latin current when Rome ruled the Peninsula, but influenced by many contacts, Celtic, Arabic, and aboriginal Brazilian among them. It has even certain affinities with the French.
“Between 1580 and 1640, when Spain ruled Portugal, Portuguese writers and the people in general endeavored to render the language as different as possible from the Spanish, and the gulf has kept on widening,” a learned Portuguese once told me.
Although illiterate, these northern peasants are industrious, independent, and they own their land. Politicians and military chiefs, in Lisbon and Oporto, may come and go, townsmen dodge revolutionary bullets; but in the country stalwart men and handsome, full-bosomed women toil peacefully in the open. From the little stone houses with thatched roofs comes the click of the loom.
OXEN YOKED DIFFERENTLY FROM THOSE OF SPAIN
Along the well-paved, tree-horde red road clogs a man in wooden-soled shoes carrying a long goad to urge on a pair of huge, buff - colored oxen with widespread, curving horns. In Portugal oxen are yoked from the shoulders instead of from the horns, as is the custom in Spain. The cart, with its creaking wooden wheels, is an archaic type.
In a near-by field a barefoot woman with tucked-up skirt, an orange-colored handkerchief wrapped about her head, has dropped her hoe and is adjusting a protective straw cape to a conical haystack. Near her little vine-covered home is a huge corn bin raised on four tone posts, its thatched roof surmounted by a cross, and by a second ornament peculiar to the region, an ancient emblem of fertility. Wheat, maize, oats, and rye are cultivated here. The palatable dark peasant bread is made from corn and oatmeal.
Some of the farmers with side whiskers resemble Irishmen. At a railway station a blind man is playing a merry tune on bagpipes, smaller in size, but fully as shrill as those of the Scottish Highlands.
HOW PORT WINE WAS INTRODUCED INTO ENGLAND
Although Portugal‘s imports greatly exceed its exports, the industry and frugality of these peasants make national life possible. Men and women of the Minho type have emigrated to the New World and every returning ship brings back their savings to keep the home fires burning.
At Vianna do Castello the Lima River meets the sea. The town was very much on the map in the days when sailing craft ruled the waves. Here, in the twelfth century, English Crusaders landed to aid the Portuguese in expelling the Moors, the beginning of the British-Portuguese alliance. From here the mellow wine called “port” was first shipped to England.
After Vasco da Gama had opened the sea route to India, there was a brisk traffic between Vianna and the ports of Flanders, spices, silks, and porcelains from the Far East being exchanged for manufactured articles. It was then that the art of Flemish lace making was brought to the wives and daughters of the Portuguese fishermen, who still make “pillow lace”.
From Vianna ships sailed far west to the banks of Newfoundland to bring back dried cod, which, in spite fresh fish in Portuguese waters, has ever been since been a staple article of diet. Portuguese fishing boats still make the long transatlantic voyage for cod.
The hotels of the Minho are a delightful surprise. Little known to any foreigners save a few British, they are maintained throughout the year for a short summer season, when all of the fashionable of central and southern Portugal migrate like birds to the cool green north. In June the Minho hotel season had not opened and we were the only guests in the hotel on Santa Lucia Hill, overlooking old Vianna.
We reached the heights by an inclined railway and a steep climb up several flights of stone steps. Beside us walked a girl in her early teens with our three heavy suitcases balanced on her head. When we protested she laughed and declared she could carry twice that weight. Throughout the country we marveled at the burdens borne on the heads of women, who chatted as they walked and seldom used their hands to steady the load.
The menu at Portuguese tourist hotels is French, with an occasional native dish, like caldo verde (soup wih greens) or canja, a popular chicken and rice mixture. It is said that several dishes famous in French cuisine were part of the spoils of the Peninsular War, when a book of recipes from one of the big Portuguese monasteries was carried back to Paris.
At Vianna we were introduced to the good, red “Lamego” wine and the golden “Amarante.”
We paid a tax of five per cent of the hotel bill to the Tourist Society of Lisbon toward keeping the automobile roads in condition. In the north this money seems well spent; but when the granite hills are left behind and central Portugal reached, the ruts in the road make it evident that the travelers’ contribution toward high way improvement is inadequate.
SANTA LUCIA AFFORDS ONE OF WORLD’S FINEST VIEWS
Few views surpass the one from Santa Lucia—those from the heights above Rio de Janeiro * and Funchal, perhaps—both in Portuguese-speaking lands.
* See, also, “Rio de Janeiro in the Land of Lure,” by Harriet Chalmers Adams, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for September, 1920.
Below our balcony lay a terrace ablaze with flowers; beyond, a forest of pines, chestnuts, and mimosas in golden bloom. Canaries, greenish in hue, like those in the Azores, sang in the trees. Far below lay the city of freshly painted white walls and weather-beaten terra cotta roofs framed in chrome-green fields beside a blue-green sea. In the harbor were red lateen sails of fishing boats homeward bound.
Looking up the valley, we saw the Lima River winding among the hills on whose slopes peaceful white villages nestled. In the distance rose the purple mountains guarding the road to Spain. There was no sound, save the singing of the birds, to break the magic spell.
One morning, when the cuckoo was calling in the woods, we went clown from the peaceful heights and crossed the city to the harbor. By the old gray fort three golden-haired, barefoot women were repairing the road; they said they earned five escudos (25 cents) a day. Others were loading into their oxcarts seaweed to be dried and used as a fertilizer.
Each pair of oxen wore a high, ornamented wooden yoke, or canga, of home manufacture, handed down from father to son. They are the best bit of “local color” to be found in all Portugal. Their pierced and panted designs differ with the locality. Some have involved, geometrical patterns, undoubtedly Moslem survivals; others have crosses and flowers and may be of Gothic origin; some are surmounted by rows of tufted horsehair.
The patient, plodding oxen seem in no way discomforted by these heavy yokes, which, from Oporto south, gradually diminish in height, the decorations disappearing before Lisbon is reached.
Braga, in a sheltered valley back from the sea, was our next town. A book, published locally, contained the startling information that “the town was founded 353I years after the creation of the world, by companions of Hannibal, the Carthaginian.”
The Romans transformed the village into a Provincial capital. Farther east we saw the stone-paved, rock-bordered road which once connected this Roman city of Lusitania with Astorga and Tarragona, in Spain, continuing on to France and Italy. The peasants still use this ancient highway over which the legions marched. After the downfall of the Romans, Braga became the stronghold of Germanic tribes, later to be occupied by the Moslems, Berber and Arab, who swept up from Morocco.
“Of all the sights in Portugal, I like best the romarias in summer at the shrine of Born Jesus above Braga,” an Englishman, who has lived 30 years in Portugal, told me.
PILGRIMAGE ALSO IS HOLIDAY
A pilgrimage and an outdoor holiday combined is the romaria, a very old Iberian institution, whose roots are embedded in traditional pagan feasts. The shrine of Bom Jesus do Monte (Good Jesus of the Mountain) is on a densely wooded hill overlooking the town, where pines, chestnuts, oaks, cork oaks, sycamores, and other trees, not, like these, indigenous to the country, surround the great stone church, with its outlying chapels, and the three hotels which stand near it.
By inclined railway we ascended the steep bill whose slopes are beautified by flowering shrubs. The pilgrims trudge up the long flight of stone steps leading to the church, hundreds of men, women, and children, dressed in their very best, carrying musical instruments and baskets containing food. Penitents ascend the steps on their knees.
Conspicuous among the women are those from Vianna do Castello, whose costume is the most colorful and elaborate. Many of them wear pendent gold earrings, heavy gold necklaces hung with crucifixes, and heart-shaped lockets set with precious stones.
Oxcarts toil up the winding road on the far side of the mountain, with barrels of wine on wheels, blankets, and cooking utensils for camping out in the forest. Following the religious service and solemn church procession, there are three days and nights of feasting, singing, dancing, and fireworks with many skyrockets.
Here the native songs of the north are heard—- some old, some improvised on the spot-telling of the happenings of the day. Here the Celtic bagpipes shrill their loudest and the viola, guitar, and tambourine accompany the ancient dance, slow and sedate, with movement of body, arms, and hands. Some of the women at Born Jesus might have stepped from a Grecian vase.
Both Braga and Guimarães are off the main railroad, and, the short distance between is more easily covered by motor.
The fields along our way were, gay with wild flowers, the hills covered with cistus bushes, whose white blossom resembles the wild rose. The grapevines no longer were trellised on stone posts, but usurped the small boys’ prerogative of climbing the cherry trees. Halfway between the two towns we came to a hill on whose summit lie the ruins of the most extensive Celtiberian settlement to be found in the whole of the Peninsula. The place is known locally as Citânia.
Geological maps, recently published in Madrid, tell us that back in the misty ages, when the world was young, there were a few scattered islands where Spain and Portugal now stand. On the largest of the group, the northwest Spain and northern Portugal of today, granite hills raised their august heads. By volcanic action, land to the east was uplifted to join another island fringe, and the Iberian Peninsula was formed.
Then came the age of migrations. We can go as far back as a black-haired, brown-eyed people we call the Iberians, allied to the Berbers of Morocco, who wandered into the Peninsula some ten thousand years ago, either from eastern Europe or northern Africa, settling along the Mediterranean shore and around to the mouth of the Tagus where Lisbon stands to-day. By sea from the north, at a much later period, came the fair-haired Nordic Celts to occupy the other half of the circle along the shores of the Atlantic and the Bay of Biscay. Raids to the east, raids to the west, the taking of women by the victors; and, in the heart of the Peninsula, the Celtiberian race was formed.
Leaving the automobile in the village of Guimarães, at the foot of the hill, we started the ascent, preceded by three merry, ragged urchins, our volunteer guides.
The steep, rocky path widens into a walled road paved with large granite blocks. The stone trough beside this road once carried water from a spring on the heights. On the summit and shoulder of the hill are the remains of a settlement which sheltered several thousand people. There are ruins of dwellings and granaries, circular in shape, with rectangular surrounding walls, and an outlying cemetery.
In a fallen building I noticed grooves cut in wall stones which may indicate that the rear of the enclosure, where goats were kept, could be barred by means of a drop gate. Objects excavated here and on surrounding hills can be studied in the Martins Sarmento Museum in Guimarães, named after the Portuguese archeologist who devoted the greater part of his life to this work.
GUIMARÃES IS THE MOUNT VERNON OF PORTUGAL
Were I asked to name the most beautifully situated town in Portugal, I should vacillate between Vianna and Oporto; but, without doubt, Guimarães is historically the most interesting. It is the cradle of the Portuguese dynasty. To the delight of the geographer it is an unspoiled place, where centuries-old buildings still stand. There is the castle in which Affonso Henriques, first King of Portugal, was born in 1094. Its turrets are emblazoned on the arms of Portugal.
The terrace by the Parapet of the old castle, where the little prince played in the sunshine, the big stone fireplace in the queen’s living room, beside which he sat on winter nights, while pine logs crackled, listening to stirring tales of battle, are still to be seen.
ONCE CELEBRATED FOR LINENS; NOW FAMOUS FOR PLUMS
In Guimarães the long avenue lined with white linden trees stands out in remembrance. Their branches meet overhead like the Gothic arches of a cathedral. It was on this sylvan road that we met two old women spinning flax into thread, and recalled that in the Middle Ages Guimarães was celebrated for the manufacture of fine linens, shimmering satins, and wonderfully embroidered church vestments. It is now famous for its plums.
A peculiar feature of the four- and five- story houses, so narrow when compared with their height, is the dome-shaped skylight surmounting the peaked roof. Through it light falls on the stairway, which otherwise would be in darkness. As the sun sets, these glass domes gleam like great jewels. At this hour swallows by the hundreds dart through the streets, skimming the ground in search of insects for their supper.
Our next stop was in old Oporto. Sandbars now block the Douro’s mouth and only ships of lesser tonnage come the few miles upstream to Oporto. Larger ships clock in the artificial ocean harbor of Leixões, a little north of the river’s mouth.
Oporto’s rainbow-tinted, tile-proofed buildings terrace the slopes of a cliff on one side of the Douro gorge. On the opposite side of the canyon is the town of Villa Nova Gaia, where the port-wine warehouses are located. Two magnificent bridges span the deep gorge.
There are three rival views. One is from the Dom Luiz bridge, looking up at the city on the heights and down on the busy water front by the chocolate-colored river, where quaint sailing craft and modern freighter meet. Another view is from the heights looking down on the granite gorge of the Douro. A third, from the Ribeira, or river road, has an unbelievably picturesque background of steep streets and tall, narrow houses with projecting gables and colored tile façades.
Built into the wall at the foot of the cliff are all manner of little booths patro1ized by longshoremen. The river road, which is always thronged, is the photographer’s Mecca. Here are the bullock carts awaiting their loads; here the human carriers, men hearing burdens in boat- shaped baskets on their shoulders and women carrying everything imaginable on their heads, from a load of slate slabs or a basket piled high with codfish to a baby asleep in a cradle. The load is balance(l on a little circular pad resembling a hard pincushion.
Oporto is building a new municipal center, an oblong open space flanked by tall stone buildings rivaling those in Lisbon.
THE OXCART HOLDS ITS OWN IN OPORTO
In the capital the oxcart has practically disappeared, but in Oporto it holds its own beside the automobile and the electric tram. The “singing carts” of the country, whose creaking is heard from afar, are unknown in the cities, where such sounds are unlawful, and the wheels are kept well oiled.
On street corners are women selling freshly boiled shellfish, which are as popular as peanuts with us. The bright handkerchief worn over the woman’s head in the Minho is here replaced by a small, flat, circular, black velvet hat. Men, with baskets slung from the ends of poles, trot the streets, selling fruit and vegetables.
I never tired of looking from our hotel balcony into the narrow street below. It was a gay little thoroughfare with plants at every window and great beauty of contour in its uneven roofs. A peddler crying his wares led a donkey laden pannier wise with miniature casks of gasoline, kerosene, olive oil, vinegar, and rum, each with a metal faucet. Out came a girl with a tiny cup and purchased its fill of kerosene. This unique vender was followed by a mounted policeman on a superb Arab horse just in time to settle a dispute between the driver of an automobile and the iceman walking beside his oxcart. The street was not wide enough for them both.
In every doorway was a cat, black being the fashionable color.
“Dogs are scarce here,” said an Oporto merchant. “Your best chance to see one is at the zoological gardens.”
The bookstore on the corner was a favorite resort of mine. Here one night I met a barefoot woman, with milk cans on her head, purchasing a primer. She walked away happy with the little book of A-B-C’s. Her small son is to learn to read and write and will wear shoes. Her home is a back room in a garret, but I am sure she owns a potted geranium and undoubtedly a cat.
The homes of the middle class are one-floor apartments in tall downtown houses, but the wealthy citizens live in the suburbs, where their rather ornate homes are half hidden behind trees and flowering shrubs, the gardens enclosed within high stone walls.
In no other city of my acquaintance save Rio de Janeiro is there such a satisfactory sight-seeing tram system. Twenty different lines come into the Praça da Liberdade. Each car bears a number and a little book with a map gives its itinerary. You can ride to the river’s mouth, up the coast to Leixões, where the ocean liners (lock, and back to town through the residential section, or across the bridge ever tile Douro to Villa Nova de Gaia.
There are shop windows filled with the attractive gold and silver filigree jewelry manufactured in and near Oporto. The finest example of the silversmith’s art is in a chapel of the old cathedral where the altar, tabernacle, reredos, and plate are entirely of silver, a century’s work of Portuguese artists.
Passengers bound south for Lisbon or east, up the Douro River Valley, to Salamanca, Spain, change cars in Oporto. The inner walls of tile railroad station are covered with historic paintings in blue and white glazed tiles.
To follow these pictures in sequence is to know the outstanding events in the city’s varied history, through Roman and Visigothic rule down to that red-letter day, in 1386, when King João I rode through the northern gate beside his fair English bride, Philippa of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt. A warm friendship, exemplified during the World War, has ever since existed between England and Portugal. Among the five sons born to João and Philippa was the Prince known as Henry the Navigator.*
* See, also, “The Pathfinder of the East,” by J. R. Hildebrand, in this issue of the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE.
WHERE COLUMBUS STUDIED NAVIGATION
Christopher Columbus studied navigation in Oporto, on his way from Spanish Galicia, where his boyhood was spent to Lisbon; hut he was little known in those days and is not in the tile pictures.
The “Factory”—half institute, half club—is the British center, in the oldest part of the city, on a street known as “The Road of the Englishmen,” before it was renamed in honor of a national hero. Very solidly built, a relic of the good old days when Port wine was at its zenith, the Factory is a fortress of British customs and hospitality.
The vines which produce the port-wine grapes are not grown near Oporto, but about 60 miles up the Douro Valley.
The sailing boats which bring the barrels of wine downstream to warehouses in Villa Nova de Gaia are flat-bottomed, to lass over shoals and around sandbars. They are most picturesque, with a spoonshaped prow and one huge, square sail, bellying in the wind like those used on the earliest type of Phœnician craft. Bound upstream, long, heavy poles are employed, progress against the current being achieved by main strength.
Besides the wine carriers on the lower Douro are gondolalike boats with graceful lateen sails, an inheritance from the Moors; and narrow boats, high in prow and stern, like the ancient Grecian galleys. A book could he written on the strange craft to be seen in Portuguese waters.
THE WINE-GROWING AREA IS ZONED
We boarded the eastbound train up the Douro Valley to the Paiz do Vinho, or Wine Country. The Government has decreed that only a limited territory may bear this name.
The vines are grown on terraces, in a soil peculiar to the region, on steep hillsides bordering the Douro, and for some miles north and south in adjoining valleys. Each terrace has its strong retaining wall built with stones taken from the soil. A tremendous amount of labor is required to construct the terraces and maintain them during the season of heavy rains. With the decline of the port-wine trade, many have been abandoned, bringing much poverty to the upper Douro.
The vines are grown as low hushes. In September and October the grapes are gathered in baskets, which men carry on their backs by means of a strap around the head, and are brought down from terrace to terrace to the wine presses at the foot of the hill, where they are put into granite vats.
‘Working in relays, the men press out the juice with their bare feet, each man’s hands on the shoulders of his neighbor to keep his balance. They sing as they tread, drum and accordion enlivening the march. In the vats the juice ferments and the following spring it is poured into oak casks and loaded into downriver boats. The wine is fortified with native brandy before becoming genuine port.
THE PROVINCE “BEHIND THE MOUNTAINS”
From Régua, on the Douro River, in the heart of the Paiz do Vinho, a branch railway runs north into the mountain province of Traz-os-Montes (Behind the Mountains), with its celebrated mineral springs. In Portuguese Africa and Portuguese Asia we had made the acquaintance of bottled water from these springs.
This region is the coldest part of Portugal, with snow in winter. There are magnificent forests of oak and chestnuts. Wolves and wildcats are found here and the wild boar is hunted in the autumn. Strong mules, fattened on the rich grass, are sold across the frontier in Spain, later to be reexported from Spain into England.
We made a pilgrimage to the village of Sabrosa, among these mountains, where in the latter part of the fifteenth century, Fernão da Magalhães, known to the English- speaking world as Ferdinand Magellan, was born.
Very near the Spanish frontier lies the old city of Bragança. Quaint peasant costumes are still to be seen in this part of the country, even an occasional cape of thatched straw to keep out the rain.
Returning to Oporto, we journeyed up the coast to the sea-bathing resort of Villa do Conde, where a well-preserved Roman aqueduct strides the valley.
There are three natural geographical divisions in Portugal: from the Minho River to the Douro; from the Douro to the Tagus; from the Tagus south.
Portugal-in-Europe has 6,000,000 inhabitants in a territory a little larger than the State of Maine, the densest population being found north of the Douro River.
Portugal, including the colonies in Africa, Asia, and the East Indies and the Azores and Madeira groups of islands in the Atlantic, has about 15,000,000 inhabitants in a territory a little less than one-third the size of the United States. This is all that remains of former vast holdings.
If we add the population of Portugal and its colonies to that of Brazil, there are 46,000,000 people on earth to whom Portuguese is the official tongue. The nine Azorean islands and the three of the Madeira group, spoken of as “The Islands Adjacent,”* are closely united politically with the mainland. They send fruit, vegetables, butter, cheese, and wicker furniture to Lisbon.
*See, also, “The Azores Picturesque and Historic Half-Way House of American Transatlantic Aviators,” by Arminius T. Haeberle, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for June, 1919, and “Madeira, on the Way to Italy,” by David Fairchild, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for December, 1907.
PORTUGAL’S COLONIES RICH IN PRODUCTS
Cacao, coffee, rubber, sugar, hides, vegetable oils, and ivory come from the African colonies; coconuts, spices, cashew nuts, and copra from Portuguese India; coffee, sandalwood, and wax from the East Indies; and silks and porcelains from Macao, in China, the oldest European settlement in the Far East. Cacao, coffee, and rubber are reexported from Lisbon with the canned sardines, wine, cork, olive oil, hides, timber, and fruit produced in Portugal.
South of the Douro the country changes in character. The small plots of cultivated vated land, owned by peasant farmers are here replaced by larger holdings. There is less rain. In a corner of each field, on a raised platform of earth and stone, plods a patient donkey blindfolded. Round and round he goes, turning the wheel which raises water from the well and sends it into the irrigating canals.
HOW SILT FORMED A PORTUGUESE HOLLAND
Near Aveiro is a big lagoon connected with the sea. Some centuries ago Aveiro was a leading port on a fine bay, but the river Vouga emptying into this bay, brought down so much silt that sandbars formed across the mouth of the harbor. The lagoon thus created became blocked with islets separated by narrow channels. In this Portuguese Holland the aquatic vegetation is most brilliant. Timber and salt are exported from Aveiro, and in the surrounding marshes rice is grown.
A beauty spot of Portugal is Bussaco, a natural forest from i 300 to 1,700 feet above the sea. It is said that early Christians when persecuted fled to its caves; since the fourth century priestly men have here found a haven; for years Carmelite hermit monks made this their refuge.
A MUSEUM OF LIVING TREES
Two papal bulls issued in the seventeenth century, still to be seen on one of the ten gates, decreed excommunication to any women entering these grounds, or to any person daring to destroy a plant or tree of this sacred wood. So the old trees stood, and to the natural forest of pines, corks, and chestnuts were added flora from America, Africa, and Asia. Palms, carobs, and camphor trees, firs, acacias, and plane trees, giant cedars of Lebanon, Himalayan deodars and Japanese cryptomerias, grow side by side.
There also are oranges, lemons, and magnolias, rosemary, lavender, and myrtle in these sweet-scented woods; 400 indigenous varieties have been listed, besides the many exotic trees and plants sent back by exploring missionaries. The Lusitanian cypress, king of the forest, is said to have come originally from Mexico.
When the monks were banished, nearly a century ago, the forest became the property of the State and a royal summer palace was erected beside the humble monastery. On the downfall of the monarchy this Palace became a hotel.
The builders copied the style of architecture known as Manoeline, conceived in the days of Portugal’s glory and named in honor of King Manoel the Fortunate, in whose reign the Portuguese colonies in the Far East were won and untold riches brought back to the motherland. It was then that architects commemorated in their buildings the nation’s great naval feats.
The stone used was soft white limestone, lending itself to intricate carving, hardening and turning golden with age. The effect from a distance is of lacework; but on closer scrutiny the story of Portuguese navigation is unfolded in Saracenic arches, Asian temples, laden elephants; in enormous cables, knotted cords, and dolphins of the sea; in the Maltese cross of the Order of Christ which sponsored those early voyages.
A song in stone of Portugal’s greatness, this Manoeline architecture is seen at its best farther south, in magnificent churches and monasteries built centuries ago. Distinctly a national development, its counterpart is found nowhere else on earth.
A sylvan path leads up the Via Sacra of the barefoot Carmelites to chapels and hermitages, half hidden among the trees, and on to the heights where a magnificent panorama is unfolded.
The geographical reason why Portugal has such luxuriant flora just at this latitude, while Spain is arid, comes home when one looks from the verdure all about to the distant frontier mountains. The moisture-laden winds from the Atlantic, meeting this chilly barrier, are forced back to the west and fall in torrential rains. These high mountains and the broad rivers north and south, which form the boundary between the two Iberian countries, have served to keep them separated politically for the greater period of their history.
Just outside the Bussaco forest wall is the famous “Iron Ridge,” where, September 27, 1810, Wellington won his great victory over Massena.
A monument marks the battle’s site. The night after his victory Wellington slept in the little Carmelite monastery in the forest.
COIMBRA IS THE ATHENS OF LUSITANIA
Coimbra, the classic city of Portugal, once the capital, for centuries the seat of learning, is built on a hill beside the Mondego River. This is the only one of five important streams of Portugal whose source lies within the country. The other four are Spanish-born rivers flowing to the Atlantic, navigable only in Portugal. Tree and grass bordered. slow-moving, lovely beyond words, is the Mondego, born up among the Mountains of the Stars.
Coimbra disputes with Braga the third place of importance among Portuguese cities. Generation after generation, its university has been the goal of all intellectual young men of the Portuguese- speaking world. The students wear a distinctive costume, black throughout, with a long, flowing cape, and they go bareheaded. The purest Portuguese, it is said, is spoken in and around Coimbra.
The immortal Camões, who wrote “The Lusiad,” epic poem of Portugal’s greatness, was a student here; was probably born here, although this is unproven.
The Sé Velha, old Romanesque cathedral of Coimbra, hill fortress and temple combined, is probably the finest church in all Portugal. In Santa Cruz, another of the many noble old churches is the tomb of Affonso Henriques.
In Coimbra I was awakened very early one morning by a great commotion in the street below. Running to the window, which overlooked the river road, I saw a long stream of country people with their animals coming to the town market.
Probably as many as 6,000 people were in the open market place that day a laughing, good-natured crowd. There was no shouting or quarreling. The animals on sale oxen, horses, mules, donkeys, pigs, goats, and sheep-fl were in different sections. In Portugal goats and sheep flock together.
Under awnings stood innumerable counters, with all sorts of cheap trinkets. The vegetable and fruit sellers occupied several squares. The country around Coimbra is known as “The Fruit Basket.” I saw piles of apples, melons, pears, figs, oranges, and white grapes.
Between Coimbra and Lisbon there is much of interest. Leiria is worth a visit because of its quaint charm, picturesque people, and castle on the hill, Batalha is, after the Alhambra, the noblest building in the Peninsula; Tomar is beautifully situated and is associated with the Knights Templar, Order of Christ, and Prince Henry the Navigator.
VISITING THE LAND OF CASTLES
This is the Land of Castles. I visited 45 old strongholds, some vast and imposing. nearly all in an excellent state of preservation. They differ in architecture from the ancient fortresses of other European countries, everything Portuguese seeming to have a distinctive character. Square towers and crenelated walls are much in evidence. There are citadels of the Romans, the Visigoths, and the Moors, but finest of all are those castles built, often on old foundations, by the Christian warriors of the Middle Ages, and after the Period of Discoveries, when new enemies threatened the country by sea.
At Leiria, by the river Liz, an isolated hill rises abruptly from the plain. On its summit perches a castle won from the Moslems by Affonso Henriques and rebuilt by King Diniz.
Dom Diniz, 1279-1325, stands out as an agriculturist, it was he who brought sea-pines from southern France and planted them all along this part of the coast to prevent further encroachment by sand-dunes. From these trees turpentine is obtained.
The fountain at Leiria, where the girls fill their terra cotta water jars, is a never-to-be- forgotten picture. These slender-necked vessels are graceful in shape, like the amphoræ of old. They are tilted coquettishly on one-side of the head when empty; balanced erect when full. The largest when laden must weigh at least 40 pounds.
From Leiria we drove through a smiling country of cornfields and vineyards to Batalha. To lovers of horses, it seemed good to find a magnificent span left in this motor-mad world.
I saw a green bough over the doorway of a road house, the ancient sign that wine is for sale. “Good wine needs no bush,” the old saying ran.
The Church of Santa Maria da Victoria and the adjoining monastery, known as Batalha (Battle), was built to commemorate a great Portuguese victory over the Spaniards in 1385. The battle, begun in this hollow among the hills, ended on the near-by plateau of Aljubarrota and secured Portugal’s independence.
They tell a story about the baker’s wife of Aljubarrota, who killed seven Castilian soldiers with her long oven shovel. “As full of the devil as the baker’s wife of Aljubarrota” is a popular saying.
The Battle Abbey of Batalha, as large as the cathedrals of Paris, Toledo, and Cologne, is one of the most beautiful Gothic structures in the world. Near the main entrance is the Chapel of the Founder, where Joao I and Philippa and four of their five sons lie, among them Prince 1-lenry the Navigator. The eldest son, Duarte (Edward), who succeeded his father, lies with his queen near the high altar of the church.
In the hidden places of Batalha’s golden, ruby, and russet walls, roofed by a cobalt sky, hundreds of swallows make their homes.
WHERE PORTUGAL’S “UNKNOWN SOLDIER” LIES
In the Chapter House, whose bold, vaulted roof is unsupported by pillars, is the floor tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the World. There are freshly cut flowers on the stone slab beside it a soldier in war helmet is always on guard and a lamp is always burning.
We drove south from Batalha to the monastery of Alcobaça, formerly one of the largest in the world. Here mass was read without interruption day and night, 900 monks being employed in the service. In the center of the gigantic kitchen, now used as a barracks, flowed a stream where live fish awaited the frying pan.
Kings of the first dynasty are buried here. One of the many chapels contains the sarcophagi of Pedro I and his Inez de Castro. At Pedro’s request the recumbent effigies were placed feet to feet, that his first sight on the Day of Resurrection might be that of his martyred wife.
From Alcobaça we drove across country to Tomar, which ranks with Batalha in interest.
More than any other building in Portugal, the hoary, gray citadel high above Tomar stands for that strength and steadfastness of purpose which made the fifteenth-century Portuguese masters of the seas.
We skirted the Tagus, more a gulf than a river. We didn’t not recognize in this wide, tawny tide, stream, deep down in known in New Castile.
Lisbon is at the tip end of a peninsula bordered east and south by the Tagus, west by the Atlantic, and north by a semicircle of hills. Its magnificent river harbor and beauty of form and color have brought it world fame. The city occupies the floor of a valley, the steep cliffs on either side and the surrounding hills. From the heights there are many splendid views*
* See, also, “Lisbon, the City of the Friendly Bay,” by Clifford Albion Tinker, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for November, 1922.
We attended a bullfight, so unlike that of Spain. In Portugal the horses are not tortured and the bulls are not slain. Splendid horsemanship is the chief feature.
The entrance into the ring of the star rider, dressed in old-time court costume and mounted on the finest of Arab-Portuguese steeds, is worth seeing. The spectacular curveting of the horse is an inheritance from the showy Arab horsemanship in the days of Moslem rule. Skillful rider and superb mount go unscathed by the bull, whose horns are padded. The angry animal is finally permitted to trot off to freedom, led by a herd of tame cows.
West from Lisbon stretches the iridescent, mountain-hacked seacoast known as the Portuguese Riviera. Back from the coast and high up among the crags, overlooking sea, river, hill, and plain, is the Pena Palace, former summer home of royalty.
The monks who long had a hermitage on this eerie summit saw many historic ships sail in and out of the Tagus. In the spring of 1493 the sea-battered Niña, driven into the river haven by a storm, brought Christopher Columbus back from his first voyage to the Americas. Six years later Vasco da Gama sailed proudly up the Tagus, home from his first voyage around Africa to India.
Below the magnificent palace arc the ruins of an old Moorish castle, and in the hill-girt town of Cintra a third royal palace. Byron and Southey raised their golden voices in praise of pine-encircled Cintra’s beauty and lure.
A SHRINE OF THE CONQUISTADORES
Every visitor to Lisbon goes to Cintra, and to Belem by the Tagus, a part of Greater Lisbon, to see the Tower of Belem (Bethlehem), which was on an island before the encroachment of the shore. In the shadow of this grand old tower, formerly a fort guarding the river entrance, many a gallant conquistador furled his sea-torn sails.
A little back from the river, in Belem, is the church of Santa Maria, with its adjoining monastery, built by King Manoel as a thanksgiving offering on Vasco da Gama’s safe return. It was erected on the site of a little chapel where seamen of Prince Henry’s day came, on the eve of departure, to pray for fair seas. In this noble church are the tombs of King Manoel, Vasco da Gama, Camões, and other illustrious Portuguese.
South of the Tagus lies the province of Alentejo (the Other Side of the Tagus). Journeying south, the verdure fades. The African Sahara hurdies the Strait to lay a parching hand on this southern part of the Iberian Peninsula. Here are high hedges of agave, cork oaks, and gnarled olive trees. Olives are pounded into pulp, which is squeezed in the less. With the masses, olive oil takes the place of butter.
On the coast lies Setubal, whose sardine and tunny fisheries were known in the days of the Romans. The south was the first part of the country to be Romanized. Yearly the export of canned sardines amounts to millions of dollars.
The chief city of the Alentejo is Evora, one of the most ancient-appearing towns of Europe, off the tourist routes. South of the Alentejo lies the Algarve (El Gharb, the West of the Moors). This is the land of cork oaks, under which goatherds pasture their flocks and swineherds their pigs, on acorns.
The export of raw and manufactured cork is important. In the Algarve we saw many household articles made from cork, including the covered dinner pails used by the workers in the forest.
We traveled by rail to the port of Faro, on the southern coast, and east to the Guadiana River, which here forms the boundary between Portugal and Spain.
We made a sentimental pilgrimage to Sagres, near Cape St. Vincent, the extreme southwestern point of Portugal, jutting into the Atlantic, where, in the fifteenth century, Prince Henry maintained his nautical school. The foundations of the buildings are still to be seen.
Five hundred years ago the Portuguese had no part in the Far Eastern trade. The spices that made the coarse food of those days palatable, the drugs, cosmetics, silks, and precious stones, in such demand by the luxury-loving classes of Europe, then came by a circuitous and costly route from India. Between Calicut and Alexandria, distributing point for Europe, the goods were taxed five times.
After the Portuguese capture of Ceuta, Prince Henry talked with intelligent Moors regarding the possible circumnavigation of Africa, which had been accomplished by Phœnician adventurers about 600 B. C., and attempted by the Carthaginian Admiral Hanno, sailing south from the Strait of Gibraltar, at a later period.
By 1460, when Prince Henry died at Sagres, his enthusiasm and guiding hand had sent the Portuguese flag down 1,500 miles of the \Vest African coast.
I have seen Prince Henry’s portrait in an old manuscript preserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris -an earnest, intelligent face, clean-shaven save for the closely cropped mustache. He wears the wide-brimmed black hat portrayed by Dutch painters of that period.
Affonso Henriques, Prince Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama, and Camões are the four biggest names in Portuguese history. Affonso Henriques was the George Washington of his country; Camões was the singer of the days of Portugal’s maritime glory, Vasco da Gama the sung; but it was Prince Henry who blew life into the sails.
So I thought as I stood at nightfall on the bold Sagres headland, looking up at the star-lit blue of the heavens and down on the surging sea.