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Traveling in Portugal

The Portuguese Republic is located in Southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the Westernmost country of the European continent, bordering the Atlantic Ocean in the west and south, bordering Spain in the east and north. Portugal is named after the Cale village in the Douro Valley. Cale can be a Greek word (Kalles: beautiful) and referred to the beauty of nature in the northern part of Portugal at the moment.

The Portugal name comes from Cale village in the Douro Valley. Cale can be a Greek word (Kalles: beautiful) and referred to the beauty of nature in the northern part of Portugal at the moment. Under some other sources, “Cale” is derived from Phoenician. When Portugal’s present territory was part of the Roman Empire, Cale became an important seaport. In Latin, Port Cale was Portus Cale. In the Middle Ages, Portus Cale was transformed into Portucale and then Portugale. Portugale also refers to northern Portugal, the area between the Douro and Minho rivers. In addition, the name Portus Cale was shortened to Porto, Portugal’s second largest city.

Politics  

Since the Carnation Revolution in 1974, Portugal has a solid parliamentary democracy. The four most important political institutions in Portugal are the President, the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers, the Parliament and the Judiciary.

The President is elected directly for a term of five years and is also the highest commander of the military. The President appoints the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers as a result of parliamentary election. The National Council is the Presidential Advisory Council composed of all former Presidents, Prime Minister, Tribunal president of the Constitutional Court, People’s Inspectorates, two Presidents of Açores and Madeira, five elected by the President. and five elected by the Parliament.

The government is led by the Prime Minister who establishes the Council of Ministers. All newly formed governments must submit to the Parliament a program for debate. If this program is not rejected, the government is approved by the Parliament.

The Parliament called Assembleia da República is a unicameral body composed of up to 230 deputies. Deputies serve four-year terms of office based on proportion of votes cast for political parties. The President has the right to dissolve the Parliament and call for a new election.

The Supreme Court is the highest court of the Portuguese judiciary, including the Supreme Courts of Military, administrative and tax laws. The Constitutional Court of the Portugal consists of 9 members and is responsible for overseeing the enforcement of the law in accordance with the Constitution.

Portugal has two major parties. The Socialist Party (Partido Socialista) with social democratic orientation and the Social Democratic Party (Partido Social Democrata) with a conservative orientation. In addition, there are also the People’s Party considered the most righteous party in the Parliament, the Portuguese Communist Party with a long tradition and the Bloco de Esquerda of the left-wing intellectuals. All five parties are represented in the Parliament.  The Greens (The Partido Ecologista “os Verdes”) is always in coalition with the Communist Party, which is usually called a deputy in the Parliament.

Geography  

Northern Portugal has a relatively humid and cold climate, consisting of two lands: The Minho River area in the Northwest belongs to the most densely populated areas of Portugal in which the major cities are located along the Atlantic coast, there are many small towns and villages inland. The Minho river area is called “Green Garden” of Portugal because of its climate and relatively rich vegetation. On the hills along the valleys, grape is mainly grown to process into the famous wine, porto wine (also known as Portuguese wine or porcelain wine) and vinho verde. Natural flora is a mixture of flora of temperate climate area and flora of sub-tropical area. There are trees such as oak (quercus), chestnuts or pines (pinus pinea) and olive tree (olea europaea).

The Northeast is Trás-os-Montes (“behind the mountain”) area. This is a mountainous area with very cold winter and very hot summer. The flora is much less than in the Minho area. the closer to the Spanish border it is, the less the flora is. Both areas have in common that there are many rivers crossing the mountains such as Minho River (the river bordering Spain) or Douro River. The Northern Portugal is Peneda-Gerês National Park, the country’s most important nature reserve. There are also some remaining natural forests, especially green oak forest (Quercus ilex). The major cities of the Northern region are Porto, Vila No and de Gaia, Matosinhos, Braga, Vila Real and Bragança.

The majority of Central Portugal is hills and moutains. the Serra da Estrela is as an important mountain area with ski area. This area is very fertile and has an optimum climate for planting grape, so that the tradition of planting grape dates back to the Roman era. In addition, grains, rice, sunflower tree (Helianthus) and cabbage are also planted. Tejo River divides this region into two sections. The most important cities of Central Portugal are Lisboa, Aveiro, Amadora, Coimbra, Leiria, Castelo Branco and Setúbal.

The Southern Portugal consists of three regions: Terras do Sado, Alentejo and Algarve with terrain from flatness to mountainous, hot and dry climate. Alentejo was used to be a grain granary in Portugal, which is now sparsely populated and is being abandoned by the population. Main products of the region apart from grains are grapes and sunflowers which are increasingly being grown. Increasingly prolonged droughts contributed to the region’s economic decline.

Also in Portugal, there are two archipelagos Madeira and Açores originated as volcanoes. Portugal’s highest mountain is Monte Pico, 2,351m high on the island of Pico belonging to the Açores archipelago.

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Population  

In terms of language, ethnic group and religion, Portugal is a very homogeneous country, at least in terms of long-standing population. Portuguese is spoken throughout the country and there are only a few villages in the Miranda region where Douro is spoken in a local language (Mirandês or Língua Mirandesa in Portuguese, Asturien, officially recognized by the government). Most of the Portuguese follow Roman Catholics.

Anthropologically, the Portuguese is a mixed nation of Iberians, original people of the Iberian Peninsula and descendants of the Romans, Goths, Suebi and Mor who invaded this country. Mor ethnic group influences in Portugal more than it in other European countries. After the reconquest (Reconquista), the Mor was partially evicted but largely enslaved, they were blended into the Portugal nation then and has greatly contributed to the prosperity of handicraft and agriculture in the Middle Ages.

Economy

Since its accession to the European Union in 1986, the Portuguese economy has grown in a more diversified manner and oriented more towards service. In recent times, its services have accounted for about two-thirds of its GDP.

Structural issues such as poor education system, high illiteracy rates, partially poor infrastructure and ineffective administrative management system are seen as obstacles to quicker production and employment growth. For this reason, Portugal is increasingly facing the competition of countries with low income from Central and Eastern Europe, Asia and North Africa and failing to create a particular attraction to foreign direct investments. The biggest investment ever was the construction of the Auto-Europa auto factory.

Regarding foreign trade, the exchange with the EU partners accounted for 80%. Portugal exports are mainly clothing, footwear, machinery, chemical products, cork, pulp and paper; its imports are machinery, motor vehicles, oil and oil products and agricultural products. Portugal has a high deficit in its trade balance and the payment balance. Thanks to a high source of income from tourism, the payment balance deficit is not as big as the trade balance.

Portugal has many resources, including coal, copper, tin, gold, iron ore such as pyrite and chalcopyrite, kaolinite, wolframite and uraninite. Portugal is among the leading countries in the production of wolfram and uranium.

Portugal’s agriculture is one of the least efficient agriculture in Europe, which led to the fact that many agricultural enterprises stopped the business and nearly half of the food has currently had to be imported. Cork oak (quercus suber) and almond (prunus dulcis) plantations in Alentejo have been also in serious crisis.

Similarly to agriculture, the fishery also faces the problem of efficiency. The Portuguese fishing fleets falls behind far Spanish fishing fleets. Most of the fish have to be imported.

Tourism brings about 8% of GDP with uptrend. Most tourists come from Spain and UK and Algarve is the leading tourist center.

Culture  

Portugal is sometimes called the country of poets. In Portuguese literature, poetry is more influential than prose. In the Middle Ages, when the Portugal was established, poetry was very popular in the northeastern part of the Iberian Peninsula, bringing many excellent poems and epics. In addition to the most famous classical poets such as Luís de Camões and Fernando Pessoa, there was a number of other authors less known but also importantly influencing on modern Portuguese literature.

Prose grew slower than poetry and only dates back to the 14th century, from the chronicle or the description of the life of the saints. Fernão Lopes is the most famous representative. He wrote the chronicle of ruling period of the three kings of his times. However, the best known in the world is Portugal’s modern literature, especially works of José Maria Eça de Queiroz and the recipient of the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature, José Saramago.

Religion  

About 97% of Portuguese Catholics are Roman Catholics. The pilgrimage of Fatima in Portuguese territory is a memorial to Jesus’ mother, Maria. Maria is venerated by the Portuguese as a goddess, and for some people, it is also a sign showing that the Portuguese ancestors worshiped the goddess before following the Catholics.

Cuisine  

Portuguese cuisine is varied because the Portuguese brings into their tradition various dishes well-known from their adventures. Each locality in Portugal has a specialty cooked from a variety of meat, fish or other seafood. The national dish is Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua), which is said to have 365 different cooking methods. Portuguese wines is also famous, as early as the Roman period, Portugal was associated with Bacchus, the god of wine and the festival in Roman mythology. Today, some Portuguese wines are one of the finest wines in the world, especially sweet porto wines.

Festival  

The celebration of people’s three saints (Santos Populares) is celebrated every June throughout Portugal. These three saints are Anthony Padua, John the Baptist and Saint Peter. The Portuguese celebrate this festival with wine, água-pé (wine made with fermented fruit), bread with sardines, disguise and dancing on the streets, weddings and fireworks.

The celebration of Santo António is celebrated at night of the 12th day and the morning of June 13th, especially in Lisboa (where the saint was born and resided) with disguise on the street (Marchas Populares). The most admired saint is John the Baptist, celebrated on the birth of saint John (June 24th), especially in Porto and Braga, traditionally with sardine dish and Caldo Verde soup and people use the plastic hammer to knock on each other because they believe that this action will bring good luck. The celebration of São Pedro is celebrated on June 28th and 29th, especially in Póvoa de Varzim and Barcelos.

Transport  

Three most important airports of Portugal, Porto, Lisboa and Faro have flights from several airlines, most of which are operated by two Portuguese airlines, TAP Air Portugal and Portugália. There are also domestic airways but because Portugal is not large, they are not very attractive and relatively expensive.

The road system is well built, partially thanks to EU funds from a number of funds. The most important routes are covered by paid highways (Autoestradas) and free of charge routes (Itinerários Principais (IP) or Itinerários Complementares (IC)). The roads paved with stone are still be present in the remote areas.

The railway network is not very much, but the main roads are fast and effective. Train tickets are not expensive. Additional routes have not been invested for more than a decade and many routes have recently stopped their operations.

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