Focus on Portugal

To keep in the Poland-Ukraine 2012 spirit, I’ll focus on a different country playing in the tournament each day during the month of June; looking not so much at the national football team but more about travel to and visiting the country itself.

Today’s spotlight is on Portugal.

Vasco da Gama
Vasco da Gama (Wikipedia)

I was lucky enough to live on Portugal’s Algarve coast for a while, as a child, and then visit Lisbon as a teenager travelling around Europe with an Inter Rail card.

Walk through the old city of Lisbon and you might be tempted to think about the seamen and merchants who strolled the narrow, winding streets during the city’s illustrious history.

The Portuguese

My desire to travel across the oceans may have been influenced by geography lessons where we learnt about the great Portuguese navigators.

In the 15th century, Henry the Navigator – prince of Portugal – encouraged exploration of the African coast for an eastward route to the Indies to bypass Arab taxation and hostilities the traders might face in the Middle East.

Henry didn’t live to see the results but I keenly traced the sea-routes on historical maps of Vasco da Gama (who reached India by sailing around Africa in 1498) and Ferdinand Magellan (who led a Spanish expedition westwards around the world in 1519).

Ferdinand Magellan
Ferdinand Magellan (Wikipedia)

Magellan wouldn’t complete the voyage but the passage between the tip of South America and Tierra del Fuego would be named in his honour – the Strait of Magellan.

Monument to the Discoveries

To celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460), a large monument (Padrão dos Descobrimentos), cast in the form of a ship used in early Portuguese exploration, was stationed on the northern shore of the Tagus River.

The limestone sculptures on the caravel prow depict Prince Henry and the ‘Portuguese that discovered the Roads of the Sea’.

This may not be everyone’s highlight of a visit to Lisbon but true explorers will want to travel out along the Av. da India to Belem and pay tribute to these masters of the sea.

Young Girl in Mozambique
Young Girl in Mozambique

Portuguese Language

Portuguese is the official language of Portugal, Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau and São Tomé e Príncipe. Portuguese is also spoken in Macau, East Timor and Goa (India).

Although I’ve spent more time in former Portuguese colonies recently than I have in Portugal itself, hopefully I can change that and return for a few weeks of travel around the country in 2013.

Visit PortugalVisit Lisbon:
Official tourism websites for Portugal and Lisbon.

Short URL: http://tnot.es/PTfocus

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