Capital city: Lisbon • Bordering countries: Spain • Area: Total Area:89,456 km2Land AreaincludingAzores and Madeira: 88,951 km2Water territory:400 km2 • Population: 10,605,870 (July 2005 est.) • Government: Parliamentary democracy • Oficial language: portuguese • Nationality: portuguese • Currency unit: escudo (PTE) • Coastline: 1,621 km
Administrative divisions: 18 districts (distritos, singular - distrito) and 2 autonomous regions* (regioes autonomas, singular - regiao autonoma); Aveiro, Acores (Azores)*, Beja, Braga, Braganca, Castelo Branco, Coimbra, Evora, Faro, Guarda, Leiria, Lisboa, Madeira, Portalegre, Porto, Santarem, Setubal, Viana do Castelo, Vila Real, Viseu • Other cities: Braga, Portu, Coimbra, Fatima, Sintra, Cascais, Evora, Lagos...
Climat: Maritime tmperature; cool aand rainy in North, warmer and drier in South. Temperatures: Lisbon Coust Jan – Mar air-17.10C, sea-14.90C Apr – Jun air-21.80C, sea-17.50C Jul – Sept air-26.30C, sea-19.50C Oct - Dec air-17.20C, sea-16.10C South Jan – Mar air-17.00C, sea-15.90C Apr – Jun air-22.40C, sea-19.40C Jul – Sept air-27.30C, sea-22.60C Oct – Dec air-17.70C, sea-17.00C Azores Jan – Mar air-17.00C, sea-17.20C Apr – Jun air-19.70C, sea-18.80C Jul – Sept air-23.90C, sea-22.20C Oct – Dec air-19.40C, sea-20.50C Madeira Jan – Mar air-19.90C, sea-18.70C Apr – Jun air-21.80C, sea-20.00C Jul – Sept air-28.90C, sea-22.70C Oct – Dec air-21.30C, sea-21.40C
Food/Gastronomy • The staple diet is one of fish, meat, vegetables and fruit. Although Portugal's waters abound with fresh fish, the dried, salted codfish known as 'bacalhau', often imported, is considered the national dish. In some countries, at Christmas time, people eat turkey, in Portugal people eat boiled 'bacalhau', with olive oil, potatoes, grain and cabbages.In many areas, meat is seldom eaten, although the Alentejo region is known for its pork and Trás-os Montes for cured meats.Breads and sweets - the latter a legacy of Moorish occupation - take a variety of forms, with many regional specialities.Wine is the ubiquitous table beverage.
Portugal isaround the size of Scotland with twice the population and has tremendous variety both geographically and in its ways of life and traditions. Along the coast around Lisbon, and on the well-developed Algarve in the south, there are highly sophisticated resorts, while the vibrant capital Lisbon has enough going on to please most city devotees. But in its rural areas this is still a conspicuously underdeveloped country, and there are plenty of opportunities to experience smaller towns and countryside regions that have changed little in the past century.
The greatest of all Portuguese influences, however, is the sea . The Portuguese are very conscious of themselves as a seafaring race; mariners like Vasco da Gama led the way in the exploration of Africa and the Americas, and until 1976 Portugal remained a colonial power. The colonies brought African and South American strands to the country's culture: in the distinctive music of fado , sentimental songs heard in Lisbon and Coimbra, for example, or in the Moorish-influenced and Manueline architecture that abounds in coastal towns like Belém and Viana do Castelo.
Since Portugal is so compact, it's easy to take in something of each of its elements. Scenically, the most interesting parts of the country are in the north: the Minho , green, damp, and often startling in its rural customs; and the sensational gorge and valley of the Douro , followed along its course by the railway, off which antiquated branch lines edge into remote Trás-os-Montes. For contemporary interest, spend some time in both Lisbon and Porto , the only two cities of real size. And if it's monuments you're after, the centre of the country - above all, Coimbra and Évora - retain a faded grandeur. The coast is virtually continuous beach, and apart from the Algarve and a few pockets around Lisbon and Porto, resorts remain low-key and thoroughly Portuguese, with great stretches of deserted sands between them. Perhaps the loveliest are along the northern Costa Verde , around Viana do Castelo, or, for isolation, the wild beaches of southern Alentejo .
General history • Portugal emerged as a country in 1143, after a 15 year rebellion by Dom Afonso Henriques (Afonso I). Afonso Henriques defeated his mother Countess Teresa of Portugal, regent of the County (Condado) of Portugal and loyal to the Kingdom of Leon at the battle of Sao Mamede (Batalha de Sao Mamede) near the town of Guimaraes, in June of 1128. Countess Teresa was imprisoned and exiled by her son, and died in 1130. Guimaraes is therefore known as the birthplace city of Portugal.
However the true test of an independent nation did not happened until 1385 when Joao Mestre de Avis (John of Avis) with the help of legendary supreme constable Nuno Alvares Pereira defeated the Castilians at the epic Aljubarrota battle where the Castilians outnumbered the Portuguese 6:1. John I (Dom Joao I) was crowned King of Portugal. John I along with his sons, Duarte (to became the King in succession), Henry The Navigator, and Afonso started the "Golden Decades" of worldwide discoveries (15th and 16th centuries). • Following its heyday as a world power during the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal lost much of its wealth and status with the destruction of Lisbon in a 1755 earthquake, occupation during the Napoleonic Wars, and the ind ependence in 1822 of Brazil as a colony.
A 1911 revolution deposed the monarchy with the assassination of King Manuel I and his son. For most of the next six decades, repressive governments ran the country. Antonio Salazar a right wing fascist ran the country with an iron fist and a austere economic plan which slowly buried Portugal deeper and deeper on its third world status within Europe. Salazar also held on to the colonies of Angola, Mozambique and Guinea, having contributed not just to the deplorable state of those Countries, but also to a colonial wars which killed hundreds of thousands of Portuguese man. • In 1974, a left-wing military coup installed broad democratic reforms, which had the opposite effect. Too much freedom too quickly placed the country in total "democratic chaos" with union bosses, corrupt politicians, and left-wing and right-wing extremists taking turns on plundering the country, with disastrous economic and labor plans. Starting in 1976Portugal granted independence to all of its African colonies and a wave of refugees were poorly assimilated on a society that does not value ethnicity to this day. Antonio Oliveira Salazar
Jorge SampaioAfter successive governments led by communists, socialists and social-democrats continued their miss-management of Portugal, at last the social-democratic government of Prime-minister Cavaco da Silva brought prosperity and double digit economic growth in the late 80's and early 90's. It helped that the Portugal joined the EC in 1986. Joining the EC, gave the country a boost with a flurry of grants and investments that contributed to new roads, and overall upgrade of a dilapidated infrastructure. • However with the disastrous miss-management of the Socialist government of Prime-minister Antonio Guterres, and the Social-democratic government of Prime-minister Jose Manuel Barroso (promptly promoted to President of the European Commission) and his successor Santana Lopes, the country embarked on a 0% growth rate with a growing economic deficit. Added to this is the cessation of funds from the EC without a source of replacement.
In 2005 President Sampaio dismissed the government and called new elections. The Socialists were brought to power with the majority of vote and new Prime-Minister Jose Socrates impact remains to be seen. Portugal is currently in economic crisis with 0% economic growth rate and projections that, if accounting for the fluctuation of interest rates set by the central bank, will be negative in 2006. • In 2006, Mario Soares, a popular Prime-Minister and President decades ago, came out of retirement to run for President in 2006 against his political nemesis Cavaco da Silva. Cavaco da Silva soundly beat Soares becoming the current president of Portugal. Anibal Cavaco Silva
Religion • Portugal was profoundly Roman Catholic. According to common saying, "to be Portuguese is to be Catholic," and approximately 97 percent of the population considered itself Roman Catholic--the highest percentage in Western Europe. Only about one-third of the population attended mass and took the sacraments regularly, but nearly all Portuguese wished to be baptized and married in the church and to receive its last rites. • Portugal was Roman Catholic not only in a religious sense, but also socially and culturally. Although church and state were formally separated during the First Republic (1910-26), a separation reiterated in the constitution of 1976, the two still formed a seamless web in many areas of life. Catholic precepts historically undergirded the society, as well as the polity. The traditional notions of authority, hierarchy, and accepting one's station in life all stemmed from Roman Catholic teachings. Many Portuguese holidays and festivals had religious origins, and the country's moral and legal codes derived from Roman Catholic precepts. The educational and health care systems were long the church's preserve, and whenever a building, bridge, or highway was opened, it received the blessing of the clergy. Hence, although church and state were formally separated, absolute separation was not possible in practice.
Best Places • Lisbon is a city of neighborhoods and each one has something to offer the tourist. Although a great town for walking, Lisbon is very hilly and we recommend taking the electrified streetcars when possible. Be sure to visit Castelo de São Jorge, Biaxa, Alfama, and the banks of the River Taugus. Spend an afternoon in Belem visiting the Age of Navigators Monument, Torre de Belem, and the Mosteiro dos Jeronomos - a tour of the cloisters is worthwhile. Sintra