National Geographic : 1927 Nov
AN ALTITUDINAL JOURNEY THROUGH PORTUGAL Rugged Scenic Beauty, Colorful Costumes, and Ancient Castles Abound in Tiny Nation That Once Ruled a Vast Empire BY HARRIET CHALMERS ADAMS AUTHOR Of "A LONGITUDINAL JOURNEY THROUGH CHILE," "ADVENTUROUS SONS o1 CADIZ," "AcRoss FRENCH AND SPANISH MOROCCO," ETC., ETC., IN THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE S"'VE never been in Portugal," said the Sman with national prejudices, "but I'm sure it isn't worth visiting-lit tle country; small, dark, lazy people; revo lutions." I have twice journeyed through Portu gal and am fascinated by its marked scenic beauty, unique architecture, ancient sur vivals in costumes and customs, to say nothing of its glorious historical associa tions. It has a sturdy, industrious peas antry. 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 emer ald 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 "Mifio," the Portu guese, 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, Valena do Minho, whose crum bling battlements crown the hill. We slip across the bridge by train, or automobile, in these prosaic days; but Tuy and Valenca belong to a turbulent age of border warfare, of hard, valiant men, of blades dripping blood.* * See, also, "The Greatness of Little Portu gal," 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 Valenca, Vianna do Castello, Braga, and Guimaraes, four interesting, historic towns. A MEDIEVAL MILITARY POST AT VALENQA Although the need of frontier garrisons is past, Valenca 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 up the nar row, winding streets our automobile "honked," warning swarms of children, cats, and chickens to run to safety. Valenca's architecture differs from that of Spanish Tuy, across the way. Portu guese houses run to granite, painted white, with trimmings in the natural hue; to blue and white glazed wall tiles, the manufac ture of which is a national industry in herited from the Moors (see, also, Color Plates V and XV). 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 Por tuguese escudos, more ragged. But these were minor details. The people were hos pitable and courteous. The customs guard even put on clean, white cotton gloves be fore examining our luggage! "The garden of Portugal," as the Por tuguese call their lovely ever-green north ern country, is nearly as rich in flowers as California.* Even the railway stations * See, also, "The Woods and Gardens of Por tugal," by Martin Hume, in the NATIONAL GEO GRAPHIC MAGAZINE for October, 1910.