National Geographic : 2011 Jul
• Peneda-Gerês is carved by mountain ranges, rivers, canyons, gorges, and streams. Most vil- lages are situated in the lower valleys, where the climate is milder and the terrain more accom- modating to people and livestock. e park's wild heart is in the high country, a realm of rugged granite massifs, windswept moors, and bare up- lands greened in places by stands of giant holly. Álvares and I walk through the darkening forest surrounded by smells of moss, fern, and loam and the sound of owing water, a constant companion in Peneda-Gerês. It rains more than a hundred days a year here, and many springs rise clear and cold in the highlands, seeping into peat bogs or owing down the mountains in a crescendo of streams, rivers, and waterfalls. e landscape has also been shaped by human beings, who have lived here since the Neolithic ---as evidenced by massive rock monuments, called dolmens, that dot the moors. A Roman road traverses the forest, and medieval castles perch on rocky peaks. Elaborate terraced elds climb the hillsides where farmers have grown corn and wheat for centuries. Walk along a winding river course and you may come upon an abandoned monastery where generations of monks prayed and fasted or a shrine that still draws pilgrims. Many of these structures, lichen- patched and rain-smoothed and built from local rock, match their surroundings so well they seem to have grown up organically from the soil. is harmony of landscape and history, of wilderness and civilization, has been strained in recent decades by the construction of vacation Author Tom Mueller writes from his home in the north of Italy. Photographer Peter Essick is a regular contributor to National Geographic.