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Central Portugal - the Hedonism of Beiras

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

Medieval castles, cobblestone villages, captivating cities and golden beaches: the Portugal experience can be many things. History, great food and idyllic scenery are just the beginning… many tourism guidebooks lure visitors with such imagination, including the author of this article. But it really is so: Portugal is European hedonism at its best, where everyday life connects to the vibre of seasons, glass of wine, slice of cheese, sound of ocean, smell of fish, and unexplainably attractive voices of Fado.

Far away from any other European country, save Spain, and open to the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean, Portugal is still an imaginary land, a country of desire and loneliness as evidenced in the un-translatable notion of saudade which can be seen on the faces of people even when they smile. Don’t be scared of this sorrow, as Portuguese feel and act as any other Mediterranean nation.

The innkeeper will serve you some glasses of wine or beautiful Beirão, with few slices of smoked ham, and will tell jokes or speak with you on any subject involving football or politics. True, politicians are everywhere same, but football is a passion that Portuguese cherish as much as their families, friends, faith. Too bad their visitor is Croatian, who beats Portugal regularly! Don’t go to the supermarkets, which are full of people (Portuguese love to shop!) but explore the fruit boxes in the market, look what hides in numerous cans and bags that make the noise of early morning hours.

Walking down the streets, don’t mess with the traditional Mediterranean security cameras and source f every information possible; of course, it is your old neighbour lady who knows exactly who is going to marry in a few months, who went home late, who missed the Sunday mass, and why all the other old ladies (except herself) gossip of everyone else. It connects so many peoples of the Mare Nostrum! We would like just to sit on any praça (square) of Portugal and look at this scene over and over again, because it is so pure and full of emotions in our part of the world!

Yes, Portuguese like meat – and good meat indeed! But, fresh fish is really, really good too! Don’t worry if fish seller is yelling out loud how fresh it is, because there is no competition in freshness of sea products in Portugal! Well, maybe for cod… Which is so cherished, there are over 365 recipes for this fish from the northern seas! After all, Portuguese are famous navigators, conquering lands in the past, giving that philosophical look on the sea in the present… No fuss about anything connected to the sea here!

A tear in the eye for the rhythms of Portugal, atmospheric towns with church bells and monasteries, and absolutely adorable Portuguese table with baked bread, olives, cheese, stews, smoked meats and wonderful vinho tinto, followed by adorable sweets and always great options for vegetarians is also part of the Central Portugal in the area called Beiras. It is plural, stupid! Everyone knows there is Beira Litoral, Beira Alta and Beira Baixa, comprising three geographical positions next to the sea, in the mountains and in the plains. It is centred round Coimbra, an old university town next to the Rio Mondego and with lively student scene. It is, indeed, Portugal in its finest everyday life, far away from the usual tourist offers. Welcome to Portugal, a country of hedonism!

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