Likes & Dislikes

Opinions

Portugal - Centro Region - Viseu - just married - Krista photo

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“Portugal was a memorable travel experience because of the fascinating character of the local people. What’s more, there are plenty of cultural and historical sights, beautiful scenery, and my mouth was continually watering as I looked at the dishes served on restaurant terraces.

What made the trip exciting was that neither of us could really imagine in advance what Portugal would be like – it somehow made it seem a more exotic experience than a lot of other European countries. There is something mysterious about how the country occupies that rather remote south-western corner of Europe, even if it is flooded with millions of curious tourists. We were also amazed that such a globe-spanning empire could have started from such a tiny place.”

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“The only really lasting experiences from our eight-day trip to Portugal were Lisbon and the Duoro Valley. There are a lot of bleak, uninteresting, run-down parts of Lisbon, but three or four districts are sensational. These are all within a very narrow area, but it’s worth meticulously exploring it on foot, and really taking it all in. My absolute favorite was the Bairro Alto. I also liked Alfama better than the true old town. The Duoro Valley was even more of a surprise, because I hadn’t imagined I could be so taken by a wine region when I’ve never really been a lover of wine.”

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I’ve travelled a lot in Europe, and decided it was time to pay Portugal a visit. I liked it, but in the end it just felt like ticking another country off the list. I don’t think I’ll be going back to Portugal, though I might visit Madeira, because it must be totally different, and I’d be interested to see that.

Lisbon really does have a great atmosphere, beautiful ocean vistas from the surrounding hills, and great food, but when it comes to the Portuguese themselves, I have more mixed feelings. They’re very direct and friendly with one another, but I had the feeling that they’re not so open towards foreigners. They put on a grin when a tourist appears because they need the money, but I didn’t feel much genuine hospitality. Also, service is usually very slow, and the waiters seemed to be playing games – sometimes they never even came to my table. At the same time, I’m not sure I’ve ever been anywhere where the local guys are so gratingly insistent about trying to pick up female tourists. I’ve been to Spain three times, each time in a different region, and I have to say I liked it a lot more.

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“There are an annoyingly large number of beggars and unlicensed street vendors in the tourist areas of both Lisbon and Porto. It’s harder to enjoy the sights, because they ruin the picture somewhat. There are also some shifty looking guys around, and I found one putting his hand into my bag.



Practicals

Transport

Driving

Speed limits in Portugal: urban areas: 50km/h; country roads: 90 km/h; expressways: 100 km/h, motorways: 120 km/h

Several motorways are subject to tolls, and payment can usually be made electronically.

Food

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1. In the restaurants, as a couvert, bread or rolls with butter (sometimes with olives, cream cheese, hard cheese, tuna, some paste or pie) are automatically placed on your table. As a general rule, you only pay for what you eat. If you eat - let us say - half the cream cheese only, you still have to pay for all the portions. If you don't want an extra charge, don't touch the couvert at all. Couverts in mid-range restaurants should cost no more than two Euros per person and in high-range restaurants not more than five Euros. 

2. Fish dishes:
We recommend you choose sea bass (robalo) or sole (linguado). These have good taste and easy-to-handle bones.  Prefer fishes that are grilled over charcoal (na brasa). Caution: If you order small fishes (like Sardines), your role is to remove the bitter-tasting innards.

3. Side dishes:
The most common side dishes are rice or potatoes, e.g., French fries.  Vegetables are seldom offered as a side dish. These are almost exclusively served in soups.  An exception could be the boiled cabbage leaves served to the codfish (bacalhau) and - as a Portuguese peculiarity -  pickled vegetables to steaks.

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“In terms of calorie intake, a holiday in an all-inclusive Turkish hotel is a weight-loss boot camp compared to a week spent in Portugal. In addition to eggs, bacon, and sandwiches, they offer irresistible pastries in sweet and savory versions. As well as cheeses. Divine cheeses! Creamy, camembert-like, spoonable, white wonders, and slices of soft and hard cheeses in all shades from pale yellow to deep orange. Until now, I thought France was the cheese superpower, but in the supermarket, I realized how wrong I was. In several rows, towers of tastefully packaged, rounded disks and neat little boxes of cheese. The same was true of the various salamis and sausages as well. The best known of these is chorizo, which is made from world-famous Portuguese pork.

The latter products come largely from the central part of the country, Alentejo, where hungry black pigs gorge themselves on acorns. It is said that this is what gives the pigs there their wonderful taste.

In restaurants, there are always a few slices of bread or rolls on the table, as well as a small tub of butter, and these can be eaten as appetizers while we wait for our order, or even for soups, which the Portuguese seem fond of. Some popular varieties include ‘stone soup’ which includes a bit of everything, cabbage soup, and – especially in Alentejo – coriander soup. They also eat cooked food for lunch and dinner, usually including several dishes, accompanied by wine, with concentrated, sweet milk cakes as a dessert. Although largely healthy things are on the plates – fish, olive oil, olives, salads, fruit – the end of the meal always worsens the WHO statistics, as meals usually end with strong coffee and cigarettes, even at 11 in the evening if dinner stretches on long enough. Portuguese people are passionate about espresso coffee, of which they consume 4-5 cups a day.” (Gerda, 2014)

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“Wherever we went, we couldn’t find any typical Portuguese dishes other than seafood and steak. As a matter of fact, the steak with fried eggs, French fries, and salad is not really typical, and since it was relatively expensive (€ 9-10), we preferred not to try it. As far as fish is concerned, they are prepared similarly in all southern and Mediterranean countries. Maybe there were more kinds of sweets and cakes you wouldn’t get at home like the pasta de nata offered on most tourist sites, and other similar cakes filled with vanilla/cream. The only local dish was a sandwich filled with roast beef called a bifana. It costs an average of €1 and is very delicious, perfect for warding off starvation – for an hour or two at least. The other thing I can recommend is the cheeses. We got local cheese as an appetizer in a restaurant, it was superb, with delicious herbs!

As far as drinks are concerned, there is no typical Portuguese national drink, except for Porto wine, although in fact, it is an invention of the English. The local and ubiquitous beer is, according to my partner, horrible (I don’t drink beer). Beer drinkers are at a disadvantage here. As I wrote above, good coffee has a great culture here, and really very, very delicious coffee is sold everywhere. For those who make coffee more than just a revivifying drink, there are plenty of great aromas to choose from. For starters, an espresso, complemented by some local cake, is a perfect choice, and it’s a great feeling to sit on the terrace of a cafe, sipping coffee and watching the life of the city.” (2017)







Portugal - feijoada de marisco - white beans and seafood - photo Krista

Portugal - Setubal - v.j. photo

Public safety

The overall crime rate is low. In the larger touristy cities petty crime such as theft occurs, and the number of pickpockets is quite high. Robbery and handbag snatching are uncommon, and violent crime is rare.

Portugal - officers of GNR (Guarda Nacional Republicana) -The National Republican Guard, a paramilitary security force - j.p. photo

Background

Portugal - national flag

Destination in brief

Portugal is in the southwestern corner of Europe, on the western part of the Iberian Peninsula, the Atlantic Ocean washing its western coast. Spain is Portugal’s only neighbor.

Size: 92,212 km² (35 603 mi²) - North-south distance: 561 km (349 mi) – The Atlantic Ocean archipelagoes of Madeira and the Azores belong to Portugal.
Portugal has the oldest unchanged borders in Europe (since 1139!).

Capital city: Lisbon – 517,000 inhabitants in the city area and 2,9 million in the total metropolitan area – As a city, Lisbon is older than Rome (its first inhabitants - around 1200 B.C. – were Phoenicians).

Population (in 2020): 10,2 million  – 95% are ethnic Portuguese

Language: Portuguese - Of all the Romance languages, the closest to Portuguese is Spanish.

Religion: about 85% Roman Catholic – The north of the country tends to be more religious (in terms of church attendance) than the south.

Form of government: Republic – Portugal enjoys great political stability, with barely any extremist parties – Portugal is member of both European Union and NATO, and is part of the Schengen area.
Portugal produces 70% of the world's cork exports.

Official currency: Euro

Average net monthly salary: about 800 Euro – Although Portugal has the lowest standard of living in the western part of Europe, Italians, for instance, seem to be less satisfied with their lives than the Portuguese.

Most frequent surname: Silva

Portugal has a law against peeing in the ocean. It is difficult to imagine how this rather harsh measure is supposed to be enforced.

Safety: Portugal is one of the safest countries in Europe. Most crime cases occur in Lisbon and Porto.

Optimal time for a tourist visit: April-October (November-March is rainy)

Most important tourist attractions: Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra, Braga, Douro Valley, Óbidos
With more than 13 million tourists visiting each year, Portugal is one of the 20 most visited countries in the world.

Geography

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Portugal - Cabo de Roca - the most western point of continental Europe monument - Elter photo

People

“I am here in the country with the ugliest women in the world! You don’t see a single cute sexy girl. You drink something to see if drunkenness improves the situation, but it doesn't. You can drink five glasses of whisky and a carton of beer, but the sight will still hurt your eyes. Portugal is a perfect destination for celibate Catholic priests, blind swingers, gay men, guys with a fetish for ugly women, perverts, and asexuals.” (Adam, 2018)

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"The Portuguese are unselfconscious, rough, kind, big carnivores, love celebrations, love to fool around, travel a lot (albeit a few centuries ago), inward-looking, always longing for something but don't really know what, and nostalgic: “how good the old days were!” They expect a new hero to come, but none ever arises. They prefer to live simply, and love to make fun of the powerful.”


Porto - locals - a.m. photo

Tourist etiquette

1. Eating, talking during a Fado show is considered rude.

Gastronomy

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Portugal - sardine fish - sardinhada - j.p. photo

Attractions

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