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11 Amazing Things That Portugal Is Known For

Portugal Student Work
by Sandra Guedes May 5, 2015

PROVING THAT PORTUGAL is so much more than Cristiano Ronaldo, Port wine, and Fado, here are 11 other pretty awesome things Portugal has given the world:

1. “Shit liquor”

Or as the locals call it: licor de merda. It’s not actually made of the mentioned ingredient — it contains cinnamon, citron, vanilla, and cocoa, and along with Ginjinha de Óbidos and Licor Beirão, it’s one of our best-known local liquors.

Once you try it, you might even like it so much that soon you’ll be guzzling shit ice cream (gelado de merda), shit mousse (mousse de merda), caipishit (caipimerda), or your own shit recipe!

2. 365 ways of eating cod…

…and basically everything else! Starting with dried salty cod: cod with cream (Bacalhau com Natas), scrambled eggs with cod (Bacalhau à Brás), roasted cod (Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá), barbecued cod (Bacalhau Assado na Grelha), and as many different cod dishes as your mind can think of. The same goes for whatever else can be cooked: meat, fish, seafood, sausages, soups, vegetables, snails, rabbits, quails, eels…

It’s not surprising then that nearly every month, one, or several, food festivals take place somewhere in the country, that Oporto’s Francesinha has been classified as one of the best sandwiches in the world, and most recently, the ACPP — the Portuguese Professional Chef’s Association — has opened a library in Lisbon with over 1,500 books exclusively dedicated to gastronomy.

3. Green wine

Vinho Verde literally means “green wine,” but translates to “young wine.” Visitors might be disappointed that green wine is not actually green, or they might just be surprised by the variety of green wine they get to choose from: white green wine, red green wine, rosé green wine, and even green wine vinegar for culinary uses — it’s all available.

4. Pretty much anything can be made out of cork

Initially, cork was used only for cork bottle stoppers, but now “cork design” has been taken to a whole new level. Ladies can buy ecologically-friendly cork handbags for themselves, or lunch boxes and footballs for their children. Men can buy cork ties, and you can fully decorate your house with award-winning designer furniture made of cork. And don’t forget the cork lavatories for your bathroom!

5. 365 days of surf

In between the dramatic cliffs and the sandy beaches spread around 963 km of Portuguese shores, there’s always a wave waiting to be surfed. It might be a hidden privileged spot or an internationally-recognized destination that’s part of the World Surf League circuit. Although big names like McNamara have firmly put Portugal on the surfing map, these waves aren’t only for pros — you can learn to surf here even if you never held a board before. And, yes, you can surf on a board made of…wait for it…cork.

6. Ceramic cocks

You have the rooster of Barcelos (o galo de Barcelos) — a colorful symbol of the country that you can buy in most souvenirs shops, and you also have the penis-shaped ceramics exclusively from Caldas da Rainha (o das Caldas). In Caldas, those ceramics come in all shapes and sizes, starting with conventional mugs, cups, and plates for daily use, to humorous decorative pieces such as friars, fish, and pistols. This is a 150-year-old trade with many “cock ups!”

7. Turning Azulejos into history pages

The Portuguese were not the ones who gave the Azulejos to the world. However, they were the ones who turned them into light blue pages of history hanging inside churches, palaces, markets, and all sorts of residential buildings. For 500 years — maybe because it was cheap to do, or because it was a way of surviving the long, cold winters — the Portuguese artisans depicted everyday scenes such as a fishermen going out to sea, Portuguese cowboys (campinos) herding cattle in the plains (lezíria), and elaborate scenes of historical events.

8. Manuelino style

D. Manuel the First was a king in love with the sea, not a fashion designer (which is lucky for the Portuguese, who could easily be wearing lifebelts around their waist instead of fashion belts if the latter were the case). Manuel funded the construction of buildings using stone-shaped ropes, anchors, chains, armillary spheres, shells, seaweed, and many other sea related items as decorative elements. Although much of his creations were destroyed during the earthquake, tsunami, and fires Lisbon endured in 1755, you can still walk underneath his archways that seem to hark back to a forgotten underwater kingdom.

9. A well-preserved 19th-century photography studio

Daguerre and Niépce had just created the first permanent image; Talbot had invented the calotype; and an inspired José Relvas decided he needed more than a mere camera — so the Portuguese inventor, engineer, and traveler built his own temple dedicated to photography. Hewn from stone, iron, glass, and cutting-edge 19th-century technology, you can still enjoy his
studio today.

10. The Serra de Sintra

A mountain range with all sorts of trees, plants, animals, fish, and fungi, the Serra de Sintra is dotted with palaces, monasteries, and castles. It sounds magical because it is! Yes, it can be a touristy place, but it’ also a place which will make you wonder: Did Portugal give Sintra to the world, or did an international alliance of inspired kings and poets give Sintra to Portugal?

11. Portuguese

Portugal gave the language to over 230 million people in over 9 countries and many other territories. It’s the language of Camões, the poet who wrote the Lusíadas; the language of the Nobel Prize for Literature and writer José Saramago, among so many others.

Portugal might have been the birthplace of Portuguese, but nowadays São Paulo has more native Portuguese speakers than all of Portugal itself — and it has its own Museum of the Portuguese Language too. It’s a gorgeous Romance language brought over by the Romans, with Celtic roots and Arabic and Greek influences, that was swept around the world by Portuguese sailors during the European Age of Discoveries.

And one awful thing Portugal is know for:

The Transatlantic slave trade

The Age of Discoveries was not just sunshine and roses. It was during this period that the Portuguese started the Transatlantic slave trade, taking people unwillingly from Africa to work on Brazilian plantations — a trade which other European powers were quick to follow, changing forever the world’s economy and cultural habits. In the meantime, Africa was suffering a holocaust — Maafa — that took place for over four centuries, and some would argue it still takes place today. The Portuguese, on the other hand, were also the first ones to realize they had truly messed up, abolishing the practice in 1761.

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