I’m feeling especially green as I check in with you all today because I’m in a country filled with wine that’s green! This is also one of the world leaders in using green, renewable energy! Do you know where I am? I’ll give you a hint… This country is the reason 250 million people worldwide who live in Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola, São Tomé and Principe, Equatorial Guinea, Macau and Brazil speak the language they do. That’s right, I’m in Portugal!
Portugal has been shaped by their coastal borders and maritime lifestyle. Once upon a time they were one of the largest world powers due to their maritime exploration. Today they are home to beautiful rock arch beaches, famous sardine cuisine, port and green wine, and also the longest bridge in Europe! Before I jump into telling you all about the amazing time I had in mellow Portugal (voted one of the happiest countries in the world - probably due to all the green that’s here!), let me give you a bit of history about what makes Portugal so interesting historically and hence, today.
Portugal, a small country on the Iberian Penninsula, has managed, unlike most of Europe, to maintain their same borders since the 11th century! Spain surrounds steadfast Portugal on all sides except the western border, which borders the Atlantic Ocean. Avoiding any expansion via land, Portugal took to the seas to spread their empire. By the 15th century they were the first major world power! Portuguese territory spread from their homeland on the Iberian Penninsula to northern and Western costal Africa, reaching down and around to the Eastern coast of Africa and finally reaching India! From there they decided to head west, discovering the Atlantic archipelagos of the Medeiras and the Azores Islands. They proceeded from these islands to the south west, reaching Brazil, which would eventually become the largest Portuguese speaking region in the world. Did you know that there is also a Portuguese population in China? That’s because after discovering Brazil, the Portuguese pushed on farther east from their base in India and reached China and then Japan! Macau was an established territory in China until 1999.
Portugal’s numerous discoveries as well as their control over the spice trade allowed them a great deal of wealth and power until they teamed up with Spain’s monarchy. By the 18th century everything had begun to change and slowly Portugal rewarded most of their colonies back to the countries they occupy today. I started looking into this history because upon arrival, one quickly meets many people from all over the world holding Portuguese passports. Portugal still awards Portuguese passports to former colony residents and their descendants, including thousands of Indians born in Goa, once a former colony of Portugal. Interestingly enough, this has perhaps influenced current Portuguese society as many of them are polyglots, speaking upwards of four languages! As much as I love to help, I found my languages skills weren’t needed so much here because everyone was so linguistic!
Today, post maritime exploration boom, Portugal focuses more on wine, renewable energy, being the largest world producer of cork, and catching/consuming their favorite costal meal: cod and sardines. Walking down the streets of the capital Lisbon, you will see numerous keepsake bags and wallets made with cork material (harvested from the numerous cork trees in Portugal) and featuring painted pictures of their beloved sardine!
After visiting the picturesque cities of Porto and Lisbon, I flew south to wrap up my trip on a warm beach. I surfed my way from the southwest corner of Portugal’s Atlantic coastline, arriving to the calm Mediterranean waters of Portugal’s southern shores. Relaxing on the beach filled with giant rock cliff arches, one of the locals proudly informed me that in May 2016, the entire country was run entirely by renewable energy for four days! It was then I realized that it’s not just the wine that makes me feel extra green in this country, and hence like most of the population, I was feeling pretty happy!
As much as I enjoyed my time in green Portugal, its time to fly off to my next destination. Stay tuned to find out where I go next!
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