“When I die I will return to seek
The moments I did not live by the sea.”
Sophia De Mello Breyner
PORTUGAL - THE BEGINNING
About 200,000 years ago, in the lower Paleolithic, Neanderthals came to the peninsula, their presence which lasted until 28,000 BC, and may have been the last bastion before their extinction. In Portugal there is still no systematic middle Paleolithic. The reasons that have to do with the lack of well-dated sites and representative spoils. The remains associated with this period were found outdoors (mostly materials were found on the surface at high river terraces and beaches) in number of caves dug with higher incidence in Extremadura as the Cave of Figueira Brava, in the Natural Park of Arrábida or the Cromeleques dos Almendres near the city of Évora. In Lisbon you can see exhibits from the Paleolithic to the Iron Age, in the Carmo Archaeological Museum.
Ibero-Punic period (7th and 5th centuries BC)
Before the Roman occupation, the territory was visited by many people, a safe anchorage as early as the seventh century BC, the "location of Lisbon" was visited by Phoenician, Greek and Carthaginian merchants, over time, the visits became more frequent and the stays longer, resulting in what are presumed to be the first dwellings constructed along the banks of the Tagus estuary between the 7th and 5th centuries BCE. Celts also settled and mixed with the natives.
The Lusitanos - The ancestors of the Portuguese people.
The Galécia was born politically and administratively with the Roman invasion, although already existed a people and a region, the Lusitania, the territory of "the people of hill forts" (populi Castrorum) or Galician (Gallaeci; Latinization of the Greek ethnonym kallaikói), the tribes from the northwest of the Iberian peninsula. The Galicians were distributed in three main tribes to which corresponds to Celtic etymology, Latinized in the classic documents:
-The Ártabros (artabri, from Galicia)
-The Gróvios (grovii, from Northern Portugal)
-The Astures (asturi, from Asturias)
It was one of the leaders of the Lusitanian tribes who faced the Romans, is name Viriato, described as a shepherd and hunter of Lusitania who was elected chief of the Lusitanian people. After defending victoriously its mountains, Viriato threw himself firmly into an offensive war. In 140 BC, Viriato inflict a decisive defeat to Fabius Maximus Servilliano, the new consul, which killed in combat about 3000 Romans. After that, Rome sends a new general, Servílio Cipião, but Viriato maintain military superiority and force him to seek a new peace, was sent in the process three commissioners of his confidence, Audas, Ditalco and Minuros. Cipião appealed to bribery of the companions of Viriato and he was assassinated in his sleep.
A tragic end to Viriato and the Lusitanians, and shameful to Rome, the superpower of the time. Without the strong resistance of Viriato, Decius Junius Brutus could march to the northeast of the peninsula, across the Douro river subjugating Galécia.
Roman period (first century BC to 4th century AC)
The Romans began the invasion of the Iberian Peninsula (which they called "Hispania") in 218 BC, during the Second Punic War against Carthage (the Punic Wars consisted of a series of three conflicts that opposed the Roman Republic and the Republic of Carthage, Phoenician city-state, in the period between 264 BC and 146 BC, after nearly a century of struggle, the end of the Punic Wars, Carthage was completely destroyed and Rome came to dominate the Mediterranean Sea). The Romans initially annexed two regions as provinces, Hispania Citerior (northeast) and Hispania Ulterior (southwest). Mining was the first factor of interest in the region: one of the strategic objectives of Rome was to cut Carthage connection with Hispanic mines of copper, tin, gold and silver.
Taking advantage of the excellent natural harbor of the great estuary of the River Tagus the ancient city of Olisipo (future Lisbon), better known as "Felicitas Julia" by the Romans, thrives on the most intense trade with the Roman provinces. From the first century BC, an important fish-processing centre was installed, which seems to have been active until the end of the 4th century AC. The factories were composed of tanks (cetarias) of different sizes for fish preparation, wells and support buildings for the production units. The famous garum, a sauce luxury made based on fish, was exported in amphorae to Rome and throughout the Empire , as well as some wine, salt and horses from the region. Olisipo benefits from the municipality status given by Julius Caesar, along with the territories around, to a distance of 50 kilometers, and pay no taxes to Rome, contrary to almost all other forts and indigenous villages conquered. The city was then already the largest and most important of the Iberian Peninsula, having even insulas or multi-storey buildings and certainly a great forum. A large Greek minority, including slaves and merchants, coexisted with most of the Latin-speaking population. Olisipo was linked by roads to the other two large cities of the West of Hispania, Bracara Augusta (Braga) and Emerita Augusta.
The Romanization left lasting marks on language, law and religion, in the territory they left even deeper marks, cities, which still exist today and are the birthplace of the Portuguese nation, roads and aqueducts that are still used and appreciated by all.
Visigoth period (from year 411)
In 411, with the decline of the Roman Empire, the territory was occupied by Germanic tribes, called barbarians, dividing the Iberian Peninsula among themselves, having been dominated by the Alans followed by the Visigoths and the Suevi.
With the invasions have disappeared Roman institutions, but remain standing ecclesiastical organization, the Suevi adopted the Christian religion in the fifth century, followed by the Visigoths, which was an important instrument for stability.
Islamic period (from year 714)
An army of Berbers and Arabs recently converted to Islam led by Tariq ibn Ziyad, landed at Gibraltar after conquering North Africa.Taking advantage of internal struggles that divided the Visigoths, won the battle of Guadalete, it was a very bloody battle that even cost the life of the Visigoth King Rodrigo.
Quickly moved to Zaragoza, benefiting from low population density to win most of the peninsula. The occupied territory west of the peninsula, representing Portugal, was called the Gharb al-Andalus or simply Al-Gharb (the west). Local people were able to stay on their land for a fee, their habits, Christians and Jews were tolerated.
The Christian Reconquest
Since 718, taking refuge from the sudden Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula, a group of Christian Visigoths resisted cantoned to the north, in the mountainous region of Asturias. Then, in the year 722, led by Pelagius (or Pelayo), a noble descendant of the Visigoths kings, wins the battle in its mountain stronghold at Covadonga and expel the local arab governor Munuza. After the victory of Pelagius, the population of the Asturian villages emerged with their weapons, killing hundreds of Moors. Munuza, recognizing the defeat, organized another army by assembling the survivors of Covadonga, to confront Pelagius and his army, near Proaza. Pelagius wins again, and Munuza dies in battle. Therefore was proclaimed the independence of the kingdom of Asturias and the beginning of the Christian reconquest of the territory. This gradual process led to the birth of small kingdoms, which were being extended as the achievements were successful, were born the kingdoms of León, Castilla, Navarra and Aragon.
The Birth of Portugal
In 1096 King Alfonso VI of León and Castile gave the government of the Portucalense County, formed in 868 between the Minho and Douro Rivers, to Henry of Burgundy by marriage with his daughter Teresa of Leon. After the death of Henry, Teresa exercised the regency during the minority of his son, Afonso Henriques. But in 1122 the interests of both shocked when Afonso Henriques opposed to a Galician-Portuguese union, after been armed knight, he went to live in Coimbra. In 1128 won the battle of São Mamede against the forces of his mother. Then took over the county government and concentrated efforts in negotiations with the Church of Rome to achieve autonomy. At the same time sought to extend their domains, conquering territory to the Muslims while battling the forces of his cousin Alfonso VII of León and Castile.
In 1139, after an important victory against a Moorish contingent at the Battle of Ourique, Afonso Henriques was acclaimed king of Portugal, with the support of his troops. Hence was born the Kingdom of Portugal, with its capital in Coimbra and initiated the first dynasty of Kings.
The Portuguese independence was recognized by Leon and Castile in 1143 by the Treaty of Zamora. In 1147, with the support of northern European crusaders, D. Afonso Henriques conquered Lisbon. With internal peace, continued conquests from the Moors, pushing the frontiers south from Leiria to the Alentejo. In 1249, during the reign of King Afonso III, the Al-Gharb (Algarve / South of Portugal) was included in the Christian kingdom of Portugal, concluding the Portuguese reconquest.
In the field of "theoretical" knowledge, the Muslims have left new ideas in the areas of medicine, astronomy, mathematics (the numbers replaced the roman numeration) and in the Geography and Navigation. Also introduced the compass and the astrolabe, facilitating the Iberian navigations started in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
PORTUGAL - THE GASTRONOMY
Shows Mediterranean influences (including the so-called "Mediterranean diet") and also Atlantic as is visible in the amount of fish traditionally consumed. The Mediterranean cuisine is based on the trilogy of bread, wine and olive oil.
- Taste as much you can. The Alentejo bread is perhaps the most representative, there is also the corn bread, call "Broa de Milho" or "Broa de Avintes", typical in the north of Portugal, it's a dark brown and very dense bread with a distinct bittersweet and intense flavor, has a particularly slow process of production: baked about five to six hours in the oven, and the "Torricado", from the center of the country, a large bread, toasted with olive oil and is served as an accompaniment.
The Olive Oil
- The best olive oil in the world is Portuguese, much of the dishes are first prepared from a saute onion and garlic in olive oil. Consumed in a natural way or with the meal, the olive oil is part of Portuguese table.
- Portuguese wine is the result of traditions introduced to the region by ancient civilizations, such as the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, and mostly the Romans. Portugal started to export its wines to Rome during the Roman Empire.
The wine regions are Douro, Dão, Alentejo, Terras do Sado, Bairrada and Colares. In the Minho region (north of Portugal) exists the green wine, which is drunk young and fresh, there is red green wine, which is the most consumed in Minho, green pink wine and green white wine, the most famous is the Alvarinho wine. From the simplest to the most sophisticated restaurant, you always find a generous supply of wine from all the regions.
Why Portuguese food is so good ?
- Because of the Portuguese presence in the world throughout history, especially during the discoveries of the fifteenth century with the importing of techniques and new ingredients (spices) and also leaving their mark in countries as far away as Brazil, India and Japan.
Therefore the Portuguese gastronomic culture has over 5 centuries, so don't hesitate and taste all that you can.
Seafood and Fish
There are several restaurants in Lisbon which offer excellent fresh fish and seafood, but to be completely honest the best you will find is on the west coast, through Sintra, in the area from Guincho to Ericeira, or crossing the Tagus River to the cities of Setúbal or Sesimbra. You should not miss and try the specialties of shellfish, such as oysters, clams, mussels, cockles and of course our popular crustacean the "percebe".
The Vikings and the Cod
It was the Vikings who introduced the cod in Portugal around the X century, they came to the territory which is now Portugal to change their cod by wine and salt.
The warriors arrived by sea and showed no mercy to Christian monks, killing those who got in their way, plundering the chapels in search of riches and selling the survivors as slaves. These looting expeditions were called "Viks" which gave rise to the term "Viking".
To preserve food in boats, that was consumed on long journeys across oceans, the Vikings use the air and sun drying method, but the drying process didn't avoid the easy rotting of the food. At that time the Vikings found that the Portuguese coast had a great production of salt, which would help them preserve their food.
Salt was so important that the Nordics made a peace agreement with Portugal, they needed the salt, in exchange Portugal received the fish that they brought with them, in which included the codfish. Since then, the cod became part of the Portuguese food culture.
The salted cod consumption increases during the Age of Discovery, as in the XV century by the need to find products that would make a stand long sea crossing.
Meat and meat specialties
In the beef stands out the "Mirandesa", "Maronesa" and "Barrosã" breeds from de north of Portugal, if you like a good steak and find on the menu "Posta Mirandesa" do not hesitate, the animals are produced in an ancestral form, in freedom and in a specified region, Miranda do Douro, a wide agroecological region called "Terra Fria" located in the northeast of Portugal. If the dish cost less than € 15.00 its because is not the true Mirandês steak.
From the Alentejo region comes good beef also but is best known for the black pork meat, we call "Porco Preto".
The most accepted theory is that the first pigs were brought to Iberia by the Phoenicians from the eastern Mediterranean coast (now Lebanon), where they interbred with wild boars. This cross gave rise to the first Iberian breeds, whose origin, in this case, can be traced back to about 1000 BC. The most appreciated recipes are the "Secretos" (small grilled fatty steaks) the "Piano" (grilled pork ribs) and the "Carne de Porco à Alentejana" (small pieces of pork with clams).
Also dont miss the typical Portuguese Steak (steak and chips with special sauce and ham) or the most popular in Lisbon, which you can find everywhere by the name "Bitoque" (steak with a fried egg on top and chips).
Portuguese food in the world:
The Portuguese were also the first to take chili peppers from the "New World" to India, where he is now an essential ingredient, based on its strong presence in the cuisine of Goa, the Portuguese presence in central India. The Portuguese sweets left marks in Japanese cuisine, which first introduced refined sugar, creating the so-called Kompeito and still in the adaptation of egg threads, which led to the Japanese specialty Keiran somen, or the "tempura", was introduced in Japan in the mid-sixteenth century by Portuguese missionaries, being inspired by the Portuguese disch "peixinhos da horta" (pieces of fried green beans wrapped in a polm).
Why so many sweets made from egg yolks ?
- The Portuguese sweets has much of its origins in convents and monasteries in the sixteenth century. We call it "doçaria conventual" (Conventual Sweets). The abundant use of egg yolks in many of these specialties is related to the use of egg whites in convents. Egg whites were used for making "hóstias" (communion bread / Body of Christ), to keep their habits (religious clothing) always starched, and in the clarification of wines. So for not to waste the yolks and the lots of sugar coming from the "New World" and Madeira island, the friars, and especially the nuns of Portugal perfected ancestral recipes. The convent creativity overflowed in rich candy sugar, egg yolks and assorted nuts.
Coffee and Brandies:
In Portugal, when you ask for a coffee, an espresso is served, a term which, however, is not commonly used. In Lisbon, the traditional term for espresso is "bica" (referring to the "tube" from where comes out the coffee from old containers of filtered coffee), in Oporto is usual to ask for a "Cimbalino", as reference to "La Cimbali", a italian popular brand of espresso making machines. Created and developed in Italy since the early twentieth century, but until the 1940s it was prepared under steam pressure. Its invention is attributed to Luigi Bezzera, from Milan, in 1901, but the term "espresso" (Expresso) only emerged around 1946 with the commercialization of the machines from the inventor Achille Gaggia and the popularization of this coffee extraction process.As a result of high pressure extraction process, all the flavors and substances in a cup of espresso coffee are concentrated. The Portuguese prefer one dose (shot) of coffee rather than a larger cup in which these elements are more diluted. A well-drawn espresso has three major parts: heart, body and foam - its most striking feature: the foam color similar to dark caramel that remains on the surface of the espresso, consisting of vegetable oils, proteins and sugars. In Portugal, this small ritual, besides drinking coffee, represents the union of people or an invitation to hang out.
The Italians have the "Grappa", Brazilians have the "Cachaça" (made from sugarcane), the Portuguese have the "Aguardente", which is made by distilling the skins, pulp, seeds, and stems, left over from winemaking after pressing the grapes. It was originally made to prevent waste by using these leftovers.
Can be made from fruits also, as the "Medronho" from the Algarve region, south of Portugal, in the north region, with a long tradition of production, the most appreciated are the "Aguardente Velha" (old brandy), aged in oak barrels for a period long enough for the distillate to lose some components, stabilize others or react against each other, to the brandy acquire pigments, flavor and aroma of the woods where it is stored. If you are fond of spirit drinks, you have to try the "Aguardente Velha".