For everyone who'd like to discover Portugal and its culture we have a small recommendation. Try and visit various municipalities during their local holidays, a kind of a parish festivals. Even one of those will give you a glimpse into the Portuguese soul which is usually unknown to foreign visitors but each one is a bit different from the other. They usually last more than one day and depending on the timing of your visit you can expect different pleasures.
Their background might be lying in the Roman Catholic history of the country but their spirit is definitely down to earth and very close to the people and the community. In order to experience it properly we suggest going to them with a Portuguese company, thanks to that you won't loose much in the cultural translation.
The festival in Marteleira
-Good food, tombola and loud disco music
The first festival we visited with our Portuguese friend took place in Marteleira. The night was about getting together, enjoying great food and drinks, with the highlight being a concert of disco music.
I really enjoyed the event being fascinated by its specific atmosphere. One of the surprising things for me is that Portuguese are still able to create a big event in a small village, and that so many people come and take part in it. The festival reminded me a huge wedding: a lot of guests gathered at long tables heavy with big portions of traditional food and colorful decorations all around. I need to admit that two of three dishes in the culinary offer were especially interesting: beans with sea food, and a mix of boiled meat and vegetables with rice. Both of them reminded me of some traditional Polish cuisine being in the same time their distant cousins.
Not to talk just about food... There was one thing which reminded me about my homeland. In the Czech Republic this attraction is called tombola. In my country it is usually accompanying various balls (f.e. at the end of a high-school), here it is obviously a traditional part of the local festivals. How does tombola work? It is a kind of lottery: you buy certain number of coupons and if there is a number on them, you win something. “Something” is a key word here as the prizes (donated things from the locals) are something you, let's say, don't need or want. In Marteleira we won a porcelain owl (the other sloth loves it) and an... ugly hairband (the other sloth is bald and I won't use it).
During the event I felt to be part of the BIG Portuguese family as the event gathered what felt to be EVERYONE – from the youngest to the oldest. Nobody was bothered by a noisy concert in the middle of a night (that is a dream of organizers of every Czech festival). Everybody was just enjoying life – kids were running around and dancing, old granddads enjoying the view of very lightly dressed girls on the stage...
Thoughts about communism
And one last image I want to share: there were small red flags promoting the event which everyone got. When they were waved in the air during the concert I was thinking about Communistic gatherings! But I believe that such a thought can come to a mind of only some people coming from the post-Soviet countries.
The festival in Atalaia
-An evening full of seafood and entertainment
Another festival with a very similar spirit which we visited took place in Atalaia-Lourinhã and it was all about sea food. Again it was a very local event full of people coming from the surrounding to enjoy great meals and the company of friends or families.
This time, we followed the proverb „sharing is caring“ and we did so with the whole table – 10 people eating from common plates and bowls. This way we could try more dishes and enjoy the process even more. Except of well known prawns and black muscles, we tried different kind of clams and an octopus in a sour sauce with onion (the taste of it reminded me of the Czech tlačenka or Polish salceson – both are kinds of a head cheese).
Expect of food, and the Portuguese tombola, we observed children (and not only) entertaining themselves at a stand with different kind of games: shooting or throwing at targets were there ways to win some fluffy toys.
To be continued
We fell in love with the spirit of those events and we decided to try even more. About which you will be able to read in the incoming posts.