Johan Fourie's blog

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From Portugal, with love

with 3 comments

(c) Johan FourieThe Portuguese have a saying: “Há Mouro na costa…“, there’s a Moor on the coast. The Moors were the Muslim people from North Africa who lived in the Iberian Peninsula between roughly 800 and 1200 CE. Reconquered by the catholics, the Moors remained a “threat”. The expression, though, refers not to war but to love. You say this when there’s a person threatening to invade someone’s heart.

Helanya and I recently traveled to Portugal for a short but memorable vacation. We spent one night in Lisbon, before traveling to Porto, Coimbra and back to Sintra. Although Portugal’s economy is struggling, it remains a rich country; rich in history, tradition, culture, colour and taste. Portugal gave Europe the Age of Discovery, it gave the Cape its name, it gave Holland it’s Tulips, it gave Brazil its football and the world Christiano Ronaldo. But there is an immense sense of sadness, of melancholy, of a golden age that will never be again, best embodied by Coimbra’s forlorn Fado music. Perhaps, also, this is its appeal.

The Portuguese are probably the friendliest and most hospitable people you will meet, especially in the less touristy areas. Tourism is a large share of the country’s GDP (about 5%) and a huge employer. Although tiny in terms of land area, there is enough diversity to justify returning again and again (this was my third trip). Porto, especially, is a romantic city. The city rises from the banks of the Douro River, with tiny houses and factories and cathedrals clamoring for space on the steep hills. On the opposite bank are the “caves”, which invite you to explore the flavours and sensations of port wine. I’d recommend Croft. And if you need a place to stay, try the 6Only hotel.

Visiting Portugal is a bit like going back into the past. The Portuguese have another saying: “Àguas passadas não movem moínhos“, past waters don’t power past mills, meaning you shouldn’t worry about past things. Perhaps so, but the past might just be its saving grace, if it manages to make more visitors, like me, fall in love.


Written by Johan Fourie

April 21, 2012 at 12:58

3 Responses

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  1. […] Check out: […]

  2. As Portuguese I am proud to read the wonderful things you wrote about my country and I would like to invite you to go to my website devoted to share my passion about Portugal with all like you are in love with this amazing nation.

    Clara C

    April 23, 2012 at 16:24

  3. Being a portuguese (and from Oporto,for that matter) I do not have words enough to tell you how much my heart rejoiced in reading what you said about my country.Since you liked so much the sayings of my country,there is a new one for you: Amigos, são os olhos da nossa alma ! (Friends, are the eyes of our soul). I suppose that both you and your wife intend some day to return to Oporto. So bad I am too old and out of my trade (worked for nearly 50 years in the Portwine trade) unless I would apply to the previldge of showing you another Port compny which is perhaps the best kept secret of Oporto (or would it be Gaia?).
    Best regards,


    April 22, 2012 at 13:08

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