We often forget this region of Portugal. It is in the far north of the country, in the insulated and remote interior. However, there is much to discover by Trás-os-Montes. I was there for a few days and discovered several things about the area. Today I bring you 10 curiosities about Trás-os-Montes.
1 – Cold Land and Hot Land
The region is divided between Tierra Fria and Terra Quente. The Terra Fria corresponds to the north-eastern region of Transmontana, which includes Bragança, Vinhais, Vimioso, Miranda do Douro and Mogadouro. Terra Quente corresponds to the municipalities of Alfândega da Fé, Carrazeda de Ansiães, Macedo de Cavaleiros, Mirandela, Valpaços and Vila Flor. This is a purely morphological division. While in Tierra Fria we have the fields populated with chestnut trees, in the Hot Land there are mainly olive trees.
Read here: Article about Montesinho Natural Park (Terra Fria)
2 – The Almond Blossom
Almond blossoms are the trademark of Trás-os-Montes in the spring. At the beginning of March, the fields are painted pink and white. There are even some almond blossom parties, celebrating the arrival of the milder temperatures in Mogadouro, Torre de Moncorvo and Vila Flor. For those who prefer the train, CP – Comboios de Portugal organizes on Saturdays in March tours through this region, departing from Porto. Look here.
3 – Best of Olive Oil
Although we associate the olive trees with the Alentejo, in the Hot Land Transmontana some of the best olive oil in the world is produced. There are several brands of olive oil from this region awarded, including olive oil from Casa de Santo Amaro, Porca de Murça and João das Barbas. Transmontano olive oil already has DOP (Protected Denomination of Origin) certification and 100 million kilos of olive are produced annually.
4 – The Masquerades transmontanos
The living culture of Trás-os-Montes is very rich. One of the symbols of the region are the masked ones, that can be Caretos, Chocalheiros, Sécias, Farandulos, among others.
One of the masked festivities is the Boys’ Party, where only male members up to the age of 16 can participate. Of pagan origin, this cult is associated with the winter solstice, but was adapted and integrated by Christianity. Today, the festivities run mainly between December 25 and January 6. The dawn is given in the morning, with songs accompanied by bagpipes and drums, and then the masked ones wander through the villages, collecting money for the church. Look at the Agenda for the 2017 winter holidays.
Another of the festivities associated with the masked ones is the Festa de Caretos, of celtic origin. Very similar to the feasts of the boys, this cult is associated to the end of the winter and is celebrated in the day Carnival. This time, the protagonists are the single boys, who wander through the villages creating an uproar in their eccentric costumes, bells and bells.
5 – The pagan pillory of Bragança
The pillory next to the Castle of Bragança is a catholic element of the XVI century period (since the second charter of the city was granted by D. Manuel). But is it just that? At the base of this pillory there is an element that seems to disagree … It is that a pagan statue was placed much older to support the pillory. If we look closely, it resembles a perforated pig, representing male fertility. Locations are called the “sow
6 – The first civil monument in Portugal
Next to the castle of Bragança, the Domus Municipalis remains, circular building of the XV century with two floors. On the ground floor was the water cistern, and on the upper floor the town community gathered to make decisions.
Because of the distance from the royal capital, here the decisions were made by the “good men,” those who had lands and those who were considered of great wisdom. The people gathered here to solve the city’s problems and the people were waiting. There are even two sets of rooster-engraved in the stone, with which the people kept waiting for the decision.
7 – The secret marriage of D. Pedro and D. Inês de Castro
It is said that D. Pedro and D. Inês Castro were married in Bragança in secret. The marriage has never been proven, but it will have taken place in the church of S. Vicente, outside the walls of the city. If we go back to the church, we find the mosaic panel in honor of the forbidden loves of the monarch and his mistress.
8 – The communicating castles
There are 6 castles that can be visited in the region of Trás-os-Montes: Algoso, Bragança, Miranda do Douro, Mogadouro, Penas Róias, Vinhais. All these fortifications are very old and go back to the foundation of Portugal (XII-XIII century), although they have been rehabilitated throughout the centuries. For me, the most beautiful is the castle of Algoso, built on top of a cliff, which seems to be part of the building.
The curiosity about these castles is that, on a clear day of sun, each is sighted by another,existing a kind of connecting lines between them. In medieval times, this proximity served to the different fortifications if they could alert in case of danger.
9 – Here the sun rises earlier
In Trás-os-Montes is the village where the sun rises earlier: Paradela. The easternmost point of Portugal is in this village of Transmontana. To enjoy the most morning sunset of Portugal, just go to Miradouro da Penha das Torres, in this parish. They will have an incredible view over the river Douro and the space also has a picnic area where you can have breakfast.
10 – Rio de Onor, the community village
Rio de Onor was recently voted one of the 7 wonder villages of Portugal. Here, the remnants of medieval communism still survive. Annually, 2 stewards are chosen who distribute the work to the villagers and manage the common goods: land, livestock and infrastructure. The products and profit are then distributed among all.
Read here: Full article on Rio de Onor