Portugal lies on the Atlantic coast in southwestern Europe. In the north, it is sparsely settled yet scenic, with wild and mountainous terrain. The south, on the other hand, is warm and fertile.
Portugal is the oldest country in Europe. In the first millennial BCE, Celtics settled in Portugal. However, according to national legend, the national capital (Lisbon) was founded by ancient Greek warrior Odysseus. He had left his homeland to wander the world and enjoyed his time around Lisbon. It is said that his absence broke the heart of nymph Calypso, who turned herself into a snake, her coils becoming the seven hills of Lisbon. In the time of Henry the Navigator, Portugal would go on to build a vast overseas empire, and was once continental Europe’s greatest power.
Due to its location, Portugal is a gathering place for those traveling by land and by sea. More than 90% of the population is ethnically Portuguese, and around 90% of Portuguese citizens are Roman Catholic. The majority of the rest of the population is made up of Brazilians, Han Chinese, and people of Portugal’s former colonies in Africa and Asia. Language ties everyone together: Portuguese is the first language of almost the entire population.
Portuguese tradition values simplicity and rural life. Families enjoy countryside picnics and gardening. The Portuguese fado, a type of romantic ballad, is said to have come from the countryside. Bullfighting, the traditional sport, also takes place in the countryside. The bull is not killed and retires to the countryside for the rest of its life. Football (soccer) is the most popular national sport, and the Portuguese national team is excellent.
Portuguese have a long history of dancing and singing that has carried into the present day. Villages have their own terreiro (dance floor) made up concrete or beaten earth, and dances vary by region. Some examples include the vira, chula, corridinho, tirana, and fandango. Usually, dancing is accompanied by small accordions and gaitas (bagpipes). Portuguese guitars accompany the fado.
Fun fact: the world’s oldest bookstore is in Lisbon! The Bertrand Bookstore, known as Livraria Bertrand, has become a well-established chain of bookstores throughout Portugal. It began in 1732 as a small shop in the heart of Lisbon. The original bookstore was destroyed in an earthquake in 1755, and the one that stands today was rebuilt in the same location in 1773.