The hubs and I went to Portugal on a whim. I came across a deal on Travelzoo for a 7-day trip to the Canary Islands and Lisbon, and I could not pass it up. I had a feeling we would love Portugal, but I had no idea how much we would love it or how freaking fascinating it would be. Here are 10 things I learned about Portugal during our visit:
- The Portuguese were among the first to put tiles on the outside of their houses; they did this to protect houses from the humidity, but it soon became a characteristic of the country; “original” Portuguese tiles are blue and white only, but you’ll see tiles of every color throughout the country; the neighborhood of Chiado in Lisbon is well-known for its beautiful tiled houses.
- 70% of cork is exported from Portugal.
- Ian Fleming’s visit to Estoril Casino was the inspiration for 007 and Casino Royale.
- The Freemasons shaped Porgual into what it is today and still have a major presence in Portugal.
- Lisbon had its very own Jack the Ripper; Diogo Alves would loiter on the aqueduct until nightfall, rob those crossing the aqueduct, and then push them to their deaths; he murdered 70 people; his severed head is preserved and on display at the University of Lisbon’s Medical School.
- On November 1, 1755, the worst earthquake in Lisbon’s history (seismologists estimate a 9-point magnitude), followed by an enormous tsunami, almost completely destroyed the city, taking approximately 70,000 lives and destroying most of the city; the aqueduct, however, miraculously survived.
- Portugal has a bridge similar to the Golden Gate Bridge, which connects Lisbon to Almada and is suspended over the Tagus River; it was designed by the same architect, who designed San Francisco’s famous bridge, but it is longer and shorter; its moniker is the “25 de Abril” to commemorate the Carnation Revolution.
- Portugal was the birthplace of some of the world’s first explorers during the 15th and 16th centuries; the Monument of Discoveries in Belem celebrates these early explorations.
- The westernmost point in Europe is in Portugal; early explorers thought it truly was the end of the world.
- Portugal is a very progressive country; they’ve legalized gay marriage (they were the 8th country in the world and the 6th in Europe to do so) and abortion, and they want to legalize marijuana and prostitution as well (so that prostitutes have access to better healthcare).
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