Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Geography and Climate

The climate can be classified as Oceanic in the north and Mediterranean in the south. One of the warmest European countries, yearly temperature averages in mainland Portugal are 13°C (55°F) in the north and 18°C (64°F) in the south. The Madeira and Azores Atlantic archipelagos have a narrower temperature range. Spring and summer are sunny, whereas autumn and winter are rainy and windy.
Mainland Portugal is split by its main river, the Tagus. The northern landscape is mountainous in interior areas, with plateaus indented by river valleys. The south, between the Tagus and the Algarve (the Alentejo), features mostly rolling plains and a climate somewhat warmer and drier than in the cooler and rainier north. The Algarve, separated from the Alentejo by mountains, enjoys a Mediterranean climate like southern Spain. Snow is usual in the northern half of the country, around the 40 N parallel. It is a rare event in the south, but it does happen.
The islands of the Azores and Madeira are located in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Some islands have had volcanic activity as recently as 1957. Portugal's highest point is Mount Pico on Pico Island. It is an ancient volcano measuring 2,351 m (7,713 ft)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sports and Games

Football is the most known, loved and practiced sport. The legendary Eusébio is still a major symbol of Portuguese football history. Luís Figo was one of the world's top players of his generation, along other contemporary players like Rui Costa, Paulo Sousa, and Fernando Couto. Cristiano Ronaldo, Ricardo Quaresma, and Simão Sabrosa, are among the Portuguese-born most widely known top players currently active in professional football and the national football team.

The Portuguese national team, Selecção Nacional, has won two FIFA World Youth Championships and several other UEFA youth championships. After a third place in the 1966 FIFA World Cup, they finished in fourth place at the 2006 FIFA World Cup. In addition, they finished second in Euro 2004, their best result in this competition to date.

S.L. Benfica, Sporting Clube de Portugal, and F.C. Porto are the largest sports clubs, often known as "os três grandes" ("the big three"). In football, S.L. Benfica has played in the UEFA Champions League final (then the UEFA Champions Cup) seven times and has two titles, F.C. Porto also has two titles in that competition and a UEFA Cup. S.L. Benfica is the most popular club in Portugal with more than 160,000 affiliates and is recognised by the Guinness World Records as the club with more affiliates in the world. Sporting Clube de Portugal has won a European Cup Winners' Cup. Other than football, many Portuguese sports clubs, including the "the big three", compete in several other sports events with a varying level of success and popularity.
Vanessa Fernandes, World Cup winner in triathlon
Vanessa Fernandes, World Cup winner in triathlon

Portugal has a successful rink hockey team, with 15 world titles and 20 european titles, making it the country with more wins in both competitions. The most important Portuguese hockey clubs in the European championships are F.C. Porto, S.L. Benfica, and Óquei de Barcelos.

The national rugby union team have not yet qualified for a Rugby World Cup, but are very close to entering France 2007. The Portuguese national team of Rugby Sevens is also strong, becoming one of the strongest teams, proving their status as European champions.

Francis Obikwelu again won two European gold medals in the 100 m and the 200 m in 2006, having already received gold and silver medals in 2004 and a silver in the 2004 Summer Olympics. Naide Gomes is a European elite athlete in pentathlon and long jump.

In the triathlon, Vanessa Fernandes, three times European champion in elite sub-23, won the silver medal in the World Championships and became the winner of 2006's World Cup by winning 12 consecutive Grand Prix (world record tied).


Portuguese cuisine is diverse. The Portuguese love dry cod (bacalhau in Portuguese), for which there are hundreds of recipes. Two other popular fish recipes are Grilled Sardines and Caldeirada. Well known meat recipes are Feijoada, Cozido à Portuguesa and Carne de Porco à Alentejana. A typical fast food dish from Porto is the Francesinha. The Portuguese art of pastry has its origins in ancient recipes of which Pastéis de Belém from Lisbon (also known as Pasteis de Nata) and Ovos-Moles from Aveiro are good examples.

Portuguese wines have deserved international recognition since the times of the Roman Empire, which associated Portugal with their God Bacchus. Today the country is known by wine lovers and its wines have won several international prizes. Some of the best Portuguese wines are: Vinho Verde, Vinho Alvarinho, Vinho do Douro, Vinho do Alentejo, Vinho do Dão, Vinho da Bairrada and the sweet: Port Wine, Madeira Wine and the Moscatel from Setúbal and Favaios. Port Wine is well known around the world and the most widely exported Portuguese wine. The exports of Vinho Verde are growing fast in response to international demand.


Portugal has developed a specific culture while being influenced by various civilizations that have crossed the Mediterranean and the European continent, or were introduced when it played an active role during the Age of Discovery.

Portuguese literature, one of the earliest Western literatures, developed through text and song. Until 1350, the Portuguese-Galician troubadours spread their literary influence to most of the Iberian Peninsula.[3] Gil Vicente (ca. 1465 - ca. 1536), was one of the founders of both Portuguese and Spanish dramatic traditions. Adventurer and poet Luís de Camões (ca. 1524-1580) wrote the epic poem The Lusiads, with Vergil's Aeneid as his main influence. Modern Portuguese poetry is rooted in neoclassic and contemporary styles, as exemplified by Fernando Pessoa (1888–1935). Modern literature is internationally known through the works of Almeida Garrett, Camilo Castelo Branco, Eça de Queirós, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, António Lobo Antunes, and 1998 Nobel Prize winner, José Saramago, and others.

Portuguese music encompasses a wide variety of genres. The most renowned is fado, a melancholy urban music, usually associated with the Portuguese guitar and saudade, or longing. Coimbra fado, a unique type of fado, is also noteworthy. Internationally notable performers include Amália Rodrigues, Carlos Paredes, Mariza, Mísia, and Madredeus. One of the most notable Portuguese musical groups outside the country, and specially in Germany, is the goth-metal band Moonspell. In addition to fado and folk, the Portuguese listen to pop and other types of modern music. Bands with international recognition include Blasted Mechanism and The Gift, both of which were nominated for an MTV Music Award. Portugal has several summer music festivals, like Festival do Sudoeste in Zambujeira do Mar, Festival de Paredes de Coura in Paredes de Coura, and Rock in Rio Lisboa in Lisbon. Out of the summer season, Portugal has a large number of festivals, designed more to an urban audience, like Flowfest or Hip Hop Porto. Furthermore, one of the largest international Goa trance festivals takes place in northern Portugal every two years.

It has also a rich history in what painting is concerned. The first well-known painters date back to the XV century – like Nuno Gonçalves - were part of the Gothic painting period. José Malhoa, known for his work Fado, and Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro (who painted the portraits of Teófilo Braga and Antero de Quental) were both references in naturalist painting.

The 20th century saw the arrival of Modernism, and along with it came the most prominent Portuguese painters: Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso, who was heavily influenced by French painters, particularly by the Delaunays. Among his best known works is Canção Popular a Russa e o Fígaro. Another great modernist painter/writer was Almada Negreiros, friend to the poet Fernando Pessoa, who painted his (Pessoa’s) portrait. He was deeply influenced by both Cubist and Futurist trends. Prominent international figures in visual arts nowadays include painters Vieira da Silva, Júlio Pomar, and Paula Rego. Traditional architecture is distinctive. Modern Portugal has given the world renowned architects Eduardo Souto de Moura and Álvaro Siza Vieira. Internally, Tomás Taveira is also noteworthy.

Since the 1990s, Portugal has increased the number of public cultural facilities, in addition to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation established in 1956. These include the Belém Cultural Center in Lisbon, Serralves Foundation and the Casa da Música, both in Porto.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Portuguese society is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. Approximately 97% of the population consider themselves Roman Catholic [2], but only about one-third attend mass and take the sacraments regularly. Yet a larger number wish to be baptized, married in the church, and receive last rites.
The practice of religion shows striking regional differences. Even in the 1990s, 60% to 70% of the population in the north regularly attended religious services, compared with 10% to 15% in the historically anti-clerical south. In the greater Lisbon area, about 30% were regular churchgoers.
The sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima, in Fátima, Portugal, has great religious significance for many Catholics around the world.


The Portuguese legal system is part of the civil law legal system, also called the continental family legal system. Until the end of the 19th century, French law was the main influence. Since then the major influence has been German law. The main laws include the Constitution (1976, as amended), the Civil Code (1966, as amended) and the Penal Code (1982, as amended). Other relevant laws are the Commercial Code (1888, as amended) and the Civil Procedure Code (1961, as amended). Portuguese law applied in the former colonies and territories and continues to be the major influence for those countries.


The educational system is divided into preschool (for those under age 6), basic education (9 years, in three stages, compulsory), secondary education (3 years), and higher education (university and polytechnic).
Portuguese universities have existed since 1290. The oldest Portuguese university was first established in Lisbon before moving to Coimbra. Universities are usually organized into faculties. Institutes and schools are also common designations for autonomous subdivisions of Portuguese higher education institutions, and are always used in the polytechnical system. The Bologna process has been adopted since 2006 by many universities and polytechnical institutes.


The country is fairly homogeneous linguistically and religiously. Native Portuguese are ethnically a combination of pre-Roman Iberians and Celtics with some Roman, Germanic, and Moorish influences, among other minor contributions.
In the 2001 census, the population was 10,356,117, of which 51.7% was female. By the end of 2003, legal immigrants represented 4.2% of the population, and the largest communities were from Ukraine, Romania, Brazil, Cape Verde, and Angola, with other immigrants from parts of Latin America and Eastern Europe. The great majority of Portuguese are Roman Catholic. The biggest metropolitan areas are Lisbon, Porto, Braga, Coimbra, Setúbal and Aveiro.
Portugal, long a country of emigration, has now become a country of net immigration, and not just from the former Indian and African colonies. Today, many Eastern Europeans (especially Ukrainians, Moldavians, Romanians and Russians), as well as Brazilians, are making Portugal their home. There is a rapidly growing community of Chinese and a notable number of Macanese, who are descendants of Chinese and Portuguese settlers, with some Malays and Indians.

Energy, Transportation and Communications

In 2006 the world's largest solar power plant began operating in the nation's sunny south while the world's first commercial wave power farm opened in October 2006 in the Norte region. As of 2006, 55% of electricity production was from coal and fuel power plants. The other 40% was produced by hydroelectrics and 5% by wind energy. The government is channeling $3.8 billion into developing renewable energy sources over the next five years.
Portugal wants renewable energy sources like solar, wind and wave power to account for nearly half of the electricity consumed in the country by 2010. "This new goal will place Portugal in the frontline of renewable energy and make it, along with Austria and Sweden, one of the three nations that most invest in this sector", Prime Minister Jose Socrates said.

An Airbus A330-200 from national airline TAP Portugal.
Transportation was seen as a priority in the 1990s, pushed by the growing use of automobiles and industrialization. The country has a 68,732 km (42,708 mi) network of roads, of which 2,000 km (1,240 mi) are part of 44 motorways.
The two principal metropolitan areas have subway systems: Lisbon Metro and Metro Sul do Tejo (in final stages of completion) in Lisbon and Porto Metro in Porto, each with more than 35 km (22 mi) of lines. Construction of a high-speed TGV line connecting Porto with Lisbon and Lisbon with Madrid will begin in 2008; it will replace the Pendolinos. Ota Airport will replace the present Lisbon airport. Currently, the most important airports are in Lisbon, Faro, Porto, Funchal (Madeira), and Ponta Delgada (Azores).
Portugal has one of the highest mobile phone penetration rates in the world (the number of operative mobile phones already exceeds the population). As of October 2006, 36.8% of households had high-speed Internet services and 78% of companies had Internet access. Most Portuguese watch television through cable (June 2004: 73.6% of households).


Portugal joined the European Union in 1986 and started a process of modernization within the framework of a stable environment. It has achieved a healthy level of growth. Successive governments have implemented reforms and privatized many state-controlled firms and liberalized key areas of the economy. Portugal was one of the founding countries of the euro in 1999.
Major industries include oil refineries, automotive, cement production, pulp and paper industry, textile, footwear, furniture, and cork (the world's leading producer).[2] Agriculture no longer represents the bulk of the economy, but Portuguese wines, namely Port Wine (named after the process of taking the wines to the "Port" to be exported) and Madeira Wine (named after Madeira Island), are exported worldwide. Tourism is also important, especially in the Algarve and Madeira Islands.
The Global Competitiveness Report for 2005, published by the World Economic Forum, places Portugal on the 22nd position, ahead of countries like Spain, Ireland, France, Belgium and Hong Kong. This table shows that Portugal has stepped two places regarding the 2004 ranking. On the Technology index, Portugal was ranked 20th and on the Public Institutions index Portugal is the 15th best.[1]
A research about standard of living by Economist Intelligence Unit or EIU Quality-of-life Survey places Portugal as the 20th country with best quality of life in the world.

Geography and Climate

The climate can be classified as Oceanic in the north and Mediterranean in the south. One of the warmest European countries, yearly temperature averages in mainland Portugal are 13°C (55°F) in the north and 18°C (64°F) in the south. The Madeira and Azores Atlantic archipelagos have a narrower temperature range. Spring and summer are sunny, whereas autumn and winter are rainy and windy.
Mainland Portugal is split by its main river, the Tagus. The northern landscape is mountainous in interior areas, with plateaus indented by river valleys. The south, between the Tagus and the Algarve (the Alentejo), features mostly rolling plains and a climate somewhat warmer and drier than in the cooler and rainier north. The Algarve, separated from the Alentejo by mountains, enjoys a Mediterranean climate like southern Spain. Snow is usual in the northern half of the country, around the 40 N parallel. It is a rare event in the south, but it does happen.
The islands of the Azores and Madeira are located in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Some islands have had volcanic activity as recently as 1957. Portugal's highest point is Mount Pico on Pico Island. It is an ancient volcano measuring 2,351 m (7,713 ft)

Administrative Divisions

Portugal has an administrative structure of 308 municipalities (Portuguese singular/plural: concelho/concelhos), which are subdivided into more than 4,000 parishes (freguesia/freguesias). Municipalities are grouped for administrative purposes into superior units. For continental Portugal the municipalities are gathered in 18 Districts, while the Islands have a Regional Government directly above them. Thus, the largest unit of classification are the ones established since 1976 into either mainland Portugal (Portugal Continental) or the autonomous regions of Portugal (Azores and Madeira).

Foreign Relations and Military

Portugal has been a member of NATO since 1949, the European Union since 1986, and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries since 1996. It has a friendship alliance and dual citizenship treaty with Brazil. It has good relations with the United States, the United Kingdom, and China (due to Macau), as well as the other European Union countries.
The only international dispute concerns the municipality of Olivença, which Spain received in 1801 under the Treaty of Badajoz and has since administered. Portugal claimed it in 1815 under the Treaty of Vienna. Nevertheless, diplomatic relations between the two countries are cordial.
The armed forces have three branches: Army, Navy, and Air Force. In the 20th century, Portugal engaged in two major military interventions: the First Great War and the Colonial War (1961-1974). Portugal has participated in peacekeeping missions in East Timor, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq (Nasiriyah), and Lebanon.

Government and Politics

Portugal is a democratic republic ruled by the constitution of 1976 with Lisbon, the nation's largest city, as its capital. The four main governing components are the president of the republic, the assembly of the republic, the government, and the courts. The constitution grants the complete separation of powers among legislative, executive, and judicial branches.
The president, who is elected to a five-year term, has a supervising, nonexecutive role. The Assembly of the Republic is a unicameral parliament composed of 230 deputies elected for four-year terms.
The government is headed by the prime minister, who chooses the Council of Ministers, comprising all the ministers and the respective state secretaries. The national and regional governments, and the Portuguese parliament, are dominated by two political parties, the Socialist Party and the Social Democratic Party. Minority parties CDU (Portuguese Communist Party plus Ecologist Party "The Greens"), Bloco de Esquerda (Left Bloc) and CDS-PP (People's Party) are also represented in the parliament and local governments.
The courts are organized into categories, including judicial, administrative, and fiscal. The supreme courts are the courts of last appeal. A nine-member constitutional court oversees the constitutionality of legislation.


The early history of Portugal is shared with the rest of the Iberian peninsula. The region was visited by Phoenicians and Carthaginians, settled by Celts, incorporated in the Roman empire (as Lusitania in 138 BC), settled again by Suevi, Buri and Visigoths and conquered by Muslims. In 868, during the Reconquista, the County of Portugal was formed. A victory over the Muslims at Ourique in 1139 is traditionally taken as the occasion when Portugal is transformed from a county into an independent kingdom.
In fact, Portugal came into existence as an independent nation on June 24, 1128, when Afonso Henriques, Count of Portugal, defeated his mother, Countess Teresa, and her lover, Fernão Peres de Trava, in battle - thereby establishing himself as sole leader. Afonso Henriques proclaimed himself king of Portugal on July 25, 1139, after the Battle of Ourique and was recognized as such in 1143 by Alfonso VII, king of León and Castile, and in 1179 by Pope Alexander III.
Afonso and his successors, aided by military monastic orders, pushed southward to drive out the Moors, as the size of Portugal covered about half of its present area. In 1249, this Reconquista ended with the capture of the Algarve on the southern coast, giving Portugal its present day borders, with minor exceptions.

The Castle of Guimarães, known as the "Cradle of Portugal", Guimarães
In 1373, Portugal made an alliance with England, which is the longest-standing alliance in the world.
In 1383, the king of Castile, husband of the daughter of the Portuguese king who had died without a male heir, claimed his throne. An ensuing popular revolt led to the 1383-1385 Crisis. A faction of petty noblemen and commoners, led by John of Aviz (later John I), seconded by General Nuno Álvares Pereira, defeated the Castilians in the Battle of Aljubarrota. This celebrated battle is still a symbol of glory and the struggle for independence from neighboring Spain.
In the following decades, Portugal spearheaded the exploration of the world and undertook the Age of Discovery. Prince Henry the Navigator, son of King João I, became the main sponsor and patron of this endeavor.

Belém Tower by sunset, Belém, Lisbon
In 1415, the Portuguese empire arose when a fleet conquered Ceuta, a prosperous Islamic trade center in North Africa. There followed the first discoveries in the Atlantic: Madeira and the Azores, which led to the first colonization movements.

Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a monument to Prince Henry the Navigator and the Portuguese Age of Discovery, Lisbon
Throughout the 15th century, Portuguese explorers sailed the coast of Africa, establishing trading posts as they looked for a route to India and its spices, which were coveted in Europe. In 1498, Vasco da Gama finally reached India and brought economic prosperity to Portugal and its then population of one million residents.
In 1500, Pedro Álvares Cabral landed in Brazil and claimed it for Portugal. Ten years later, Afonso de Albuquerque conquered Goa, in India, Ormuz in the Persian Strait, and Malacca in what is now Malaysia. Thus, the Portuguese empire held dominion over commerce in the Indian Ocean and South Atlantic.
Portugal's independence was interrupted between 1580 and 1640. Because the heirless King Sebastian died in battle in Morocco, Philip II of Spain claimed his throne and so became Philip I of Portugal. Although Portugal did not lose its formal independence, it was governed by the same monarch who governed Spain, briefly forming a union of kingdoms; in 1640, John IV spearheaded an uprising backed by disgruntled nobles and was proclaimed king. This was the beginning of the long-lived dynasty of Braganza.
By this time, however, the Portuguese empire was already under attack from other countries, specifically Britain and the Netherlands. Portugal began a slow but inexorable decline until the 20th century. This decline was hastened by the independence in 1822 of the country's largest colonial possession, Brazil.
In 1910, a revolution deposed the Portuguese monarchy, but chaos continued and considerable economic problems were aggravated by the military intervention in the First World War, which led to a military coup d'état in 1926. This in turn led to the establishment of a right-wing dictatorship by António de Oliveira Salazar.
In the early 1960s, independence movements in the colonies of Angola, Mozambique, and Portuguese Guinea resulted in the Portuguese Colonial War. In 1974, a bloodless left-wing military coup known as the Carnation Revolution led the way for a modern democracy as well as the independence of the last colonies in Africa shortly after. Portugal joined the European Union in 1986, and ever since it has engaged in a process of convergence with its EU counterparts.


Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic (Portuguese: República Portuguesa; pron. IPA [ʁɛ'publikɐ puɾtu'gezɐ]), located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula, is the westernmost country of mainland Europe. Portugal is bordered by Spain to the north and east and by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south. The Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira are also part of Portugal.
The territory which forms the modern Portuguese Republic has witnessed a constant flow of civilizations during the past 3,100 years, since the earlier pre-Roman inhabitants, to the Roman, Germanic, and Moorish peoples who made an imprint on the country's culture, history, language, and ethnic composition. During the 15th and 16th centuries, with its vast transcontinental empire, Portugal was one of the world's major economic, political, and cultural powers. A developed country, Portugal is a member of the European Union (since 1986), the United Nations (since 1955), and a founding member of the Eurozone, OECD, and NATO.