Portugal: what to know?

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Portugal is a Western European country with a coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. It has a rich history, including Roman and Germanic invasions, the rise and fall of the Portuguese Empire, and a period of dictatorship under Salazar. Since the Carnation Revolution in 1974, Portugal has become a democracy and a member of the European Union. Visitors can enjoy beaches, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and the relaxed pace of life. Lisbon is a major transportation hub for flights, buses, and trains.

Portugal is a medium-sized country in Western Europe. It covers 35,600 square miles (92,300 square km), making it somewhat smaller than the state of Indiana. It borders Spain and has a coastline along the Atlantic Ocean.

The Iberian people settled in modern-day Portugal many millennia ago, and later joined the immigrant Celts in the first millennium BC. Around 200 BC, the Romans invaded the peninsula, conquering the entire region by year zero. The Romans held the peninsula until the 5th century when various Germanic tribes invaded and conquered the region. In the 6th century another Germanic tribe, the Visigoths, arrived and reconquered most of what is now Portugal.

At the beginning of the 8th century the Moors entered and took the lands from the Visigoths. Many of these Goths fled north to plan a counterattack and reclaim their lands. Eventually most of the lands were reclaimed, various kingdoms were unified and Portugal finally declared what most consider its modern independence in 8, an independence formally recognized in 1128. In the mid-13th century the last strongholds were conquered Moorish, unifying Portugal in a form that conforms relatively closely to its modern borders.

In the early 15th century, the Portuguese Empire began its rise, continuing through the 16th and 17th centuries. During this period Portugal grew its territories enormously, with outposts in Brazil, the Caribbean, India, Mozambique and many other regions around the world. More than mere conquerors, the Portuguese Empire also opened up trade with nations around the world, including Japan. Portuguese trade routes served as the backbone for an empire that quickly became one of the richest in all of Europe.

From the end of the 16th century to the mid-17th century, Portugal was under the rule of a Spanish king, following a dynastic crisis at home. This, coupled with consistent attacks by the British and Dutch on their territories abroad, led to a decline in the power of the Portuguese Empire. By the 18th century Portuguese strength had definitely declined, and although the monarchy was restored, Portugal would never regain its former position in Europe. In the 16th, Brazil claimed independence, robbing Portugal of its most powerful territory abroad.

In 1910 Portugal was swept up in the democratic revolution, which led to the creation of the First Republic and a wave of anti-Catholic acts and laws. This First Republic would last less than two decades, before a coup led to the formation of the Second Republic in 1926, which would soon become António de Oliveira Salazar’s New State in 1933. This New State was in many ways fascist, and during World War II it leaned heavily on the Axis powers. Salazar’s state was strongly dictatorial, with brutal repression of dissent, strong censorship and election controls, and a militant attitude towards Africa. After Salazar’s death in 1970, his successor continued to lead the government in a similar fashion.

This harsh repression eventually led to the Carnation Revolution in 1974. This revolution was, for the most part, bloodless and led by the left wing of the country. The revolution implemented the Third Republic, reintroducing democracy, granting independence to all of Portugal’s African colonies and releasing political prisoners. Since the Carnation Revolution Portugal has flourished, with the economy rapidly rebuilding and Portugal has become a party to many international organisations, including the European Union.
Portugal is a wonderful European nation, with plenty for visitors to do. The beaches are a particular attraction during the summer months, with miles of sand and clear water, and many seaside resorts, such as Lagos, with infrastructure built to support tourists. Many UNESCO World Heritage Sites can also be found throughout the country, and the nation’s Catholic past offers an array of incredible architectural accomplishments. Perhaps the best thing about Portugal, though, is the relaxed pace of life and the genuine love for good things that the Portuguese possess. Incredible food, amazing dancing and beautiful conversation await all who visit.

Flights arrive into Lisbon every day from all the major airports in the world and buses and trains are constantly coming and going from Spain and the rest of Europe.

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