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Country Profile: Portugal
Portugal is a long stretch of land in the far southwest of the Iberian Peninsula.The Atlantic ocean washes its western shores and it borders onto Spain in the east. The islands of Madeira and the Azores are also part of Portuguese territory. The Tagus river, separates the rugged north, which has a mountainous interior, from the rolling plains in the south and on the Algarve coast. Portugal is defined as a Mediterranean climate and is one of the warmest European countries; however the climate in Portugal is very varied especially on the islands where in different parts of its archipelago you find sub-tropical, maritime temperate and semi-arid steppe climates.
Portugal has a long and complicated history. As part of the south of the Iberian peninsula it became fully integrated into the Roman world. After 711 southern Portugal prospered under Moorish rule. It emerged as a country in the tenth century during the Christian reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula. In the 15th century Portugal became a great maritime nation and empire. It suffered civil war and was first declared as a Republic in 1910.
Portugal’s beauty unfolds in a startling variety. You can go hiking amid granite peaks and thick forests. Despite the fact that humans have occupied the territory for thousands of years Portugal is home to a few extremely rare mature forests: a Mediterranean forest in the Arrábida national park and a subtropical forest in the Madeira main island.
The Portuguese marine waters, which are subject to upwelling, are one of the richest in the world both in nutrients and diversity of marine life. Literally thousands of species thrive here including the sardine (Sardina pilchardus), tuna, cod and Atlantic mackerel. Portugal is also important for migratory birds since it is the closest stopover between Northern Europe and Africa.
Portuguese people are very hospitable. They speak a beautiful language, sing and dance in local costumes and play bagpipes, drums, flutes, tambourines, accordions and guitars. Festivals are common. They are hard working, family people and very proud of their country and culture. The Portuguese Table is typically Mediterranean and they have perfected the art of cooking simple, delicious meals. Tables are brightly laden with freshly baked bread, olives, cheese, red wine or crisp vinho verde (young wine), chargrilled fish, seafood stew and smoked meats. After dinner you will almost certainly find yourself sipping the velvety ports of the Douro Valley.
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