Helena, a teacher from the school where I volunteer, asked if I'd like to join her for an event with a newly-formed walking group from Braga. She explained that we'd be walking through a wooded area in the hills near the coast. It sounded fun, so I was definitely in! I didn't realize that it would be so much more than just a walk in the woods.
When we arrived at Esposende, the skies looked ominous, but we forged ahead anyway. The air was refreshingly cool and the path was beautiful; lined with eucalyptus and pines. The organizers of the walk invited Jorge, a local archaeologist, to join the group. Our first stop was a high viewpoint overlooking the Atlantic ocean. The sweeping views of small towns and coastline were lovely!
|helping us reach our next destination|
Our next stop was at a series of windmills constructed on a hillside. Until recently, they had been used to grind flour in the summer months. Several of the windmills have been restored and are now used by families or rented as cozy guest cottages. We stopped at one that is owned by a woman whose grandmother had run the mill. The interior has been converted into a small living space but the sails can still be unfurled to activate the milling mechanism. The owner demonstrated how the roof rotates in order to direct the sails, and we got to see the mill in action.
|one of many windmills in the area|
In the winter and spring, water flows from the mountains behind the windmills and was used to operate watermills in this area. No longer used for milling, there was still a LOT of water flowing through the channels used to direct the flow towards the water wheel.
From there, we hiked into a heavily forested area that is sprinkled with dolmen, which are megalithic tombs built from huge vertical and horizontal stones. They are from the late Stone Age so they are about 5000 years old! At this site, the entrance to each tomb is long and narrow (always opening to the east) and leads to a circular burial chamber with waves etched into the stone. The shape of the tombs is reminiscent of a womb and birth canal, and the deceased were buried in the fetal position.
|Jorge explains the significance of the |
Stone Age tombs
Our last stop was at the Castro de São Lourenço, a pre-Roman hilltop village that was occupied from about 300 B.C. Although there is still ongoing excavation at this site, the foundations of many structures have been unearthed and several have been restored with historical accuracy. Because of its strategic location, this site was used as a fortress throughout the Middle Ages.
|pre-Roman foundations and restored home|
The history in this country runs so deep that I can barely wrap my brain around it! I can't believe that so many traces of human history can be found in such a small area. At the end of our hike, I was definitely ready to rest and process all the amazing things I had seen.
|Helena & I are happy to be out of the rain & ready to eat!|
Dodging some gigantic raindrops, we returned to Esposende and went to O Buraco for lunch. Esposende, an old fishing village and seaweed harvesting point, is one of the coastal towns participating in a month-long seafood festival. Oh the seafood! Appetizers included mussels with pepper relish, garlic & wine basted clams, and giant prawns. Our main course was a huge boat of arroz de tamboril com gambas which is chunks of monkfish, shrimp and rice cooked in a slightly spicy tomato, herb and white wine broth. I almost fell face first into my plate - the flavors were lush and lively. For dessert I had a gorgeous pear poached in a saffron syrup.
|a boat full of monkfish rice|
|saffron poached pear|