Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Citânia de Briteiros and Braga Romana

On Sunday we headed out to Citânia de Briteiros.  This is the remains of an Iron Age hill fort and town.  It is quite expansive with many sets of houses, walls, and even steam baths.  It is a really amazing hill-top site.

This settlement was founded over 3000 years ago.   The town was in its heyday from the 2nd century BC to the first AD.

One thing that is so impressive is the size of the town.  It covers the entire hill-top.  The residents lived in extended families - with a circular stone home for each family.  Some, like the one above, even had a small atrium in the front.  Behind Peggy is the rock from which a spring once flowed, providing water for the residents and the baths.  Below is a reconstruction of one of the houses.  Apparently they were not actually as tall as this one - the builders got carried away and made it higher than the archeologists think it should have been.

The early residents here were Celts.  After the Romans arrived many left and established communities in what are now Ireland and Scotland.  Much of the carved stones that were found here are in a museum in nearby Guimaraes and they have typical Celtic designs with the same recognizable themes and images as one sees in modern Celtic items.

The water from the spring flowed though a series of carved stone channels down hill to the baths where it was thrown onto hot rocks to create steam.  Below, you can see the chamber with some of the stones that formed the roof put back into place.  The entrance had a very small low door so that people could enter but the steam would not escape.

I asked Peggy to climb through the hole as it would have been a great shot for the blog, but she declined...   Regardless, it was one of the most interesting and surprising things we've seen in Portugal.

Also on tap this weekend was the Braga Romana festival held in the center of town.  It is relatively new - this year was the 8th edition.  Since Braga was once a rather large Roman city, there are Roman ruins everywhere - if you dig down a bit.  One of our favorite restaurants - Frigideiras - was doing a renovation a few years ago and unearthed the foundations of a Roman structure in the process.  They then excavated and put in a glass floor so that you can see the ruins while dining - very cool.

The festival is mainly a collection of booths selling Roman-inspired food (we think), a few stages used for various performances and lots of booths set up to sell Roman-y looking things. 

We weren't exactly sure what the belly dancers had to do with things, but the boys seemed to enjoy the show...   We ended up having dinner here - lots of porks specialties, sangria, even mussels, all served in clay glasses and dishes.   For dessert we had a delicious crepe romana - a crepe with candied sweet potatoes and cheese.   The stall owners said it was their favorite so we gave it a try, and went back for another two nights later...

The parade was fun - lots of people dressed up in Roman garb and then a seemingly endless stream of school children dressed up in the same attire.  The guy in red below seems a little underwhelmed however - maybe he'd been walking just a bit too long...

It was a fun event - mostly another excuse for Braga residents to get together and eat, drink, and be Roman!

~ Eric

1 comment:

  1. I can't tell you how much Braga reminds me of San Miguel. This area is the most Catholic and Conservative of all of Mexico and they have festivals for everything and anything. Of course that's one of the reasons we love it!

    Next time we'll be sure to visit Braga, maybe we can rent the same apartment. Tell them not to sell it, hee, hee!