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My Travel Notes: Lost Behind the Mountains

My Travel Notes: Lost Behind the Mountains

April 16, 2014

Discover the marvellous town of Bragança: a city lost behind the big mountains of the Northeast of Portugal and a single treasure!

Behind the big mountains of the northeast of Portugal we found the town of Bragança. This medieval town is beautiful and genuine and it is a land with Tradition, Culture, History and flanked by the purest Nature. And its Gastronomy is absolutely fantastic!

Follow our trip through this marvelous Region and discover this single treasure of Portugal. 

Arriving to Bragança...

There is a renowned Portuguese rock band named Xutos e Pontapés that sings "From Bragança to Lisbon are nine hours away." Fortunately, today we don’t need so many hours. The recent highway of the Region of “Trás-os-Montes” (Behind-the-Mountains) brought some proximity to this charming piece of Portugal. Its mountains, formerly very hard to cross, brag when we cross them. Stately. Majestic. In the highway A4 we were flanked by so engrossing landscapes, so captivating, so proudly and genuinely “transmontanas” that it looks like the time stopped here a very long time ago.

It is spring. And it’s so rejuvenating when we can replace the stressful life of the coast to the simplicity of the rural life. Even for just a few days. Thinking about the bustle of the big cities, the countryside looks like a blessing from Heaven. I felt good: my routine was too far away and I began a new adventure.

The atmosphere of Bragança is so refreshing, clean, healthy. They say that Bragança has "nine months of winter and three of hell" but I believe that even in scorching August, the air continues more breathable than in large cities.

In this town you can’t smell the green of the large hill but you can hear the birds up there, feel the breezes of the mountains that you can see in the distance, be part of a small world that can blend harmoniously its History and the contemporaneity. It is a quiet town, very organized, alive and friendly. You can find a roundabout in each corner, all of them recording a typical moment of the Region (like hunting or bulls fighting), there are gardens and colorful flower beds. Here every detail counts.

These people are not used to tourist visits but I almost swear that I saw a warm and welcome smile on each host. We were well-received, without have officially been. The genuineness of these people warmed my heart.

One day in Bragança...

We reserved the first day of this trip to discover the town of Bragança: we visited the historic center, with its beautiful Church, the square and its typical and small streets - some of them are so narrow that we only can cross them on foot. We continued walking and strolling through the banks of Fervença River, with restored houses, streets carefully arranged and we finally reached the castle.

During this short period of time, we found two museums: the Museum of Silk, a small and beautiful house, and the Museum of Living Science, which appears in the middle of this ancient world as a modern and robust pearl.

From the castle, we could appreciate stunning views over the town. The walls, imposing and majestic, are perfectly preserved. And one more appealing detail: these walls are shaped like a heart. Looking at these impressive walls, I presumed that it wouldn’t be easy to win the Portuguese warriors on this land.

Beyond these walls, inside the castle, there are a lot to explore: the citadel - the birthplace of the town – its amazing streets with small, restored and elegant houses, the Domus Municipalis – a Romanesque monument that remains unique in the Iberian Peninsula – the Castle Church (or Church of Santa Maria), the Military Museum and the Iberian Museum of Mask. And down these streets we find the Museum of Abade Baçal that deserves a long visit. And a visit to the Center of Contemporary Art is also mandatory. It is a small land… but with so much culture!

For dinner we chose the traditional. Our meal started with a delicious pallet of delightful delicacies, such as: ham and cheeses, a spicy sausage named salpicão, more varieties of typical sausages and “peixinhos fritos” (fried and little fishes). Then, the main dish. Bragança is a town of game meat. I hardly suggest the roast lamb, the braised partridge and the famous (and so delicious!) “butelo com casulas”. But if you prefer fish, the backed cod is amazing. For dessert, a good rice pudding will be enough.

And this town gets a new life at night. People walk through the street, they talk at the terraces, they go to a bar and to another bar, before joining everyone in a nightclub. A true revelry.

Exploring the mountains of Bragança...

On the next day, I put my best tennis shoes. Very close to Bragança town lies the small town of Vinhais. It is a typical country town: rural, quiet and very friendly. Vinhais is a beautiful town and deserves a lengthy trip through its slopes. Then, we followed the very instructive plates and we arrived at our first stop: the Biological Park of Vinhais.

The Biological Park of Vinhais is a pleasant must see. Located about two miles from the village, this park is not very large. It has about 4 acres, but it’s so imposing... It is beautiful, interesting and serves perfectly its purpose: experiencing the true natural life of this Region.

This Biological Park is a place for an interpretation of the fauna, flora and geology of the Region of Montesinho. There are guided tours through the park but I explored it by myself. All trails are marked and beautiful paths can be discovered without getting lost.

The flora of the region is very rugged and wild. It’s hard to resist to the coldest conditions and the hottest temperature of this Region, indeed. In short, it's beautiful and genuine. And we also could see large clusters of oak and chestnut trees and learn about herbs with medicinal characteristics.

Furthermore, it was so good to observe all those wild animals on their natural habitat… I had never seen wild boars before, or baby wild boars, or roosters so majestically flashy, or the friendly and caresses “Mirandeses” donkeys or the black goat of Montesinho.

And we didn’t leave the town of Bragança without trying the great and excellent “Posta à Mirandesa” – a slice of delicious meat – and a dive in Azibo.

And at the end we can say that it was an awesome trip through the Northeast of Portugal. The true, amazing and majestic Northeast. And while we can't return to this little paradise, we'll remember all these moments.