An Introduction to Portugal
Situated on the southwestern tip of the Iberian Peninsula its shape is an almost regular rectangle. Its geografic location along the Atlantic coast extending for 832 Km, soon determined a relantionship with the sea and far away regions.
European expansion movement to other continents began in Portugal.
In its entirety Portugal occupies an area of about 91,600 sq Km, including the islands of Madeira and Azores.
Portugal has a population of about 10 million people. The capital is Lisbon with a population of 1.5 million.
Portugal has a large proportion of uplands, mountainous in the north and hilly in the south.
The main chain is Serra da Estrela, a prolongation of the Spanish Sierras da Gata, Gredos and Guadarrama. Here is the highest point of Portugal with 1,991 m.
The Portuguese coasts show an alternation of rocky promomtories and wide sandy bays.
Most of the rivers descend from the tableland. The largest is Douro which crosses northern Portugal from east to west. The Mondego flows though Coimbra. The Tagus follows the Spanish frontier for a while and then crosses central Portugal to enter the sea in a long estuary on which Lisbon is situated.
The climate is maritime, with cool but not severe winters and mild summers. Both in Lisbon and Porto mid-winter tempeartures reach daily 13ºC in average, while the minimum on average is 8ºC in Lisbon and 4ºC in Porto. August daily temperatures range on average from 18ºC to 27ºC in Lisbon but can reach higher values in Alentejo and Algarve.
Until 1960 the Portuguese economy was mainly based in the primary sector (agriculture, cattling and fishing).
Vines of wine are the leading crop in value. The best vineyeards are in the upper Douro valley where is produced the famous "Port Wine". Other important productions are olives, almonds and figs.
Portugal is the world´s leading producer of cork.
The sardine, tunny and anchovy fisheries are of prime importance.
Nowadays, Portugal's primary sector has become less expressive and industry and services are responsible for the major part of the GNP.
Leading industries include cotton textiles, cork manufacturing, cement, footwear, hats, leather and ceramics, including porcelain tiles (azulejos).
The language spoken in Portugal is Portuguese. The written language may look like Spanish, but it sounds different because the Portuguese slur so many syllables with sh and nh. Until recently, French was Portugal´s second language, but English is fast gaining ground.
The waiters and receptionists at every hotel or inn speak English, as do many bank telles and shopkeepers.
Whether or not they speak English, the Portuguese are very helpful, and you can usually make yourself understood with sign language.
Due to the historical worldwide presence of the Portuguese, the Portuguese language became one of the most widely spoken in the world.
The official monetary unit of Portugal is the escudo and is divided in 100 centavos. The decimal point is written as a dollar sign; Thus 1,000$00 means 1,000 escudos (also called 1 conto).
Portuguese escudo exists in the following denominations:
Coins: 1 pte, 2.5 pte, 5 pte, 10 pte, 20 pte, 50 pte, 100 pte, 200 pte.
Bills: 500 pte, 1,000 pte, 2,000 pte, 5,000 pte, 10,000 pte.
Portugal has a good chain of cash points and banks.
Portugal sets no limit on the amount of cash or traveller´s checks that you can bring into the country.
Access, American Express, Diner´s Club, Eurocard, Mastercard and Visa are widely accepted throughout Portugal.
As a rule, banks are open from 8:30 to 2:45 PM, Monday through Friday. The bank at the Lisbon airport is open 24 hours.
Shops open at 9:00 AM and close for lunch at 12:30 or 1:00 PM, then reopen at 3:00 and remain open until 6:00 or 7:00 PM, Monday through Friday. On Saturdays the shops are open only from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM. Big shopping centers are open seven days a week from 10:00 AM to 11:00 PM or midnight.
In every city or town, at least one drugstore (farmacia) is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week; check the hotel concierge or a local newspaper for the listing.
As for restaurants, as usual, lunch is served from noon to 3:00 PM and dinner from 7:30 to 10:00 PM.
Most museums are closed on Mondays.
The country code for Portugal is 351. Internacional access when calling from Portugal is 00.
Emergency telephone number is 112; it connects you with an emergency operator who will summon the police, fire department or an ambulance staightway.
In case of difficulty when dialing from Portugal you can have assistance from the operator, dialing 099.
You will find telephone booths in almost every city or town. You can buy telecards in most bookstores.
New Year´s Day, Liberty Day (April 25), Labour Day (May 1), Camoes Day (June 10), Assumption (August 15), Republic Day (October 5), All Saints´s Day (November 1), Restoration Day (December 1), Immaculate Comception ( December 8), Christmas Day (December 25).
Shrove Tuesday, Good Friday, Easter and Corpus Christi are also celebrated but dates change from year to year.
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