One of the world’s most popular travel destinations is also a great place to study abroad. Portugal is one of the oldest countries in Europe, its borders unchanged since the 13th century. This small country, which is smaller than the state of Indiana, was a world superpower during the 15th to the 17th centuries. In 1415 the Portuguese set sail on a voyage that would lead them to discover faraway lands such as India, Brazil, China and Japan. They explored the eastern and western coasts of Africa and established, settlements as far away as Brazil. As a result of these worldwide voyages, Portuguese became one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. The Portuguese remained at the forefront of the world stage until the late 16th century.
Portugal’s time as one of the world’s leading nations ended on November 1, 1755, in the destruction of Lisbon in a horrific earthquake estimated to have measured a 9 on the current Richter scale. The earthquake was followed by a tsunami and a fire, leaving the city completely destroyed. Around 100,000 people were killed in the disaster, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in history. But the city was rebuilt in traditional architecture which still stands, making it once again a gorgeous capital city.
The architecture of Portugal is a testimony to the expansive cultural variety the country has experienced over the years. One of the most interesting details existing on almost every historical building is the art of tiling. Moorish influence led the Portuguese in the craft of using decorative tiles known as azulejos. This art leaves buildings covered in a richly colorful display. The Moorish influence also left a very surrealistic effect in the architecture. Elaborate twists and spirals characterize the buildings in a style now known as Manueline.
Portugal is probably one of the most traditional countries in the European Union. They have deep roots in Catholicism, and the country celebrates religious festivals quite regularly. In the countryside you will even find traditional folk dancing. Portugal has a style of music that is completely their own. Fado is a melancholy style of acoustic folk that is said to be tantalizingly haunting and unforgettable.
However Portugal is probably known best for its beautiful location. The country sits on the west side of the Iberian Peninsula, directly west of Spain. Portugal’s beaches are renowned worldwide. The city of Lagos is famous for its gorgeous beaches and is the perfect place to enjoy the sun and sea. Surfers will enjoy the waves off the Lisbon coast. Lisbon is also one of the safest and most inexpensive capital cities in Europe. Life moves a little slower in Portugal, and as a study abroad student you will experience the difference in living among the Portuguese. The slower pace does not mean there is not a lot to do in Portugal. But to live like the Portuguese means slowing down just enough to enjoy what’s around you.