Reguengos de Monsaraz in Portugal is reviving

Dso what is it like, the nowhere. The road is getting bumpier, the warning signs – be careful, cows! – are becoming more frequent. The olive trees on the dry fields look like crippled ghosts. The white town sits enthroned on the hill. This is a Portugal far away from the bars of the international Lisbon jet set, far away from the colorful flip-flops landscapes of the nearby Algarve. This is the plain around Monsaraz in the Alentejo. The cobbled streets have been swept empty, doors and windows are framed in blue. Because the blue keeps the mosquitoes that lurk behind the hill in the swamp of the Alqueva reservoir, fed by the Guadiana river. Otherwise white, all white. Only the castle, in whose stone arena a bullfight is held annually in September, lurks darkly at the edge of the houses. The last to be killed is always a black bull, a symbol of evil.

Luís Lobato de Faria looks down from the castle onto the rugged lake landscape. Dark blue, lush green. “Spain is behind that,” says the historian, who was quickly drawn back here after his university years in Évora and Lisbon. “Because everything that interests me, everything that I want to explore is here,” he says. No no. Of course he doesn’t say it, he sings it. Because, like all Portuguese, when they talk, he sings more than he speaks. Especially in the backcountry. He continues to sing while lecturing. Smugglers always brought their goods to the Spaniards via secret paths. Never any across. “Why should they? Our coffee, our olive oil, our wine, everything tastes much better than that of the Spaniards.”

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