Autumn in the Alps would simply be amiss if it did not include an Almabtrieb – or as I like to call it, the cow parade! Farming is a very important piece of culture for Tyroleans, so naturally they love to put on a big show when it comes to their precious cows. I’ve written before about the trek the cows make, but I’ve never gotten to witness the big day firsthand. During late spring we (me too!) walked the Fohringer cows through the village and up into the mountains where they would be spending their summer at the family Alm. There they get to meet up with some other cow families, graze outside all day long, and enjoy the cool mountain breezes. But during the fall season, the cow ladies must make the journey back to their home farms. The farmers make this ‘homecoming’ into a huge celebration. The cows get huge floral headdresses and wear signature bells. They proudly march through the village. If you happen to know one of the farmers, they’ll offer you some schnapps that they keep with them! After the farmers drop off their cows in the farms, they come back and enjoy the village party!
We explored a bunch of different places during our Portugal trip. We were always on the move! Here are some short stories of the smaller locations that we visited.
We decided, of course, that we wanted to do another wine tour. We had such a great time in Porto that we wanted to continue along the Douro River valley region to find another winery. We stayed in a nice bed and breakfast walking distance from the Quinta da Pacheca winery. It was immediately before harvest time, so all the vines were totally lush with dark purple grapes. The tour started with showing us their grape squishing facilities. They do it the old-fashioned way with people standing in small pools, squishing with their feet! Unfortunately, we missed the great squishing weekend by just one week. The tour took us through some of their storage rooms – they were decorating their biggest room for a wedding reception that evening. 🙂 And of course, the tour ended with some wine tastings. All were delicious, especially the 30 year old Tawny Port. Yum!
On one of our travel days, we passed by the town of Óbidos and I made Reini stop for lunch. It’s a really cool medieval, hilltop, walled city – first built by the Romans and added to by the Moors. Its streets snake around like a maze. Tourists (me included, of course) love it for all the tiny shops offering special Ginja cherry liquor ripe from the region, served in little dark chocolate shot glasses. We walked along the walls a bit until we could spot a place that looked good for lunch. I don’t think we’d be able to find it again: it was a very hidden place, but cool. We sat in their courtyard that happened to be shared by a bunch of Portuguese grandmas hanging their laundry above us.
Another one of our afternoon trips was to the college town of Coimbra. It’s the home to Portugal’s most prestigious universities. We caught it on a very special day: the first day of classes! The university seemed really cool. There were a bunch of groups that are their equivalent of sororities/fraternities, trying to recruit the new students to join them. Below is a video of one of the singing sorority-esque groups. They had flags with symbols and such. Something very unique that they do that I don’t think would work elsewhere: dress way up. They have uniforms for school (at least for special days). They look like outfits from Harry Potter – long black robes included. But the town itself was nice to tour. They have a very special library from the 1700s – the Biblioteca Joanina. The books inside, however, are off-limits, even to students. Reini and I had to climb the bell tower to have a view of the whole city. On our way out of town, we made one last stop to the science museum. They even included a guided tour through the university’s zoology building, complete with a giant blue whale skeleton.
We wanted to spend a little time out in nature. We both love to do a little kayaking (our absolute favorite experience was kayaking with manatees outside Cocoa Beach). We were a part of a big group during this trip, which was pretty bad. But once we were able to paddle away from all the people, we enjoyed floating along the river and trying to spot some wildlife.
Our very last activity of the trip before flying back was to go to the Oceanarium in Lisbon. I think it’s supposed to be the largest aquarium in Europe, and we weren’t disappointed. They had everything you’d hope for: penguins, otters, sharks (not all in the same tank, of course). That afternoon we took a stroll on the river walk until we were able to have some dinner (sushi for Reini and tapas for me).
So this concludes my posts about our Portugal trip. Overall, we really did enjoy the country. They have beautiful beaches, unique cultural moments, and great weather!