In Gerês, the Pretty Women Look Like Cows

I was under the impression that The Peneda-Gerês National Park (normally just called “Gerês”) was home to the Richard Gere family, and that we might experience sightings of either Richard or some hookers that look like Hollywood movie stars, because of course we all know most hookers look like Julia Roberts.

But we had to settle for a bunch of Barrosão (or Barrosã) cattle. They might also be known as Cachena, it’s a little confusing to us non-dairy creamer– er farmers. Anyway, whatever you call them, they are a breed of “triple-purpose cattle,” (I’m thinking the triple purpose means milk, meat, and playing extras in movies) native to Spain and Portugal. The ones we saw may not actually have been in any movies, but they sure meandered down the road like they were on a red carpet. Plus they refused autographs. Udderly entitled cows. Pssh.

Gerês is the oldest protected area and the only national park in Portugal. So we decided to take a drive through it and see what all the fuss was about. To be honest, there wasn’t any fuss. Sometimes we just make things up for dramatic effect. We like to horse around, like some of Gerês’s taxis.

The park covers an area of about 696 square kilometers, or 269 square miles, which is about the size of the country of Bahrain. While Bahrain is home to over 1.7 million people, only about 9,000 Portuguese live in Gerês. So I’m just spitballin’ here, but if Bahrain ever runs out of room… just sayin’. Anyway, above are the top scenic shots from the drive as voted on by so, so many of our loyal readers.

There are also a number of megalithic (which means “very big lithic”) structures and Roman ruins in the area, but we mostly just gawked at nature’s natural beauty because we couldn’t find any lithics at all, no matter how hard we didn’t try.

Dam.

To the west of Gerês, is the municipality of Viana do Castelo. With a name like that, we were pretty certain there’d be a castle in the vicinity, so we tore through the national park and drove like bats outa hell to see it.

Despite the impressive-looking sign and the promise offered up by a Very Old Wall (or VOW as we castle hunters like to quip condescendingly), the castle was a bust. Not a female-breast-bust, or a statue of someone’s head, but a pure, unadulterated, complete and total bust, as in well sheeit, we passed up additional views of Barrosão asses just for this? There was a hotel in there, but we were so disappointed at the lack of castleness we rated the hotel one star on Yelp.com, even though we never set foot in the place. From the depths of passionate spite came posts that the cockroaches were eating the mice, one of the bathroom tiles looked like it could come loose if you only took a hammer to it, and that there were human feces in the mini-fridge (although we admitted they could have been tootsie rolls). The fact that I accidentally posted all that on our own rentable apartment would actually be funny if I could only figure out how to take it down.

To make up for the lack of castely things in town, they built a big Santuario on top of a hill overlooking the city and the mouth of the Lima river, famous for not ever growing lima beans.

Human settlement in the area began during the Mesolithic (which means “very messy lithic”) era. The Mesolithic is also called the Middle Stoned Age, I think because that’s when they first discovered marijuana. Or maybe it was fentanyl. Either way, it’s obvious that the drugs were bad for them because not a one of those people is still alive today. See what happens when you do drugs, kids?

It was a nice area, but the best thing about it was the views. While we didn’t get our castle, we got 57.6% of what we usually look for out of castles.

This guy had a great view, but list that among the jobs I’d never take, right behind prostitution and being a handler for one of Richard Gere’s pet hamsters.

Why do the Portuguese want to bomb Jesus?

During our visit to Northern Portugal, we spent some time in the city of Braga. While we were wandering the streets, I was startled to discover a couple of signs imploring people to bomb Jesus! “What th–?” I stammered. I mean, the Portuguese are predominantly Catholic, so how can they allow this???

Now, if one were to print a picture of Muhammad for instance, even one where he’s uncharacteristically handsome, you can rest assured that a mob of Muslims will swarm your offices armed with pickaxes, AK-47s, grenades, maybe a small nuke or two, and at least one pair of opened scissors. But what happens when someone says “bomb Jesus?” Nothing! Today’s Christians always get the short shrift when it comes to killing unbelievers!

And so when I saw this restaurant had even changed its name in order to exhort people to commit that violence, I’d had enough. I stormed into the restaurant and demanded to see the owner. While I waited, I grew very suspicious because I noticed that they didn’t even have a water-to-wine bar. Ppphlphth.

Warning: Some Bad Jesuses have mean left hooks.

Well, ahem, it appears we haven’t been paying as much attention to our Portuguese lessons as we should. After hearing me out, he gently reminded me that “bom” means “good” in Portuguese.

To salvage my honor, I harrumphed just a bit and adjusted my pants. “Yeah but, if you’re saying there’s a good Jesus, you’re implying there’s a bad one as well, right? So where is this Bad Jesus?”

At that point, I launched into a diatribe that somehow led to referencing the former Major League baseball player named Jesus Alou. For some reason that only confused matters. Especially since the Portuguese know as much about baseball as Americans know about the color of Putin’s underwear. (My guess: It’s very, very black, just like his soul.)

Speaking of Jesus Alou, why is it mostly only Spanish-speaking people who name their children Jesus? How come no Hindus or Japanese ever do? Jesus Yamamoto would be a bad-ass name name for the leader of a Yakuza gang. Just sayin’.

Anyway, the Portuguese are unfailingly polite, especially to estrangeiros, but I’m telling ya, I wouldn’t be surprised if the guy who ushered me out of that restaurant was Bad Jesus himself. I dusted myself off and proceeded to walk around the sanctuary as if I were just a tourist. Which I was. And am. So there, you can’t take that away from me, Bad Jesus!

The Bom Jesus de Braga Sanctuary overlooks Braga, giving it some of the same appeal we get from castles: gorgeous views, a little bit of history, getting kicked out of restaurants, and being beaten up by Jesus.

Anyway, once we got all the Bom Jesus stuff straightened out, we realized that we were in the middle of another UNESCO heritage site. There are 1,155 of those in the world, and so every time we’re in one, we say, “Cool! That makes only–”(here we invariably find a reason to wipe our hand over our mouth) “…mmnmnmn to go!” All I know is at this rate, in order to see them all, we’ll be finishing off the last one on or about my 153rd birthday. And that’s just a guess because we don’t actually know how many we’ve already seen. Or even how old I am.

Like so much of Europe (actually all of it), it’s old. The occupation and subsequent development of the site as a holy place dates all the way back to the 14th century, when Joe Biden was still just a child.

Braga certainly does look bragworthy from this vantage point. By the way, do they call people who live in Braga Braggadocios?

There are parts of the Bom Jesus complex that are reminiscent of an amusement park, albeit without any rides like “the Roller Coaster of the Eleven Apostles” (Judas was of course kicked off), or the “Log in Your Eye Water Slide,” or “It’s a Small Purgatory.” In fact, there weren’t even any Mary-go-Rounds, which was a major surprise.

For those of you who can’t keep from stairing, there’s a whole set of them you can climb if you’re so inclimbed. I thought if you made it all the way to the top, you’d get some sort of ribbon or sticker or sucker, but no-o-o. Apparently our reward for that will be in heaven. Or maybe the prize was just to see the basilica at the top of the stairs.

I poked my head inside the basilica (note that I didn’t put my foot inside… I’ve sworn I’ll never step foot inside a European church or basilica again, if nothing else out of fear of getting basilicaitis, a known infliction of travelers who have seen one too many ostentatious displays of wealth from those who also tout the importance of helping the poor), and took a couple of photos of what made this particular basilica unique. So now I know how to sneak into a basilica without being caught… unique up on it!

While running up the stairs (okay, yeah, it was a slow crawl with a stop every four steps to put my hands on my knees, but let’s not get caught up in semantics, eh?), I noticed that some of the fountains had water pouring out of different orifices, so I took a picture of each one.

Turns out, it is a thing. The five flights of stairs are interspersed by landings with allegorical sources for the five senses: vision (well, maybe crying like a big baby is more like it), smell (never mind that it looks like he has a bad case of the snots), taste (never mind that it looks like he’s barfing), hearing (quite the bad ear infection!), and nice jugs.

Okay, if you’re skeptical that the last one really is nice jugs, I’d curious to know what sense you think this is portraying? I think they might’ve veered from the five senses idea to the seven deadly sins, and went straight to penis envy, even though the official description lists it as a water jug (yeah, right). Actually, the sense they’re trying to portray is touch, so, um, yeah. Frankly, there have been too many young lives irreparably damaged by predatory priests to make a joke here. Way too many. Truth be told, I’m still a little creeped out by this fountain.

Back to frivolity: if stairing isn’t your thing, you can always take a Tram-a-dol and save your lungs from breathing in all that extra air.

All in all, we felt Bom Jesus was a worthy addition to the “Sights of Braga: The Ones You Gotta See Or You’re Going to Hell” list.

Of course, if you do get sent down there you might meet this hamster, who tried to sneak in a bunch of popcorn to a movie theatre. Shame, hamster! Shame!

Go North Young Man!

During our time in Portugal, various Portuguese people have occasionally asked us where we’ve traveled inside the country, often followed by the question as to whether we’ve ever visited the north. Of course, they’re usually speaking Portuguese, so we just reply, “gracias” and move on.

Why we didn’t fly.

We had been up to Porto, but never much further north. So in order to allow us to offer a positive answer to that question (“sim” is much easier to pronounce than “não”), we decided to drive up there and see what all the fuss was about. It’s apparent that many Portuguese are proud of the natural beauty of that region, just like I’m proud of the natural beauty who regularly walks by my side, even when she fusses after I occasionally stick a foot out to trip her.

While we were there, we stopped in Barcelos, a town of over 100,000 that is best known in Portugal as the home of the Rooster of Barcelos. If you’ve ever been to Portugal, you will surely have seen all sorts of rooster imagery for sale. It is basically the national symbol of the country. Barcelos is also known as the town with the most parishes per capita in the country. Which may explain all the cocks.

Here’s some background on them from Wikipedia: One of the many legends of the rooster involves the town’s long history along a pilgrimage route. The story involves a wealthy man throwing a grand party, which ended after the silver had gone missing.

Among the guests was a pilgrim, who was accused of theft, and pleaded innocence before a judge. Unswayed by the pilgrim’s claims, the judge sentenced the pilgrim to hang. As final protest, the pilgrim invoked divine intercession: the rooster being prepared for the judge’s dinner would crow three times as proof of his innocence. As the execution approached, the judge at his dinner table watched the roasted bird miraculously crow three times. The judge quickly released the pilgrim, who would later return to Barcelos and commission a statue commemorating the divine providence.

(I don’t think that rooster was done being cooked. No wonder he was screaming like a banshee!)

Perhaps because we were there on a Sunday, we found it to be something of a sleepy little town. We knew there were supposed to be all sorts of examples of “figurado” style of pottery, which are comical figurines of various subjects. We didn’t encounter as many as we thought we would, but you, dear reader, get to avoid all that mucking about and just see ’em all in one sitting! Aren’t you glad you read Bald Sasquatch?

As you can see, there are certainly plenty of “figurados” littered about the town. Although I will say I can’t figure out why they chose a rooster as a national symbol over the guy playing the accordion. I’d take the sound of an accordion over a crowing rooster any day. Actually, maybe not. I just clicked on an accordion song on YouTube and after three minutes my head nearly exploded, and blood is still oozing from my ears.

We were quite excited to be able to wander around town with scant crowds, especially in the age of Covid. The extra nice thing is that it’s great to be able to walk around an open square like that and not worry about a sniper taking us down from one of those windows… like it was for me in the war, or like it is now in Ukraine, or a ton of video games, or Detroit. Not that we’ve ever actually been inside a video game, mind you. Or Ukraine. Or Detroit. But we have been to Barcelos!

For some reason the Portuguese gave us a wide berth when we wandered the streets. I wonder if it had anything to do with my sniper rifle?

While there, we stumbled upon a bike race. I mean, literally. I still have some tire tracks imprinted on my back. Apparently this event was for people who were really desperate to learn how to ride a bike- as you can see by the sign: all those desporto to learn were supposed to gather there. What? Oh. Carolyn just told me desporto actually means sport. “Never mind!” he says in a singsong voice. Anyway, I wonder if the Portuguese say, “Bom Desporto!” when someone doesn’t fuss after being tripped.

There’s not just roosters around the town, there are cranes too! Whoop! Whoop! (That was me whooping, not the crane.)

Someone was able to grow a potato that looks just like Putin!

So here are some examples of the typical Portuguese architecture, including some with that beautiful Portuguese tile, and others with doorways built for hobbits. Back in the last century, Portugal was ruled by a dictator, and as a result, nutrition was poor, and the Portuguese are still generally shorter than other Europeans because of it. It has taken them a long time to work their way out of that mess. Are you listening, Putin, you gigantic turd asswipe buttwad diarrhea-loving pitiful excuse of a human being who would be an insult to apes if we called you one? And that goes for anyone who likes that murdering thug. Or votes for dictators, wannabes or otherwise. Ugh! I mean, there is a reason why we call them dicktaters.

I guess my Russian readership may go down after that rant, but I don’t care, it’s hard to spend all those rubles anyway.

Okay, rant over. As you can see, it’s actually a very picturesque town. Obviously, because you’re looking at the picturesques now!

Okay, in a candid moment we can see Carolyn was perhaps a little disappointed that there weren’t more cocks for her to see. You can’t tell that about me because that’s just my normal resting face.

We also visited the city of Braga, a city of almost 200,000 inhabitants, making it the seventh largest municipality in Portugal. They are also home to the most braggarts in all the world.

As you can see in the background, we were astonished to discover the crane from Barcelos followed us all the way to Braga! Of course, with gorgeous mugs like ours what bird wouldn’t flip out over us? What? Storks you say? And hummingbirds? And eagles? And owls? And- okay, I get it. And thanks for the “All the Birds of the World” book.

Okay, I’m going to do all you Twitterers a favor and instead of making you read a bunch more stupid comments about various pictures, I’m just gonna put all the best ones in a gallery and be done with it. I will only add that if Braga was the first Portuguese town you’d ever visited, you’d marvel at the beauty and history, not knowing that almost every Portuguese town has those features. It also has a very nice area filled with shops and tourists and, sadly, a sole tower as a remnant of their castle. But we didn’t find anything excessively memorable, it’s just a pleasant Portuguese town. Maybe they should have called it Humblea.

Of course, as you can see, it is pretty. We may kid around, but we never take the beauty of Portuguese towns and cities for granted. Especially since there’s no one named Grant in all of Portugal.

Carolyn always tells me to smile for the camera, to which I often respond with a laugh, because with my beard and stoic-looking face, people can never tell if I’m smiling, grimacing, or awake. Of course, I usually don’t know either.

There’s more to come from Northern Portugal, don’t you worry about that! What? You weren’t worried? In fact you didn’t even read this? I’m talking to air? Well fine, then your father was a hamster and your mother smelt of elderberries!