It might seem unusual for me to say that my most exciting experience whilst travelling has been my trip to a small relaxed village on the coast of Portugal. After travelling through the Baltic strip and across most of Europe it might be hard to understand that to this day, this small village has been my most favoured location and the most exciting experience of my travels. The village of Bergau, despite having a lack of clubs, activities and night life had a few amazing aspects that money can’t buy; a genuinely strong sense of culture and an incredible welcoming.
On the morning of our arrival, I headed out to pick up some breakfast and experience my first real sense of Portuguese life. The first thing I smelled as I stepped out on the street was the mouth watering aroma of grilled sardines. As I rounded the corner from the front door of our small apartment I saw the single main street which runs the length of Bergau down to the beach.
The street was lined with houses on either side and outside almost every house was a group of locals who were cooking their breakfast. I walked slowly down the street towards the local shop. Everyone smiled as I passed and greeted me with either a nod or a “good morning!” and as I passed the third house a middle aged man stepped away from his sizzling Barbeque and passed me a sardine. I hesitated a moment before taking it. He simply smiled as I took a bite, “we have the best fish here,” he told me, motioning towards the beach.
I nodded in amazed agreement, as I finished my free breakfast. The man happily watched as I ate my gift and then went back to cooking, “obrigada” I replied, (meaning thank you in Portuguese) and he nodded in silent welcome.
I continued onwards to the shop and found one of the cheapest most incredibly stocked local stores I have visited to this day. There was an abundance of goats cheese on sale, made fresh from local farms and at unbelievably cheap prices. The meats too were locally produced, fresh and even the dried goods were inexpensive and plentiful. I headed back to the apartment laden with goods and excited to produce a tasty meal for everyone to start the day with.
After an incredible breakfast with my friends, we decided to walk on down to the beach. The locals and their barbeques were gone by this time, but the beach was beginning to fill up. We headed down to the water’s edge and my friends ran in immediately. I on the other hand, hung back for a moment to investigate something which had caught my eye. An impossibly old man was hunched forward on a rickety wooden chair away from the small crowd of tourists and locals who were setting up for a day on the beach. A bucket sat at his side and a knife was grasped firmly in his left hand. A family of tourists was already perched on the sand in front of him and as I approached he motioned for me to join them. As I sat he produced a freshly caught squid from the bucket and quickly, without a second thought he began to gut it. He took great care in this process but he also did it quickly, seemingly to prevent the squid from suffering unnecessarily.
He carefully showed us each step as he went through the motions and finally he let the squid slip back into the bucket. Then, without a word, he stood, picked up his chair and bucket, and wandered away towards the town. I looked across at the amazed tourists, who were now trying to calm their wailing children. I could tell that both parents felt as privileged as I, having seen something which must have been part of the old man’s life since he was old enough to hold a knife.
Afterwards I sat and watched the fishermen coming in and going out on the tide, taking as little notice of the tourists as of the locals. I realised after an hour’s contemplation that the town had yet to alter its life to the tourist trade. It was, as of yet, untainted by the stench of overly tourist optimised life and had grown to share its every day ins and outs with the tourists who were lucky enough to visit it.
The local man who had given me one of his fish that morning had shown me this from the very beginning. He was saying, welcome, this is part of our life and now we’re sharing it with you. This is something I have yet to experience again from my travels, without being asked to pay for the experience. I was changed forever and will never forget that first amazing experience to Bergau.
This article was written by travel writer and experienced blogger Alex Jackson. Alex recommends checking out MF Airport Parking’s advance airport parking options, when finding the best deal on going abroad. Using an advance airport parking company like this can save you a bundle on flying abroad and will give you piece of mind over the safety of your vehicle.