Circular Routes Stage
With its rich and varied landscape, home to hard-working people, it is possible here to experience the most traditional way of life in Southwest Portugal.
The streets with modest houses, with its traditional commerce, give way to vegetable gardens and meadows, which provide half of the livelihood of this land’s inhabitants. With extensive pastures where cattle graze slowly, forests of cork trees, strawberry trees and pines, this land gives much to the local inhabitants. From these forests cork, wood, firewood, pinecones, acorns, mushrooms, and wild asparagus are extracted, among many other generous gifts from nature.
Of all of them, the strawberry tree stands out. The harvest of its fruit begins in autumn, when the branches of the tree are full, and goes on until December. The harvest is a group activity, in which families and neighbors come together very early to pick the ripe fruits that guarantee the quality of the aguardente (a clear brandy) produced, leaving them in barrels to ferment. In the month of December, the distiller immerses in the art of fermentation, which has something of magic about it, as well as of science. It is a creative process, requiring the intuition and sensitivity of the distiller, but also an important accuracy of the process. The transformation of the fermented fruit mass into the medronho aguardente is a complex process that has passed from generation to generation.
Along the side of the road, enjoy the flowering plants that grow throughout the year – strawberry tree, lavender, shrubby everlasting, heathers, brooms and wild orchids. Some of these wild plants are popularly used for healing, as is the case with the centaury, which is known to quickly end a hangover. In the open fields, spot the birds of prey on the hunt, or listen to the pipits, larks and zitting cisticola singing. On mud or dirt roads, look for the footprints of foxes, genets, badgers and Egyptian mongoose. In wetlands, where rushes predominate, lives the only protected European rodent, cabrera’s vole. In the shrubs, where the ground is revolved, that is a sure sign that the wild boar has been looking for bulbs and small animals. The adult male boar is usually solitary, joining the female only in the breeding season. However, sometimes the boar allows a young male to join him, using it as a batter.
The trails crosses the ravine of Água de Peixe, with its gallery of willow and Portuguese oak. As you cross this water line, keep an eye out for the river otter’s feces and footprints. This elusive creature fishes in the calm of the twilight. Its feces are easy to identify by the presence of fish bones and carapace of crayfish, left in places visible in order to mark its territory.
S. Teotónio nã drome (S. Teotónio does not sleep) is a common expression of the region, originating in the fact that Friar Teotónio spent the night before the Battle of Ourique praying for the victory of King Afonso Henriques. The expression is now used to emphasize the tough character of the people of S. Teotónio, who are capable of overcoming the greatest adversities, but also their party side, which can be witnessed in the biannual celebration of the masts, an event that requires a dedicated preparation, including many nights covering the village with colorful paper flowers.
Where to start
In the Largo Gomes Freire, called Quintalão, the church’s square.
Rules and Recommendations
The Mother Church is one of the few churches in this region that is open for the public . It is well worth to make a short visit.
Enjoy the terraces of Quintalão.
Pay attention to the white, red and yellow marks on the Circular Routes, when these overlap with the Historical Way; the yellow and red marks are for Circular Routes only.