One wouldn't expect that this quiet little town is big on festivals, the two most famous being for smoked meats and the occult. Lovely Montalegre is the proud host of the annual Feira do Fumeiro, a carnivore's dream— a celebration of all sorts of smokey delights from chouriço and salpicão, to the presunto of the beautiful Barrosã cow. For the past several years, the people of Montalegre have made a tradition of producing hilarious TV spots for their Feira, with some parodying songs like Gangnam Style and Bailando. The popularity of these videos have ignited a rather comedic competition with the town of Vinhais, which created this sausagey version of Miley Cyrus' Wrecking Ball for their own meaty festival.
In contrast to the Feira do Fumeiro, every Friday the 13th since 2002, Montalegre (the self-proclaimed Capitol of Mysticism) turns into one big street party with witches, wizards, demons, and elves running rampant— it's kind of like Halloween. The celebrations were the brainchild of local priest with a sense of humour, Antonio Fontes. Apparently he has a hand in creating a powerful aguardente out of fruit and herbs that's meant to drive evil away— all this was explained with great enthusiasm by a guide in the town's museum, which I thoroughly enjoyed visiting.
There was one small detail I noticed in one of the museum's display cases on the region's traditional costume— chancas. Chancas are handmade leather boots or clogs typically worn by men in rural areas, with soles made of ash wood. Were they still made, I wondered? After asking around, we ended up at a tiny cobbler shop, where a man cheerfully presented me with his smallest sized boots. It was love at first sight, and though they were a bit big, I convinced myself that with a thick insole and wooly socks, I could wear them well.
These are my beautiful souvenirs from Northern Portugal, which I plan on taking out this autumn. My only fear is that the uneven and seasonally mucky streets of Rabat might damage them— though they were made for rough and tough men working the fields. Aren't they lovely?