Portugal –Madeira Island II
It is an island in the Atlantic where you can grow almost anything thanks to humidity, high temperature and fertile soil. So where do you get water that is good for irrigation and how it works?
Madeira means wood and wood gave the island its name. Dense forests were the first thing which the sailors who shipwrecked here in 14919 found. The sea cast them at the island. First they called it Porto Santo (Holy Island) as a thank for surviving the sinking of the ship. Then they discovered other island which they called Madeira.
Couple of years later they started to settle the island. First there were only sailors, slaves, and convicts. They had to chop down trees and get space. Then they only needed water for irrigation… They had to go up into the mountains. There they found out the only water they can irrigate island with is up there.
Mountains chains reach impressive altitudes and they are covered with dense forests. Original plant here was bay laurel. They grow here also today. So-called self-irrigating forests were grown in the mountains. These forests are primeval. They collect water from ever present fogs. Then this water flows down into to soil thus irrigates it. Such forests are on the northern slopes. They are at 300-1400 meters of altitude. On southern slopes at 700-1600 meters. The areas where these forest area are Santana, Riberio Frio and Encumeada.
To get the water in the mountains channels were needed which would run into reservoirs. Therefore, drinkable water would be supplied. In 1461, water channels also known as levadas. The name comes from levar which means to carry. Channels run along contour lines while slowly inclining down. At the top the channels are narrow, at the foothills they widen up. The oldest of levadas are easy to recognize because they are tiled with stones. Volcanic massive provided plenty of such stone. Later were levadas made of concrete. First cutting levadas into the mountain was difficult. Cutting down the trees made soil unstable and land slides were common. Years of work resulted in a vast system of levadas.
More than 200 levadas were registered here in 1900. They measured more 1000 km in length. Today it is more than 2000. Plus there are dozens of kilometers of tunnels. Levadas supply settled areas including hotel complexes with hotel. To make everything work human hand is indispensable but also there is a law about water usage. Levadeiros take care of connections between levadas (horizontal and vertical), water purity, drainage of water to other areas. The law sets the amount of a fee which depends on the acreage of land and for what it is used. Private persons pay around 20-100 euros a year. But there are other ways water is used, for instance for hydroelectric power station. Madeira is also self-reliant in terms of energy production.
Text and photos: Monika Babická
GPS: (Riberio Frio) 32°44'01.4"N 16°53'00.3"W
Coimbra City used to be more than a century, at a time when the Portuguese fought for the rights of the Arabs in the territory, the Portuguese capital (1143-1255). Since the year 1290 there is still work to university - we will not - you count the break, which, together with the status of the capital was moved to Lisbon.
We leave Funchal for Santana, a town on the northeastern seaboard. There are interesting places along the way. We leave the direct rote to see such places as the Madeira’s highest peaks, a stone igloo, and the Faial bay. In case you have not yet visited the cave and volcanic center of Grutas Sao Vicente it is easy to reach along the northern seaboard starting in Santana. As we told you, Sao Vicente is a borderline between the western and eastern parts of the island
Balcoes lookout is situated at 86é meters above sea level. A comfortable and wide enough road leads there from the trout farm in Riberio Frio. The name fits. It is a true natural balcony giving you the view of what you would consider a piece of paradise.
Isle of the Eternal Spring? In the middle of the Atlantic? This is the Azores archipelago. Nine notable volcanic islands protruding into the Atlantic Ocean. Towards the west is the island of Flores and the island of Corvo, in the middle of the islands of Graciosa, Terceira, Sao Jorge, Pico and Faial and east of Sao Miguel, Santa Maria and Formigas. All islands except Santa Maria are volcanic. It is on three lithospheric plates: Eurasian, African and North American.
Portugal's southernmost region is one of the most attractive destinations in Europe. It offers beautiful beaches, majestic cliffs, picturesque towns and fresh fish and great wine. Let's go there.
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Everybody knows port wine. Perhaps you also link Porto the a high steel bridge and its majestic arch crossing the Douro river. Perhaps you would think of wooden boats carrying wine barrels from the inland wineyards. Porto is, however, a diverse city. There is great history, culture, cuisine, and beaches along the Atlantic coast. Every year, an increasing number of visitors visit this city.
Coimbra, a student town of 150 thousand is situated somewhere in the middle between Porto and Lisbon. There is one of the oldest unviersities in Europe sitting on the hill above the Mondego river. The university, which is the oldest in Portual, was founded in 1290 – 60 years before the famous Charles University in Prague was founded. Tens of thousands of students at this university make this town great including the nightlife there.
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It is an archipelago and also an island which is located in the Macaronesia region. Only two islands are inhabited as the whole archipelago is a natural reserve. These islands are Madeira and Porto Santo.
A 5 thousand meters high massif of lava was created after huge explosion in the Atlantic. Today we can see only a glimpse of it and this glimpse is Madeira. The island is self-reliant. There are couple of power plants (water, wind), fertile soil and sea rich on fish.
Apart from famous Madeira wine (Japan is its largest importer), poncho (a liquor with lemon flavor) is another traditional beverage. You can replace lemon juice with orange or maracuja juice. It is served cold for refreshments. Or it is served also warm as prevention from getting cold. The wine festival takes place end August beginning September.
Another stop to the west of the island is Porto Moniz. From Sao Vincente you travel through tunnels. Make a stop at Ribeira da Janela town. It is a place of dark volcanic rock. The lovers’ rock rises from the sea there.
Today, we take a look at the eastern part of the island in the direction from Funchal to the easternmost part where are droughts. It seems as if it was not Madeira there. The landscape is vastly different and there grows almost no vegetation at all. It is only after rains when it gets bit of green there. No levada leads to this area. You can find them only in the mountains. The area is inhabited, however. Therefore, some vegetation is actually there.
Wine, coffee, cliffs, waves. The western-most country of continental Europe is of the sort everybody likes. It belongs to the top 20 most visited countries in the world. There are beautiful beaches including the best surf beaches of all Europe. Nature in the inland is magnificent as wel. Culture is rich and cities are lively and busy. Let's visit Portugal!
Lisboa is righteously one of the most visited cities in Europe. Yellow trams, hills, cable cars... You can easily get lost in its colorful streets for hours. Washed laundry waves in the wind, you can drink coffee with locals at one of many great cafes and taste local sweet pastry. You can also just set off to the grandiose Ponte 25 de Abril, a red bridge which looks like Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
We have already presented the Algarve region in our series in great detail. We end it with the city of Lagos, which is one of the most popular tourist and serves as a perfect base for exploring. Thanks to the surfers, it also maintained a very relaxing atmosphere.
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