Statue of a Portuguese Soldier looking across to Spain
29 October 2015
In the 15th century the settlement appeared in Sanlucar de Guadiana. Both settlements grew simultaneously and under the same conditions, well away from urban centres. They kept a close watch on one another as conflicts between the two countries, Portugal and Castile were frequent. There was a close complicity and even marriages between the citizens of one town to the other. The isolation forced the two towns to intensify their relations and survive through mutual aid. At the beginning of the Spanish war in 1936 the borders were closed. The interruption to river traffic was a serious blow to both sides unable to trade with each other in this remote area. Smuggling became the norm at this time.
As recently as 1963 and 1973, both towns sent multiple petitions to their respective governments asking for the re-opening of river traffic. Not until 1996 did both parties sign an agreement on a vessel in the middle of the river to twin the two towns and resume relations.
Now you would never guess at all this as we and others travel from side to side enjoying the best of both worlds.
The scrub lands and forests around here are home to hare, boar, partridges, rabbit and pigeons and they are often cooked up as stews in the local restaurants. We dined recently on a hare stew. I wanted a second helping only to find the ladle contained the heart, liver and skull (yes skull!!) of the hare. I wasn't so hungry then! I've had a river fish soup too, where the dish is lined with thick bread and then a piece of mullet, with more bread. All very hearty and filling. Portuguese cooking is on the whole straight forward, no tapas for example. It's odd that it's so simple in many ways considering that the Portuguese first brought ingredients like pepper, coriander, ginger, curry, saffron and paprika to Europe as well as tea, rice, coffee, peanuts, peppers, tomatoes and potatoes. I like the local wine, Vinho Verde. It is usually low in alcohol and slightly sparkly, an easy drink.