What Are The Main Contrasts To Be Found in Portugal?


When answering a question such as this, one must primarily begin by
pointing out that not only does Portugal have a great many contrasts within its
land, but also that it contrasts greatly with the other Mediterranean countries.
Portugal is not to be considered by any means as Spain\'s poor neighbour, nor
should a shadow be cast over it by such a formidable nation. Portugal has a
great deal to offer any visitor, it is not merely a tourist\'s paradise, yet this
is regrettably how it is viewed by a large number of individuals. One must also
not forget Portugal\'s history of being, in days gone by, one of the greater
maritime nations, one of the more advanced exploring countries of Europe. Whilst
Spain was occupied with discovering the Indias and consequently the Americas,
Portugal was itself busy exploring Africa and making its own invaluable
discoveries, although these are for the most part overlooked.

Being situated on the westernmost edge of Europe and the Iberian
Peninsula, Portugal enjoys a relative privacy and independence from the rest of
Mediterranean countries. Bordering on Spain on two sides and the sea on the
others, the nation as naturally turned towards the sea, from which it draws both
its strength and wealth and turned its back on its greatest rival, Spain. Due to
its constant waves of invasion throughout the ages, Portugal is a vastly diverse
land, not only in geographical terms but also in terms of heritage. It is true
to say that Portugal does share a number of similarities with Spain, but it is
by no means identical. Rather it is a nation which blends Moorish influences,
British tradition and Mediterranean culture to form a truly unique land of
peoples.

When considering the diversity of a country such as Portugal, the
mention of which immediately conjures up a melange of images from North African
to Western European, from hot and balmy weather to snow capped mountains, one
must really begin by describing the two principle factors, those of climate and
geography, which themselves are interwoven. These in turn have a great effect
on and to a certain extent bring about other differences which can be noted
within the narrow confines of this nation, such as those of vegetation, economy
and landscape.

On examining Portugal in terms of contrasting regions or areas, one must
obviously have a starting point and that is generally considered to be a
comparison between north and south, the River Tagus (Tejo) being the dividing
line. However, Portugal can naturally be divided into three great natural
regions, the North- West Atlantic, the North-East and the south. It is here that
one truly becomes aware of substantial differences, therefore it is from this
point where one must begin.

Although one might imagine the climate of Portugal to be almost the same
as that of Spain, due to it geographical position this is not so. The country
is much more open to the Atlantic winds which in the winter warming influence,
ensuring temperatures seldom drop below seven degrees Celsius. In the summer,
the opposite is the case, the Atlantic wind have cooling influence which
maintains temperatures reasonably lower than the interior, where they can reach
about forty two degrees Celsius.

Generally speaking, the high, mountainous land of the north enjoys a
humid Atlantic climate which maintains the soil well-watered and fertile, making
it possible for it to be covered in a rich mantle of vegetation. The south in
comparison is far less mountainous, it is more gently rolling, the climate
itself not being as extreme as in the north. The region known as the North-West
Atlantic tends to have a rather plentiful amount of rainfall, whilst the North-
East enjoys a more continental climate, whose extremes are felt both in the
summer and in the winter.

Due to the variety of climates, which can be noted in Portugal, it
should not be unusual to discover that the country also produces a number of a
different crops, making the agriculture a considerable factor. Fishing, (Which
was once the most important factor in the economy, but which sadly has become
less so due to the introduction of EC regulations), textile,(also important
since 1960s), and tourism, (which has unfortunately shown a decline in the last
ten years due to the overdevelopment of the country and the deviation of holiday
makers from Europe to other continents), are also major factors, which together
make have always been of great importance to the country and carry on being so,
although nowadays other factors have been added. These are all common to the
country as