What are the main contrasts to be found in Portugal


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),