Letter from Cascais

Dear Editor,
One of the prime attractions of Cascais has always been the abundance and variety of restaurants catering to many tastes, with emphasis on fish and seafood. Cascais, with its restaurants closed, felt like a different place.

Fortunately, we were allowed to eat out again on restaurant patios during the last two weeks.

Finally, from today (April 19), restaurants are permitted to reopen completely. Restrictions about opening hours and guests per table apply, but we no longer depend on home cooking, takeout and delivery services.

No doubt the new restaurant and retail shop activities will breathe fresh life into our community.

Health and the concern about the consequences of the pandemic continue to dominate our lives and certain restrictions must remain. Overall, the virus situation in Portugal seems to be improving gradually, unlike negative developments in other European countries, where tough “lockdowns” remain in force. In Germany and Austria, the media have published favourable reports about Portugal’s recent success in containing infections.

International travel remains restricted. Interestingly, there are news reports about a demand for space (!) tourism. It seems that, in spite of the pandemic, some people’s mindset and ambitions have not changed.

In this context, we ought to remind ourselves that it was “only” 500 years ago, in 1520/21, that the Portuguese-born seafarer Ferdinand Magellan (Fernão de Magalhães), commanding a fleet of vessels under the Spanish flag, discovered what is today known as the Strait of Magellan connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Magellan reached (today’s) Philippines in March 1521 but died in April of that year in an ill-advised attack on the island of Mactan.

His voyage was eventually completed by Captain Juan Sebastián Elcano in September 1522 and thus resulted in the first circumnavigation of the globe.

Although Magellan was unable to complete the voyage himself, his achievement was unique. He managed to overcome not only the challenges of the seas, at times with lack of provisions, but also geographical uncertainties, mutinies and loss of ships.

Contemporary intercontinental travellers, take note!

Finally, next Sunday, April 25, Portugal will mark the 47th anniversary of the end of the Estado Novo dictatorship in 1974.

It was brought about by a coup by officers and soldiers of the armed forces who were fed up with the colonial wars in overseas territories and the oppressive regime at home. The economy was underdeveloped, and large segments of the population were impoverished.

Soon civilians applauded the soldiers and showered them with carnations. Thus, the coup became the – almost bloodless – “Carnation Revolution”.

Following a relatively brief initial threat of Communist rule, Portugal became a democracy. It joined the European Union in 1986.

Here in Cascais, while we may now enjoy dining out and shopping again, we must continue to be sensible and careful, in order to keep healthy and safe.

Jurgen H. Racherbaumer