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What Does Portugal Smell of?

Magazine Art + Culture | 03 Mar 2016


If the wind were to carry the aroma that resides down the pathways of Portugal what odour would this be?

What is the smell of this country beside the sea, this country rising up in the mountains, stretching across the plains, undulating in the hills and, in its meandering rivers, stagnating in the melancholic contemplation of the future?

A country of sailors at heart, Portugal smells of the sea, of salt, of fish, of seaweed. Back on shore, it smells of the beach, of wet sand, of the sun beating down on the dunes and on bodies.

For the poetic, it smells of hope, of romance, of kindness, of the goodness of its people, of the beauty of its landscapes.

For the pessimistic, it smells of sweat, of sewers, of worn-out people, of seagull droppings or simply muck.

And it smells of parsley, rosemary, lavender, basil, lemon. And also of lawns and damp earth, of flowers, of dawn dew and drizzle, and sticks sulkily to your skin.

It smells of port, of stew, of cured sausage, of soaked salted codfish, of bread dipped in olive oil, of sugary creations, ofmedronho firewater, of fruit schnapps, of vinho verde.

Portugal smells of freshly cleaned linen, of freshly whitewashed walls, of verses and sighs, of tears and longing, of the pain of fado, of softly playing guitars, of street hawkers and stallholders calling, of knife-grinders whistling, … Ah, it’s not just odours I’m summoning here. Any talk of the country’s smells implies arousing all the senses, because Portugal feels and is felt with all of them.

Featured in ROOF 1

Text: Paula Monteiro and a host Portuguese people
Illustration: Sara Pinto
Poem: Sophia de Mello Breyner

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