Today I want to welcome you to Enxabarda. A tiny Portuguese mountain village, 274 km away from the busy Lisbon. A village where, compared to the city life, the time is still, the air is pure and there are lots of unwritten rules and traditions. As the only sentence on Wiki says, it is a quiet and cozy village of Beira Interior, situated in a valley surrounded by green landscape.
Let’s stroll through the streets with stone pavement, most of them so narrow, I don’t dare to drive. Have a look at the houses made out of rocks, pointing their rooftops high to the blue sky, with window blinds blind closed, protecting from the heat in summer and the cold in winter. And though there are lots of empty houses, some of them ready to be demolished, you will hear neighbors greeting each other, a family chattering here and there, and smell fresh laundry drying in a spring breeze.
It’s Thursday afternoon, we are entering a village coffee place or a café, also known as Café do Coberto. The bell dings above the door letting the owners know about our visit. Five elderly men are playing cards at one of the tables, someone wins a hand and cheers loudly.
The picture of Mother Mary hangs above the cash register, and the selection of bottles is placed on the shelves above, for the visitors to see. Do not expect cappuccino or even americano, but be sure that almost every drink here starts with a cup of espresso. Later Maria, one of the owners, is ready to serve you an ice-cold Mini. We follow the rules.
In Enxabarda there are no more than 150 inhabitants, so you know everyone knows each other. "Comment ça va?" I would be often asked here. Back in the days lots of people from local region moved to work in France, some of them stayed. So if you are a foreigner, like me, in this tiny village it means you speak French. I don’t.
The street leads to the village square, mainly used as a parking lot, surrounded by the fountain of Santo António, the church and the local community center down the hill. The ladies on the bench start talking with a lower voice once we walk by. This square is where the things happen in Enxabarda - traditional events, such as bonfire night on Christmas Eve, or new concepts developed by youth. But let’s leave it for the next time.
Our last stop is the local community center. Run by the locals in shifts, free of charge, though they do not call it volunteering. Volunteering is not popular here, as much as I heard, but it’s all another story once again.
It’s noisy here with local men chatting. Turn around: a big spacious room, full of old school coffee tables and a stage hiding in the dark. There is a small library in the corner, books ranging from children stories to adult read and self-help books. The selection of drinks above the bar for you to choose, but your eyes focus on all the trophies on the wall and, probably, the stuffed deer. This wall tells a local story, generations after generations representing the local football team, bringing cups from local tournaments.
The tv is always on, usually showing football, but this time one of the Portuguese telenovelas. This is a gathering place, one of the two, counting Café do Coberto. Let’s hang out for a while.