Aldeias do Xisto

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Aldeias do Xisto are villages built from shale and are usually found precariously clinging to the side of a mountain. They were inhabited by hardy people who eventually abandoned their homes when the cold and damp became to much to bear. Or possibly when increasing wealth allowed them to move to drier flatter lands where it’s not certain death if you slip off a path on the way to your 45º field. In recent years government grants have encouraged people to return, restore the lovely buildings, live and set up business such as hotels and restaurants.

There are 27 villages mostly across central Portugal between Coimbra and Castelo Branco. We’ve only seen a few and some are pleasant to wonder around and others are deserted and a bit contrived. I’ve never been a fan of places where their entire reason for existence is to serve the needs of the likes of us. The tourist. When the “gifte shoppes” out number the practical things like corner stores with fruit and veg, hardware stores, a paper shop and a café with an old boy talking to himself in the corner, it no longer seems genuine, merely a theme park.

This is Talasnal. Very pretty with spectacular views. Really if you live on the side of a mountain and you don’t have a spectacular view I’d be asking for my money back!

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Oh and if you don’t like stone buildings, look away now.

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Why all the portrait photos? A space issue. Despite the altitude, fresh air and spectacular views, the streets are pedestrian-only and very claustrophobic in places.

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