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Written by Praskipark on 19 Aug, 2009
Chaves is an interesting town in the Tras-os-Montes, Portugal. The name derives from the Portuguese word for 'key' and if you look at a map it will reveal how the town occupies a key position on Portugal's northern border close to Spain. In fact, the…Read More
Chaves is an interesting town in the Tras-os-Montes, Portugal. The name derives from the Portuguese word for 'key' and if you look at a map it will reveal how the town occupies a key position on Portugal's northern border close to Spain. In fact, the town has a very Spanish feel to it.Because of its fertile valleys and climate Chaves is a very good wine making area.The valley that surrounds Chaves is the Tamega Valley and on the eastern side is a fault line that gives rise to hot mineralised springs. In Roman times it was known as Aqua Flaviae after the hot springs. The waters are still used to treat ailments such as rheumatism and high blood pressure and anything else the doctor orders. Portugal is a nation of hypochondriacs and there is nothing more they like to do than to take the waters and obey their doctor. The water is also bottled and sold in the local shops and throughout the country. Chaves is a very pretty town and I have always found its people very friendly although at times difficult to understand. They are a bit quirky as well. I remember buying several bread rolls from a supermarket. As I took the bag out of the shopping basket to put on the counter one dropped out. I went to pick it up to put back in the bag and the lady at the cash desk tapped my hand, took the roll and blew on it and then put it back in the bag. Strange people. There is a very long Roman bridge which is still used. I think it has 20 arches. Very pretty to look at. Two Roman milestones on he bridge testify to its great age. Heavy through traffic and the unsightly new town should not deter the visitor from taking a walk around the old town.At its centre is Largo do Camoes, which is ringed by impressive facades. Busy little streets lead off in all directions from the square. The pretty little church of Misericordia has azulejo (hand painted tiles) clad walls, beautifully painted ceiling and a gilded altar. The castle is 14th century and remnants are still there for you to visit. This area is very atmospheric with a medieval quarter surrounded by gardens in bloom.Chaves is famous for its cooked meats, in particular presunto, a very tempting type of smoked ham and mouth watering delicious.A warning - accommodation is very difficult to come across in the summer months because of this so called 'medical tourism.' I have never been lucky enough to find a hotel or rooms vacant so have stayed in the campsite.Chaves is definitely a town worthy of a peek. Being very close to Spain the people are a little different and their spoken Portuguese is quite hard to understand so remember to listen carefully. A very pleasant town in the Tras os Montes. Close