A Merry Portuguese Christmas

Harry and I have many happy holiday memories from our Portuguese Adventure. For me, though, our second Christmas stands out over all the others. We were members of the Igreja Evangélica de Algés at the time. Although Americans attended there, it was totally Portuguese in tradition and the congregation was amazing. Irmão Fernando Resina was one of the teaching elders. Our second Christmas in Portugal he and his wife invited us to eat supper with their family on Christmas Eve.

The adventure began when I asked Harry what time we would need to be there. He said, “Around 9:30 p.m.” I’ve always been a morning lark, and that made me blink. But, such a delightful invitation, offered in love was irresistible.

Before we left home on Christmas Eve, we had a snack around 6 p.m., and began to get ready to go. We borrowed the ministry van since it would be too late after supper to find public transportation. In addition, my tummy was feeling like I was coming down with the flu.

We arrived around 9:30, right on time, but the party had not begun. (Later I learned that it in Portugal, generally “on time” can be up to 45 minutes after the hour of the invitation. The Resina children had put their boots by the stove for Pai Natal (Father Christmas) to put presents in at midnight. The tree was beautifully decorated.  I learned that evening that, in general, Evangelical Christians had trees and Pai Natal who brought gifts;  Catholic Christians had manger scenes, and the Christ Child brought the gifts.


Bacalhau Cozido

Around 10:30 p.m., our hostess called us to the table. There was the traditional Bacalhau Cozido (boiled codfish).  That included salted cod fish, reconstituted and boiled. There was cabbage, boiled potatoes, and broccoli on the side. It was my first Bacalhau Cozido, and I really enjoyed it. As we finished the bacalhau, family members began clearing the table. I was comfortably full, and it was around 11 p.m.

Galo assado

To my surprise, there was another course; the galo assado, a roasted fowl that had once upon a time crowed at sunrise. Salad, and homemade potato chips accompanied it. I had slowed down on eating, feeling fine and was hoping the flu had given up on me.

Following the fowl, bowls of canja (chicken soup) appeared on the table. It was delicious, but I couldn’t eat much.  I was hoping that no one would be offended by my waning enthusiasm for food.

Bolo Rei

And there was more. We were directed to the dessert table. It was smothered with attractive sweets from rice pudding to Bolo Rei (King Cake). I’d never seen so many kinds of different pastries and puddings in my life. I nibbled a little here and there, and they were amazing. It was truly a feast fit to honor the King of kings. And no unhappy tummy all night.

Around midnight the children got their boots, and opened their presents. Food, fun and fellowship ran riot that night. Soon after midnight, we got into the van and drove back across town to our neighborhood.

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to all of you. I look forward to sharing more about Portugal and our time there in January. 

Free eBook for Writers

My friend, Chila, has put together a book from a number of blog posts and other resources. It’s free on Kindle until midnight. This is a helpful resource for writers and wanna be writers. She has published many magazine articles and has published books as well. And, hey, it’s free on Kindle until midnight. What do you have to lose?


The Portugal Adventure – Bavaria: Bad Tölz

On the Alpen trail
No words.
Someone is about to get a snowball down their neck.
Yes, that is me bending over, playing in the snow in August.
On top of the world!

So far on the trip, Harry was friendly, but not making any declarations. I figured that if nothing else, I was making friends with the Portuguese girls in my dormitory, and if the worst thing that happened to me was a trip through Europe, I would have a blessed life. So, I decided to enjoy every moment of every day. Then, we visited Bad Tölz.

Bad Tölz is a fairy tale town with the Alps for its background. We visited the town, then drove to Blomberg Mountain. In the winter, it is a ski resort, and it has a bob run for the summer visitors. The bob run is 1250 meters long with 40 very sharp twists and turns, and 17 steep curves. The summer bob has a lever in the middle that lets you control (at least somewhat) the velocity at which you descend. It’s all good as long as the person behind you sees you around one of those sharp twists before they are in your bob.

If memory serves me, we took the ski lift part-way up, then hiked to the top of the Blomberg. I was in pretty good shape at the time, but with the altitude, and steepness of the slope, it was challenging. Half-way up, the path steepened. Harry held out his hand to help me get over the steep place – and evidently decided that I needed his hand to get the rest of the way up. I was not averse to the assistance, and we arrived at the top together.

On the way back down, we took the summer bob. What fun!  One of those sharp curves dumped both of us over the edge of the track.

summer blob

This  post is mostly photographs. The photos do not do justice, but they are better than words.

Village of Bad Tölz.
Bad Tölz
Bad Tölz
Ski lift at the Blomberg
The summer bob!
Where the hike began
Field director’s wife climbing the Blomberg
On the way down to the summer bob

The Portugal Adventure – Beautiful Bavaria: Munich

Another favorite re-post that followed last week’s post. This week we are in beautiful Bavaria.

McDonald’s we visited in Munich

Bavaria was more beautiful than I could have imagined. Breath-taking mountain views followed by sparkling lakes, all bigger and brighter than life. I thought I knew a lot about Germany after two years of high school German, but Bavaria surprised and delighted me. They have a history that is older than their centuries old palaces, and  new as the McDonald’s we found in Munich. Where beer was served and hamburgers were (at the time) about five dollars each.


Each day we had a meeting with all of the campers. We sang together, and it was my first experience of a multilingual singing time. I remember feeling that our hearts were being knitted together into one heart of praise. It was amazing. The Bible study each morning was translated via headphones. Afternoons we could join in various  activities. Several days we went sight seeing.


Munich was on our list. In addition to lunch at McDonald’s, we walked around downtown. There is nothing like visiting European cities to make you feel like a newcomer!

Downtown Munich

Much of Munich was damaged during World War II; they took 71 bombing hits over a six-year period. After the US occupation in 1945, Munich was carefully rebuilt on her pre-war street grid.

On the Marienplatz in downtown Munich, we stopped to gaze at The Rathaus (town hall) with the famous Glockenspiel, a clock with full-sized figures that displays two famous scenes from Munich’s history. It plays three times a day. The top half reenacts the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V, and the lower half is the dance of the coopers, which allegedly took place during 1517, a plague year in Munich. This is said to have affirmed their perseverance and support for the authority of the duke. We arrived just in time to watch and listen that day. Here‘s a YouTube video of the Glockenspiel. Turn your sound up!

Rathaus and Glockenspiel
The Glockenspiel at the Rathaus

We were a tired group when we arrived back at camp for supper; cold cuts with all kinds of delicious German breads for supper. In fact, everywhere we went in Europe, the bread was extraordinary; it was artisan bread, and you can’t make that in a factory.

Next post: Bad Tölz!

Singing for the German campers. One of the tall Americans, I am in the middle in the back row, and Harry is on the right. With the bigode (mustache). I have to say, I wasn’t much help in singing Portuguese at that point, but it was fun.

What part of the Glockenspiel did you like best?

The Portugal Adventure – Willkommen in Deutschland

Welcome to my new followers and readers. This blog is about our life in Portugal. During the month of December, I am going to re-post some of the earlier stories. The one took place the summer before we got married when I was visiting and enjoyed a road trip from Lisbon to Bavaria.
The Bible Institute in Barcelona, Spain

It was late when we arrived at the Bible Institute in Barcelona, and it was a short visit. The next morning we piled into the vans and cars and headed for France. From Barcelona, Spain to Lyon, France it is about 500 Kilometers. With the differences in culture between those two countries, it might have been more like 5000 miles – with no shared border. It takes time, crossing the borders in Europe. I got a taste of what the United States may have been like if some of our Founding Fathers had gotten their way. Those would be the ones that wanted each state to be an independent country the way the European countries

The street in front of our hotel in Lyon.
Portuguese at sunrise by the river in Lyon.
We stayed in Lyon overnight, and enjoyed our continental breakfast in the morning. If you are used to the “continental breakfasts” that are served in American motels, you cannot compare them with the European style breakfasts. There was none of that bland, made in a factory white fluff. Not even any of that square stuff allegedly made with whole wheat flour. The freshly baked bread and pastries served with café au lait was a “feast of fat things.”

Our next stop was at the border of Switzerland. The Swiss are punctilious about any official duty, and there was a long wait while they made sure everything was in order. After all, it isn’t every day that an army of Portuguese, Americans, and Canadians travel all together. Aside from that, Switzerland looked exactly as I expected.

I think that the Swiss must get up before breakfast each morning to sweep their front steps, they were so clean. There was no trash on the ground, and every neatly appointed home boasted colorful flowers in the windows. The Alps. I have lived in Colorado, and Wyoming, and have hiked up in the Rocky Mountains. Out there we customarily dismissed the Appalachian Range as “not real mountains.” But the majesty and beauty of those snow capped giants looming in the distance left me bereft of words. I nearly expected to see Heidi and the Grandfather walk into town at any moment.

The Alps.

Once through Switzerland, we took a quick “hop” across Austria, then into Bavaria, the largest, and most southern of the German states. The population is made up of mostly original settlers rather than people who have emigrated to Germany.  According to one source, Bavaria “is basically a free state.” The cleanliness of Switzerland and Austria carried through into Germany. I was convinced that it would have been safe to eat off of the ground.

The folks who started the German branch of the mission organization we were part of had a beautiful place for camp. Located near Munich on a lake, they had a 99-year lease on two castles that they used as dormitories for the campers. If the trip across Europe had not been enough of a dream fulfilled, I slept in a castle during our time in Bavaria. In a room otherwise filled with Portuguese women. Most of whom spoke very little, if any English. But, we got along fine by pooling our English, Portuguese, and Spanish. I can’t remember ever enjoying camp more. There was only one thing I wanted to know, and the only person who could tell me wasn’t talking.

One of the dormitories in Bavaria
What strikes you about this story? Have you ever visited abroad?