Graceful Turning Inside Out - Azores Lovers

Graciosa Turned Inside Out

The Graciosa Island, UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, is the smallest and least explored island in the Central Group. As it happens in all of the Azorean islands, the connection to the sea and land is intrinsic to the lives of its inhabitants. But if its all the same, then what makes this island special? Here are some suggestions.
Start this trip with the main symbol of the island: the windmills. Although they have already lost the usefulness of other times, like when Graciosa was based on cereal production, even today, walking through Graciosa you will see that they are part of the landscape. If you want to visit the interior of a windmill and understand its operation system, go to the Graciosa Museum (1)in the center of the village of Santa Cruz, to book the visit.
Since you are here, enjoy and get to know some of the aspects of the island's human and cultural heritage. Windmills have also been transformed into housing, some available for tourism, especially on the beach. There are currently about 30 windmills in Graciosa.

To speak of water in Graciosa is to speak of its most scarce good and therefore the most precious one. From the beginning of the settlement the scarcity of water, due to its topography (few mountainous surfaces, allied to low altitude and therefore little precipitation), was always the great concern of the people from this island. To try to minimize this problem, it was possible, through ingenuity, to accumulate and reserve as much water as possible, both for human consumption and agriculture. Perhaps the most emblematic example of this architecture are the two Water Reserves in the center of Santa Cruz (recognized symbols of the Island) that were essentially used in agriculture and to quench the thirst of the animals. Regarding the human consumption, several underground reservoirs were built during the 19th century. The most spectacular, that can be visited, is in the Caminho do Atalho, just outside Santa Cruz. It is open every afternoon during the working days. On the island, you will find several other examples of this architecture, such as tanks, sinks, and fountains.

THE Graciosa's Donkeypopularly known as Dwarf Donkey, is an autochthonous breed of the island, which is characterized by gray hair, a docile nature, but mainly because of its stature (in adult age it reaches a little more than one meter in height). This animal that played a fundamental role, helping in the work of the land and as a means of transport, was in endangered until a few years ago. Today there are about 70 animals, when, in the 60's, the number exceeded 1000. In Ribeirinha, parish of Guadalupe, there is a farm that you must visit if you want to interact with the donkeys. Do not be afraid! These animals are extremely docile and are accustomed to human contact. To book a visit, please go to the Tourist Office in Praça Fontes Pereira de Melo, in Santa Cruz. The Graciosa Donkey and the Miranda Donkey are the only indigenous breeds recognized in Portugal.

If you visit the island in the so-called low season (winter months) be sure to have fun during the Carnivalseason. In Graciosa, this party is celebrated with great enthusiasm and everyone actively participates. The carnival in Graciosa is well known in the Azores and has two particularities that differentiate it from the others. In the first place, it is distinguished by its duration. The dances begin on the first weekend after the beginning of the year. During Carnival week, the dances on the island are daily, alternated by all 9 collectivities and clubs that promote them. It is a time when the biggest rivalries are set aside and the group-fantasies of the clubs are visited.
Another important characteristic is to be exclusively a "hall carnival". The whole party, which often lasts until dawn, is inside the four walls of the clubs, each of them having their own headquarters. As you already noticed the dance lasts several hours and besides the songs of this kind of party, there are also, in some clubs, the "Modas de Viola" and the "Moda do Chocolate", and the men have to offer (paying of course!) a chocolate to their pair.

Do not forget to eat fish, especially the "fisherman sauce" and the famous "Molhanga", rich in Azorean spices, and that they put on top of the fried fish. Melons and garlic are other high-quality products that you should try. Traditional sweets, especially rice pastries and Graciosa's famous cakes will leave your mouth watering.

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