When I was traveling in Spain and Portugal in April, we rented a car and drove through the southwestern corner of Spain, along the Algarve in Portugal, and up through the Alentejo to Lisbon. We stopped one afternoon for coffee in Tavira, an old Roman town in the southeastern corner of Portugal. We weren't there at quite the time of day shown in the postcard, but not much earlier, and we had coffee at a cafe just a few steps from this bridge. It was quiet and uncrowded - the perfect spot for a brief respite. By all accounts, once the summer season commences the town is packed with vacationers from all over Europe, like the rest of the Algarve.
One event the Portuguese continually referenced was the earthquake of 1755. From the Wiki on Tavira: "Like most of the Algarve its buildings were virtually all destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. This earthquake is thought to have reached a magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale and caused extensive damage throughout the Algarve due to shockwaves and tsunamis. The earthquake is referred to as the Lisbon Earthquake due to its terrible effects on the capital city, although the epicentre was some 200 km west-southwest...."
Whenever I drive through a small town like this, both in and outside the US, my mind wanders: What are the people like who live here? What is it like to live so isolated from a big city? What would my life be like, if I lived here? Even a stay of a few days cannot provide answers to these questions. I am fascinated by the history, whether long ago (the vast extent of the Roman Empire, the Moors' impact and influence on the Iberian Peninsula, the devastation of the earthquake of 1755) or more recent (the Estado Novo of Salazar), and intrigued by how the addition of incremental bits of history adds a level of perspective and understanding to my existing knowledge. At the same time, I am often amazed at my ignorance.