Campo Maior in Alentejo, which can be found just a few kilometers away from Badajoz (Spain), is an ancient fortress. Just like Olivenza, it has been back and forth from the Spanish to Portuguese hands. As a legacy from this eclectic past, there is a spectacular fortress, recently renovated, and a worldwide known festival: the Fair of Flowers.
A very special festival is held in this little town every few years. The streets are filled with handmade flowers, made out of paper. Each one is painted differently, giving the illusion of a real bud. You will think you are in a magical flowery world!
Let me tell you some details about the last one, which took place in 2019. There were over 100 streets dressed up in flowers. In order to do so, 20 tons of paper were used! This is the reason why there is no exact periodicity for this celebration. It all goes down to the budget of the inhabitants of Campo Maior, who pay for all that selflessly. They do that to honor a very ancient tradition, and for the sake of their town. Therefore, it is only them who get to decide when and if the fair will take place.
So how did this party start? Officially, the first one was organized in 1893, but the fair itself was probably older. It is said that traditionally, in October, women from Campo Maior used to reward their husbands with flowers when they came back home from their audacious smuggling activities, which they needed to get some decent money. However, others claim that initially, it used to be a celebration dedicated to St. John. Well, it does not really matter anymore. What matters is that it has become a huge thing for the town. It has been moved to August so that more people could attend. The last time it took place, 2.5 million people attended!
How do they prepare all that? Typically, women and children make the flowers in winter, when the days are very short. The older teach the younger ones. Men are in charge of installing all the wooden structures that will support the tons of paper. The 100 streets have to be prepared the night before the opening. That night, family and friends from different places come over to help, and nobody sleeps: on the opening day, everything has to be perfect!
Even if the Festa das Flores is celebrated every few years, if you are in the area, you can drop by to pay a visit to Campo Maior. You will find little gems here and there. For instance, here you can find one of the two unique chapels in Portugal made with human bones. The other one is in Évora. Also, the fortress is not to be missed. Walk around it, admire it. The sunsets here are really beautiful! Nearby, you will spot a couple of typical Alentejan churches.
Campo Maior used to be very important because of its strategic position, just at the border with Spain. A big effort was made in order to create a huge city wall. As a fun (?) fact, Campo Maior’s municipality includes a village called Degolados (“beheaded”), literally. Just so you know, it is not even the only one called like that in Portugal. Creepy, right? Well, tough times!
Last but not least, near Campo Maior, you can visit the factory of the Portuguese coffee Delta. They offer tours to visitors. If you have not tasted it, trust me, the Portuguese coffee is simply amazing!
As you can see, Campo Maior has everything: a huge fortress, great coffee, and even better celebrations. Make sure you visit it!
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