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Terceira#

Trip to the Azores, August/September 2016, Part 1#

by H. Maurer

The Azores Azores , part of Portugal with quite a bit of regional autonomy, are an archipelago composed of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean about 1,360 km west of continental Portugal, about 880 km northwest of Madeira and about 1,925 km southeast of Newfoundland. Its main industries are agriculture, dairy farming, livestock ranching, fishing, and tourism. The main settlement of the Azores today is Ponta Delgada on the island São Miguel with the only international airport.

The Azores islands are an islet cluster in three main groups. Flores and Corvo, to the west; Graciosa, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico, and Faial in the centre; and São Miguel, Santa Maria, and the Formigas Reef to the east. The distance between the westernmost and easternmost island is more than 600 km.

All the islands have volcanic origins. Mount Pico, on the island of Pico, is the highest point in Portugal, at 2,351 m. The climate of the Azores is very mild for their northerly location, being influenced by its distance to continents and the passing Gulf Stream. Due to the influence of the ocean, temperatures remain mild year-round. Daytime temperatures normally fluctuate between 16 °C and 25 °C depending on the season. It is generally very humid (hence sweat is not unknown to tourists) and is often wet and cloudy.

The culture, dialect, cuisine, and traditions of the Azorean islands vary considerably, because these once uninhabited and remote islands were settled sporadically over a span of two centuries.

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Angra do Herismo seen from the hilly north. It has bays of the Atlantic on two sides, with a peninsula stretching out into the sea that was and is used both for military protection and as excursion and picnic area by locals. The buildings on the left hill were built by the Spanish when they took over in 1583 to impress locals and to defend themselves if necessary.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0

Now more to the trip at issue: Coming from Europe, we first landed at Delgada on São Miguel, but continued with another plane directly to the island Terceira Terceira . In this Part 1, only Terceira will be described. Part 2 will deal with Faial and Pico, and Part 3 with São Miguel.

Terceira has a population of 56,000 inhabitants in an area of approximately 400 square kilometres. Much like other islands of the Azores, human settlement was dictated by the terrain. The number of volcanic cones and the strato-volcanoes that occupy the major part of the interior of the island made communities locate along the coastal lowlands and river-valleys, producing a "ring" of urbanization that circles the island. These communities began as agricultural enclaves, based on subsistence farming and a patchwork of hedged parcels of land.

Landing at Praia da Vitoria Praia da Vitoria, Azores (one of the two municipalities on the island) we went by bus to Angra do Herismo Angra do Herismo,Azores in the south of the island Terceira: This is the Azores' oldest city and UNESCO Heritage Site and the site of the historical capital, about the size of Delgado (50.000). It is the second municipality on the island. The attribute “do Herismo” for Angra was obtained in the 17 th century since the Portuguese in Terceira defended themselves bravely for three years against the Spanish, who took over Portugal (and all its overseas territories) in 1580.

Remember: Azores WAS Portugal for three years, till 1583, when the Spanish also conquered the Azores islands. Portugal became an independent nation again only some sixty years later, in 1640.

The Terceira Mar Hotel we stayed in is a big hotel complex with a good view of the hills with the fortification, and an easy walk to the center of Angra as documented below.

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Hotel pools and fortification on the slope of the hill
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Close-up view of fortification and the church that is part of the military complex
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Impressions on a walk to the city center.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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On a walk to the city center.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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On a walk to the city center.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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The main function of the many narrow balconies is to impress, to show that one is rich enough to afford such a luxury.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Notice the many more or less useless (too narrow to sit!) balconies in the road leading to the harbour.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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The blue church at the harbour.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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House near Blue Church.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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House near Blue Church.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Market and fish market as usual, except the item in the next picture!
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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The Azores Sea-snail. The author, although fond of all kinds of seafood, was not impressed by this particular item.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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The cathedral with its bumpy history. Built around 1550, it was destroyed by an earthquake. When reconstructed over many years a fire destroyed its precious wooden ceiling, again quite a task to recreate the original.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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In cathedral.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Typical for old churches in the Azores is a wooden lectern with ivory inlays.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Detail of lectern.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Vessel for baptizing, with typical Portuguese tiles in the background.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Tiles.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Tiles are found in many churches.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Tiles.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Modern tiles.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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The church also holds a very mixed collection of pictures, including some by local artists.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Near the city square there is a botanical garden. Stairs lead up to an obelisk that was built in gratitude for Angra do Herismo, when Portugal became independent again in 1640, and as further gesture of thanks to Angara who had held out against the Spanish three 3 years longer than any other part of Portugal.

On the way up there are good views of the city and even the fortification on the higher hill on the other side of the city.

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City hall in the main square of Angra do Herismo.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Botanical garden.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Botanical garden.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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View of botanical garden from path to obelisk.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Blue church and harbour from walk to the obelisk.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Goat island from walk to the obelisk.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Obelisk.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Cathedral and fortification at the background (on hill opposite to obelisk hill) as seen from obelisk.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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View in the opposite direction, from fortification hill to obelisk.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Hotel complex as seen from fortification hill.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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A “Knights of Portugal” cross on top of the fortification hill: The knights of Portugal were a haven for Templer knights provided by Portugal when the Templer order was dissolved and persecuted in France.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Goat island as seen on the drive to São Sebastião church. This is a protected island for the Yellow Beak Storm Bird.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0

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Church of São Sebastião. Like almost all buildings it is built from black volcanic rock with some coating.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Typical piece of a wall: Volcanic rock decorated and held together with some white mortar.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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One of the frescos, over 500 years old that was recently discovered under more recent paintings. This fresco shows Saint Martin.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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In the church.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Bell tower of São Sebastião church.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Tower of São Sebastião church with Holy Ghost Festival Hall in background.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
The “Holy Ghost Festival” (Festa do Espirito Santo) has to be seen as integral part of the culture of the Azores that was deeply influenced by a recurrence of Earthquakes (like the one that did heavy damage to Angra do Heroism in 1980) and volcanic eruptions (like the one on the north-west corner of Faial Island in 1957 that basically wiped out the village of Capellinhos, the lava stream enlarging the island, cutting off the lighthouse from the sea), or the fear of vicious storms, etc.

“Someone” has to be responsible for all this, is a deep seated religious belief, so people have to be kind to each other, pray regularly, etc.

King Dinis (1261- 1325) of Portugal wanted to start the time of the Holy Ghost, peace for all and forever, and all people being equal. This appealed to the Franciscans. They were expelled because of this and found acceptance in Portugal, starting more and more a movement separate from the catholic church. One idea was to provide once a year in special Holy Ghost Festival everyone present with free food.

Indeed the wife of King Dinis, queen Isabel who was declared holy later, would put a crown on the poorest person to receive food. The festival and the lay rituals did not please the church. The festivals survive in pure form only in Brazil and Azores, and the Azores are known for the lavish halls they built for the festival (and meetings of the community), usual close to churches. Indeed many villages have such a holy ghost festival hall, run by volunteers, with the catholic church trying to ignore what is in a way a sectarian movement.

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Holy ghost hall.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Upper Part of holy ghost hall.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0

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Typical village scene.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Typical old stone house: The ground floor is for animals, the upper floor for the owners!
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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House seen from its garden.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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On the way into the hills. Note the fences made of volcanic stone that one finds in an incredible abundance all over the islands.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Overlooking farms and meadows separated by stone fences.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Outlook platform.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Cow girl?
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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An alternative to lava-stone walls are thick hedges of Hortensias that grow fast and dense. Planted a foot apart, they provide an impenetrable fence within two years!
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Fences of hortensias or stones— the two main alternatives.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Wild ginger is another matter: It is not endemic to the islands, but is spreading fast and seems to be very difficult to control. When uprooted, even parts of the root manage to grow fast into full plants again.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Wild ginger.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Panoramic view of part of the coast.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Close-up of cove shown in panoramic view.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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The coast.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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The coast is too rough to get in and out of the water for swimming without artificial help.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Weather and water are very inviting for a swim. Yet the rocky shores, the sharp volcanic stones and big waves make this difficult, if not treacherous. For this reason, special pools along the shores are created, varying from swimming pool style in cities to artificial beaches amidst black lava stones.
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Swimming in the ocean.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Swimming in the ocean.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Swimming in the ocean.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Swimming in the ocean.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Swimming in the ocean.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Swimming in the ocean.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Near the swimming place there are former vineyards. They are now in desolate shape and abandoned. In contrast to the island of Pico, growing wine was given up on Terceira.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
The island of Terceira offers some volcanic surprises: There is a valley with sulphuric steam emanating in a number of places, with unusual vegetation like rare mosses, large blue-berry bushes and the like.

And there is a famous volcanic cave, remnant of former volcanic eruptions that goes some 90 m deep into the ground and is one of the few caves in the world with white silicon stalactites (not calcite, as is common in lime-stone caves).

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Sulphur valley.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Sulphur valley.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Blue-berry bush in sulphur valley.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Blue-berry bush in sulphur valley.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Kermes berry in sulphur valley.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Entrance to lava cave.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Entrance to lava cave.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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In lava cave.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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In lava cave.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Silicon stalactites in lava cave.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
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In lava cave.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0

After having seen a few of the highlights of Terceira, the next stop of the trip was a short hop to the island of Faial, with the capital (and airport) in Horta.