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carlagama Janeiro de Cima - A travel report by Carla
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Janeiro de Cima,  Portugal - flag Portugal -  Castelo Branco
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carlagama's travel reports

A great small schist village: Janeiro de Cima

  13 votes
Janeiro de Cima is a village in the center of Portugal. It belongs to the schist villages’ network, having characteristic houses made of schist and rolled stones from Zêzere River. It has around 200 inhabitants, number that doubles in the summer!


A typical house (Casa de Janeiro).
A typical house (Casa de Janeiro).
JC is situated on the bottom of a valley, near Zêzere River. Around, you only find other villages and mountains (the nearest cities are Fundão and Castelo Branco, 40 and 60 km far away). So, this is a perfect place to take a rest and enjoy the nature. But, go on reading, there is plenty to do there (even not to do anything at all!).

Most of the houses made of stone where reconstructed after the Schist Villages Program, which enabled not only a better aspect of the village but also the improvement of the living quality of the population in general. Together with JC in this network are 22 other villages.

Arriving will be easier by car. Also, having a car will be the best option to get to know the nearby places. If it won’t be possible, there are some buses from Castelo Branco and from Fundão.

Favourite spots:
Wild mushrooms (“tortulhos”) already picked up.
Wild mushrooms (“tortulhos”) already picked up.
The river is the highlight of JC: it’s great to swim there in the summer, to fish, or to enjoy a trip by boat or by canoe. There’s a public boat (“barca”) made of wood, exactly like the ones used by people who need to cross the river (usually, because they grow vegetables or they have animals in lands from the other side of the river).

Picking wild mushrooms (“tortulhos”) is also something interesting to do. However, you must be very careful; you should pick them only if you are used to do it. The wrong ones are similar to the good ones but can kill you in case you eat them by mistake (there is, in a nearby village, the Mushrooms’ House, “Casa dos Cogumelos”, in case you are interested in learn more about it).

Barragem de Santa Luzia, an artificial lake 15 km far away, is a good place to visit. The dam is very deep (more than 60m) and being on the top of it can be a bit frightening. There is a road going all the way down and then up again, where is interesting to drive a car!

What's really great:
The Zêzere River.
The Zêzere River.
In this region, Zêzere River makes several “U” on its way (“meandros”). From up in the mountains the view of Zêzere way is beautiful. You can find here several wild animals. It’s also possible to see Serra da Estrela (the highest mountain in continental Portugal, where starts Zêzere).

Everywhere around, the (noisy) silence and the good smell of the air make you feel great – especially for those who use to live in big cities.

Inside the village, the schist and rolled stones houses are great. There are two or three some small ways between some houses, known as “quelhos”. In some of them, I think big people can’t cross!

Sights:
canoeing in Zêzere River
canoeing in Zêzere River
Just walk around in the center of the village. You wont get lost. Visit the Weavers’ House, “Casa das Tecedeiras” (see the hangouts section). Pay attention to the local people, say good afternoon to everyone you cross in the street (“Boa tarde!”).

You can practice canoeing here. Look for “Grau 5” tour operator; they organize journeys with canoeing, down hill, jeep journeys, and other stuff.

There are some nice rocks in Janeiro de Baixo and in Barragem de Santa Luzia. Nearby JC there’s a good spot to hike, but I haven’t been there, I just heard about it.

Accommodations:
one room from Casa de Janeiro.
one room from Casa de Janeiro.
Casa de Janeiro and Casa da Pedra Rolada are the two rural accommodation options here, both resulting from the recuperation of old schist and river-stone houses. In both of them you can rent only a room or the whole house, both options include the use of the kitchen.

If you want something cheaper, you can stay in the camping park of Janeiro de Baixo, but it’s better to check before if they have any free space (to camp or to stay in the bungalows), as this camping park is very small.

Nightlife:
The small dam in JC. Right before the dam is the fluvial beach of the village.
The small dam in JC. Right before the dam is the fluvial beach of the village.
The best place is the Passadiço Bar (or simply Bar do Américo, the owner’s name). It’s an old schist and river-stone house that was recuperated by the owner. That house has an exterior connection with another house, Passadiço in Portuguese, from where the name comes. It has a fireplace that makes it a perfect place in the winter. This is the best place to meet people from the village.
You’ll find the prices here much cheaper than in the cities.

You have some other bars (not exactly bar, it’s a kind of place where drinks are served and where local people play cards in the weekends: “tasca”, in Portuguese), my favourite one is Costa (you have to ask around)!

In the summer opens a bar in the fluvial beach (“Bar do Rio”).

Hangouts:
View of Janeiro de Cima and its location.
View of Janeiro de Cima and its location.
In the Weavers’ House you can see the workers making line and wool stuff. Nowadays, they use brand new looms, but there is also an old one (some people in the village keep using this ones at their homes) just for showing to the visitors. There you also have all the instruments used in the last years to prepare the line (nowadays nobody there keeps doing that). In this place you can buy the products made by the weavers.

On the 20th of January there’s a great popular party – São Sebastião. Everyone from the village goes to its highest place (where is the chapel of the Saint Sebastian), and stay there all day long, eating and drinking. It’s like a big picnic! But what makes it so special is the big walk from the main church to the chapel, carrying the saint, big and white bags with bread inside and 5L bottles of wine. The bread and the wine will be given to all the people in the picnic, as a result of a popular promise made a long time ago.

Restaurants:
View of the region (with Barragem de Santa Luzia).
View of the region (with Barragem de Santa Luzia).
Fiado is the only restaurant in Janeiro de Cima. The restaurant is great, with a schist patio, which is connected with the one from Casa de Janeiro.
About the food, you have to try the bread made of “bacalhau” (code fish), and “maranhos”! Maranhos is the best food here (rice, different kinds of meat and herbs, cooked inside the stomach of some animal).

In the villages around you have other options; the better ones are in Fajão and in the villages in Serra da Lousã.

I think there’s also a restaurant in Barragem de Santa Luzia, the artificial lake nearby.

About supermarkets, you have three in Janeiro de Cima, where you can buy everything but fresh fish. But twice per week comes this car selling good fresh fish. You can buy local made honey in the Weavers’ House.

Other recommendations:
The poster from Fotoxisto exhibitions.
The poster from Fotoxisto exhibitions.
Visit the website from “fotoxisto” (http://fotoxisto.aldeiasdoxisto.pt/inde-x.html). This is a project by which a group of inhabitants from 10 schist villages took pictures from what they like most in their villages, or from their everyday life scene. The pictures where then treated by a photographer, the best ones were showed in several exhibitions in this region and are presented in this site.

If you visit Portugal without the opportunity to visit the schist villages but still you are interested in, you can find their products in the shops “Loja da Aldeia”. At the moment this report was written, the only one outside the villages was in Lisbon.

Published on Tuesday April 10th, 2007


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Sun, May 06 2007 - 06:45 AM rating by marianne

Carla,
Excellent report and unusual info. Well done

Fri, Apr 20 2007 - 08:50 AM rating by davidx

I love what I've seen in Portugal and I shall be happy to add this to my wish list; excellent report

Wed, Apr 18 2007 - 07:37 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

wonderful report ,nice pictures in it.

Tue, Apr 17 2007 - 09:37 PM rating by eirekay

Carla, terrific report! You have some marvelous descriptions! Terrific photos too!

Wed, Apr 11 2007 - 12:18 AM rating by shalini_md

Was an interesting read.

Tue, Apr 10 2007 - 09:04 PM rating by rangutan

Nice report!

Tue, Apr 10 2007 - 04:28 PM rating by mistybleu

Reminiscent of a simpler life; some nice pictures as well.

Amanda

Tue, Apr 10 2007 - 11:14 AM rating by jorgesanchez

É um reportagem muito bonito e interesante. Obrigadinho.

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