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One of the most inventive characters of the 18th century must surely have been Bartolomeu Lourenço de Gusmão, the Brazilian-born genius who created the earliest known flying machine he christened the Passarola, a fire-powered aircraft which he showcased to Portugal's king and queen in Lisbon's Terreiro do Paço square on the 8th of August 1709.
Surrounded by vineyards, orchards and pine-forests, the charming city of Viseu has been a major crossroads since the time of the Romans who chose its site for a military camp, one of the largest in the Iberian Peninsula. Traditionally, it is also the birthplace of Viriatus the Lusitanian who died in 146 BC after defying the Roman legions for five years before the Roman Decimus Junius Brutus established the camp there in 138 BC.
When visitors arrive in Lisbon's historical centre of Belém, the first building they see is the imposing Jerónimos Monastery, impressive for its sheer size and without doubt one of the most spectacular monuments in the whole of Europe.
With its colourful vistas, wide-open roads and dazzling whitewashed villages, the great expanse of the Alentejo is perhaps the most vivid of Portugal’s landscapes. Occupying nearly a third of the mainland, the region is most dazzling in springtime when wild flowers saturate the lush meadows and pastures.
One of Lisbon's lesser-known but extremely pleasant tourist attractions is Estufa Fria, formerly known as the Winter Garden, a horticultural wonderland of tropical plants and flowers hidden away in the north-west corner of the city's centrally-located Edward the Seventh Park (Parque Eduardo VII).
Having existed as a country for almost nine centuries, Portugal is one of the oldest places in Europe with strong traces of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic culture to be seen across the land. Most notable of these are the collective tombs cut out of the rock at Palmela, Cascais and Alapraia near Estoril.