17 Nov 2023 Opinions Trips

The Leading Quality Trails Meeting in the Historical Villages of Portugal

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In November, we attended the annual meeting of ERA (European Ramblers' Association) in the Historical Villages of Portugal.

Just minutes ago, the importance of having some in-person meetings and, in contrast, the importance of keeping them hybrid, allowing those who are far away to participate, even if in a limited way, was being discussed in the Rota Vicentina WhatsApp group. For years, I’ve been trying to strengthen relationships with some collaborative networks in Portugal, but the truth is, for us and for them, time never seems to be enough.

Not even for a Zoom meeting. But time multiplies infinitely when it has quality, and on this matter, it’s hard to convince me otherwise.

The Historical Villages of Portugal hosted the 5th Leading Quality Trails – Best of Europe meeting these days.

This is a quality certification awarded by the main regulatory entity in the world of trails in Europe, the ERA (European Rambles Association). Not by chance, the management of this certification is done in partnership with the German Federation, and in Portugal, only two routes are certified—precisely the Historical Way of Rota Vicentina (GR11) and, officially, as of a few days ago, the GR22 of the Historical Villages.

There were plenty of reasons, so I participated in this meeting with my colleague Irene Nunes, responsible for Walking Trails and Volunteering at Rota Vicentina. It’s true that the previous week I realized I had several pending tasks and very tight deadlines, but the commitment was made, and we went.

The program was demanding and tight, hopping between villages, trails, and the LQT brand. The result was an immense inspiration. The region is magnificent; I don’t know it well and became eager to explore it further, with time and much calmness. Everything fascinates me, especially at this time of year—the colors, the moss, the mountains, the forests, the stone villages, the castles, the walls in the fields, the flora so different from what I’m used to, and also the fauna.

We saw a group of griffon vultures perched on a rock at the top of a hill, so large and imposing that it was hard to believe they were not sculptures. Beautiful, majestic, the lions of the air. Anyway, the villages are more beautiful than one can conceive, everything taken care of with such sensitivity, good taste, and a sense of responsibility. And the trails! We walked a little, but what we did was enough to want to come back and walk more!

For my colleagues from Centro of Portugal: I know that not everything is perfect, of course, I don’t intend to paint a real picture here, just an impression from a few days. What matters to me is to feel the potential, to understand that there is another piece of land in our country that can be infinitely stunning if we have the ability to manage it with all the pressures that will come, or maybe have already come. It was good to share so many moments with our European colleagues in the good Beira manner, at the table and with a glass of wine. Above all, it was really good to feel the human warmth, the pride of those who welcome so well. To Dalila, Duarte, Mário, and the whole team, a thank you as big as the grandeur of the Historical Villages and the warm welcome of Beiras. I hope to be back soon to get to know a little more!

And yes, there are moments to turn off the screens and be together. Life and work are made with people, and not feeling them, after several moments in chats or on Zoom, is the beginning of the end of the human ability to empathize.

We need hugs, laughter, side stories, and shared emotions. If working with collaborative networks and tourism doesn’t bring us that, then I don’t see where we are heading.

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Marta Cabral

Nasceu em Lisboa no ano de 1975. Na Associação Rota Vicentina assume o papel de Presidente da Direcção. Nos tempos livres, gosta de caminhar, andar de bicicleta, ler, yoga, silêncio e festas!

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