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Portuguese culture: your own private junk yard

I once worked for a portuguese estate agency. That was in the Dreamtime, when we were still dreaming of a better future in Portugal. Working for the agency was an excellent introduction to the portuguese culture.

What I found striking then, and what has changed a lot in the 20 years that we now live here, is the cleanliness of the front of a house, and the junk yard you’d find at the back. The estate agent dealt in “rústico”, so we crossed half the country to look at (often dilapidated) country houses.

There were still a lot of those houses then, nice at the front, a junk yard at the back

I learned to pay attention to small holes in the wood: woodworm. Give them time, and they’ll eat your whole house. If there are tiny mounds of powder, you really have to pay attention, because then they’re still alive, and they are busy digging their jagged tunnels through the wood. I also learned to pay attention to the size of the mountain of junk at the back. A little bit is okay, but if it’s really a mountain of garbage, it gets the price down. Historically, they’re very interesting. As if you’re escavating roman ruins.

The smaller houses also had their peculiarities.

They were often detached houses in or just outside a small village. Very rustic. It was, and still is, a popular way of life among the upper classes of society. A house outside for the weekends and the days off (and there were a lot of them at the time as well), and a house in the city because it’s practical for work.

The detached houses category in particular had very interesting outbuildings at the back, full of broken kitchen appliances, old tractors and wrecked chairs. Everything that was no longer needed ended up there. A kind of mini private junk yard. And sometimes not so mini.

I now know why that is, that private junk yard

You have to get rid of your superfluous stuff somewhere!

Over the years we have had our share of superfluousness. What are you doing with that rubbish? Where do you leave it? At the time it was custom to leave it in the forest, if you didn’t have a back yard. Also the debris of a renovation, or your broken fridge.

Of course I don’t think leaving something more then your footprint in the forest is an option. So, we created our own mountain of junk; after all, we have the space. Improvisation can also help: a broken fridge without a door can still serve as a cupboard in the workshop. Chairs and sofas that have been replaced by better went into a still empty house, we didn’t renovate yet.

A while ago a few old men came by and asked about junk like scrap-metal and old car batteries

They saw the old donkey cart and the swing couches in the garage. “Ah! Great!” I showed them right away all the rubble, litter, garbage, waste, junk, broken stuff and whatnot. They wanted to take everything; the broken boiler, a dented extra bed, they even wanted to take the broken lawn mower! That’s a small tractor, and they managed to get it in their van.

Awesome! A spontaneous big cleaning. I always knew it would have to go to the Ecoponto one day, but I only have a normal car, you really can’t get a swing seat in there, not to mention a two-hundred-liter water heater.

With the help of Europe, there now are these “leave-your-junk”-places everywhere in the municipality of Soure. If you have transportation you can leave everything there, sorted by category.

The best way, of course, is what happened to us this week – old men passing by who come by to pick up your junk. The only thing is: they come at random, and calling them on the phone is no use. They have their own schedule.

Years of renovating and running a B&B gives quite some junk. And once it’s on your own private dump, you could leave it there for ever.

So we have space again…. for the next mountain of junk?


We moved here in 2000 from Rotterdam, Holland to the Termas-da-Azenha, Portugal.

A big step, especially with two small children.

We are busy to rebuild one of portugals cultural heirlooms: Termas-da-Azenha, an old spa which has been turned into several holiday houses, rooms and a campsite.

You’ll find mosaics and paintings everywhere.

Since 2018 we call ourselves the first B&B&B in the world – Bed & Breakfast & Bathrobes. You can buy a home-made unique bathrobe/housecoat with us.

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