A Visit to Tomar: what it means to live in a community

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April 16, 2015 by What Is A Name After All?

Going to Tomar, I thought I would be in a fossilized, anachronistic boring place, but found myself being surprised by a lively town, full of young people walking around and chatting in restaurants with terraces. This town has a unusual ability to blend harmoniously what’s old and what’s new: traditional Café Paraíso who used to host balls is now harboring fresh faces and playing young trendy songs. There are tattoo shops and new cafes, but the sight of the Convento de Cristo keeps an aura of the past, so that there is always the memory of the Templars and Tomar’s History.

Tradition is not lost. Everyone is excited because the festa dos tabuleiros is coming and it only happens every four years. An unbelievable amount of visitors will come to see and even some Portuguese artists like Amor Electro will perform. It is the greatest event that Tomar hosts and they face it with extreme excitement and responsibility. We can see people everywhere making the tabuleiros and other one’s make paper flowers to decorate the windows. There is a clear pride in everyone for being part of this. A woman forging the crown of the tabuleiro, told me right away how everything was done and even told me a bit about herself (“I learnt it all only by looking at my father. When I was little, I admired him a lot and was curious about what he was doing so now that he’s gone, I feel I am continuing his job.” she said).

The inhabitants of Tomar are very helpful and praise curiosity. When I expressed interest in seeing an art gallery, there was immediately a young lady who led me there through the narrow streets of Tomar, greeting and talking briefly to most people – young and old – who passed by. And what I found most pleasant was that this lady did not simply say “good afternoon” but talked like she knew personally everyone she addressed to. She asked things like how’s the daughter and if the problem with the finances has been solved, etc.

The gossipy and whisperous aspect of a small location can be found there as well, specially with the older generations. I went to visit an 92 years-old family friend and, although she never leaves her house, she knows everything about everyone and makes her job to tell it in a quite passionate way. It is quite enjoyable and comical. She is also extremely excited and engaged in the event that got Tomar massively enthusiastic. She said she will make approximately five hundred and sixty paper flowers. She is also very skillful in sewing and always has a sewed cloth for me with fruits, flowers or birds. “Tell me honestly my dear, do you like it?” she asks every time, “Yes, yes!” I lie vehemently. It makes her happy. I believe I now have more or less thirty of those.

In Tomar, I felt I was in a real community in the true meaning of that word. People are open-minded and new seems to be good. There is no anachronistic rejection of different styles and there are modern art galleries but the old monuments and traditions are still praised, showing how everyone coexists in a rather open-minded and modern way. The personal connections between the people are truly remarkable and have no comparison to the disconnected individuals living separate lives here in Lisbon.

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