Portugal is the westernmost country of mainland Europe. It is one of the oldest independent countries in Europe, having been founded as a kingdom in 1139.
Portuguese language is closely related to and mutually intelligible with Galician, spoken in the north-western corner of Spain. Portuguese evolved from Galician during the Reconquista, the medieval reconquest over the Moors. In 868, Galician warlords founded the County of Portugal in the region of Porto. It progressively expanded south, then split from the Kingdom of Galicia. Portugal was born.
The Portuguese Empire was the first global empire in history and the longest-lived of the modern European colonial empires. The empire spread throughout a vast number of territories that are now part of 53 different sovereign states. Nowadays, Portuguese is spoken by nearly 250 million people, most of whom are native speakers. There are a dozen dialects of Portugese spoken in Portugal, including the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira.
The immense wealth brought by the colonial golden age contributed to the edification of sumptuous public buildings, churches and other monuments, especially in Lisbon, although much of it was lost. On 1 November 1755, the Portuguese capital was was struck by one of the most powerful earthquakes in recorded history, with an estimated magnitude of 9.0 on the Richter scale, followed by a massive tsunami. Lisbon was completely destroyed, and subsequently rebuilt. This single event brought an abrupt end to the Portuguese golden age, and some people claim that Portugal never really recovered.
Portuguese cities and architecture differs a lot from that of Spain. Portuguese houses are typically painted in white, yellow or blue. Many houses, especially in the region of Porto, are decorated with blue azulejos - tin-glazed ceramic tiles inherited from the Moors.
Famous people from Portugal include (chronologically): the navigators and explorers Bartolomeu Dias, Vasco da Gama, Pedro Álvares Cabral and Ferdinand Magellan, the poet Luís de Camões, the writer José Maria de Eça de Queiroz, the Nobel Prize winning neurologist António Egas Moniz, the Nobel Prize winning novelist José Saramago, and the footballer Cristiano Ronaldo.