About Tomar

About Tomar

There are heroic tales aplenty, in Portugal. Tales of indomitable people, resisting and fighting with unbreakable courage; countless episodes of a fiercely independent character, which will rather break than bend. Tomar had its share of fights, of valorous knights, of successful and failed sieges, and it was taken by force now and again. If one is to look with the distance that time affords, though, the history of the city seems to be marked rather by an uncanny ability to adequate itself to the surrounding circumstances. Adaptation became the form of resistance that Tomar developed. It is not a matter of complacency or lack of spine. We would dare say that it is a blend of survival instinct and of the laziness that comes with comfort. For who would find fault, indeed, in such a beautiful and meek valley, so decorously courting the river that runs through it? Fim Cap 1 Which values would justify sacrificing such a pleasant mode of existence? Not that many, apparently. And so the city developed a kind of aloof cosmopolitanism, welcoming all while knowing that time would take upon itself the task of sorting out those who were eligible to belong and those who, being in love with novelty and seeking excitement, would quickly be satiated of the perennial and timeless way of being of Tomar. If the city doesn’t seem to believe that something must change so that everything must remain the same, it does seem to embrace the idea that everything must remain the same in the event of a change. It’s not (just?) conservatism, it’s a particular kind of contentment. Its joints may hurt from all the bending but luckily, both for us and for you, not that much has been broken.

Go up to the Convent and look down at the city, from there: the relationship that Tomar maintains with power becomes transparent. Apparently uninterested, with occasional darting glances, the city resembles a child who, daring to widen the area where it plays, is still cautious not to go beyond the limits defined by those in charge. Tomar is not “in the shadow” of the power projected by the Castle’s walls, it is rather ad latere, parallel to it, in a not-so-Latin familiarity where one doesn’t really touch another. Even the many and beautiful symbols that the secular and religious powers have built throughout the city have been appropriated or reclaimed by Tomar’s way of being – so much so that they end up being symbols of that, rather than of the powers which erected them.

Charming as the historical center of the city is, it’s well worth it to explore the area of the city with a less lengthy history (it would be misleading to call it “new”, in a place like Tomar). One can see, there, the faces that the city imagined for itself: there are no raptures or flights of fancy, just this solid (and uninspired, once in a while, we’ll grant that) attachment to a “normal” life. And there, too, one can witness how convenient the scale of the city is, how easy to navigate, how easy to manage one’s time so that one can stop at a café for a little breather whenever one feels like it. There is a palpable tranquility, in Tomar, and something different in the way time seems to pass, as if outside of time. If you try hard enough, you can manage to have a tiresome day in the city – but there’s no way around it: Tomar is perfectly suited for the craft of resting.

The city doesn’t create much but it gets things done properly. Aside from the sweets, there isn’t really a genuine ‘typical dish’ in Tomar’s gastronomical tradition – but all the cooking is careful, generous and talented. Tomar does the best it can. Could it do more? Probably, but the prevailing spirit is the do one’s best in whatever there is to be done. That’s also why the city organizes the Tabuleiros Festival every four years, instead of annually: so that it can be properly done. That is, if you want, the excessive underbelly of this otherwise apparently orderly city: the degree of committal, the pure expenditure in its dedication to what there is to be done, be it decorating a street with paper flowers, making sausages, roasting a lamb, manufacturing paper or the special pots to bake the Fatias de Tomar.