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Portugal is one of the most inexpensive and fascinating destinations in Europe. It has a rich seafaring past, superb beach resorts, wistful towns and cities, and a landscape wreathed in olive groves, vineyards and wheat fields. Four decades of dictatorship sidelined the country from modern progress and Europe's power centres, but like its neighbour, Spain, it has spent much of the last 20 years trying to move in from the periphery, forging new ties with the rest of Europe, restructuring its economy, and struggling to maintain what is best in its national culture despite the sudden onslaught of international influences. The struggle between the traditional and the modern continues, and as Portugal flows towards the economic mainstream of the European Union, it still seems to gaze nostalgically over its shoulder and out to sea.

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