Gondramaz, Serra da Lousã, Portugal
Gondramaz is a ‘schist village’ (the name derives from the stone used in the construction of the houses, which is abundant in the area) situated on the western slope of Serra da Lousã, surrounded by forest, including chestnut and oak trees. Schist is a type of crystalline, metamorphic stone, easily split, creating a flat surface, making it suitable material to create weatherproof buildings.
Gondramaz is one of 27 schist villages spread across the Lousã and Açor ranges, that have been, or are in the process of, being restored. Many schist villages were abandoned due to their isolated locations, with younger residents moving to more accessible towns and cities. The refurbishment project has not only improved the lives of village residents and encouraged people to move back to the villages, but also provided a focus for tourism. We arrived at Gondramaz by car, weaving up the side of the mountain.
The village is arranged around the main street, with a network of narrow lanes leading from this. Gondramaz has three permanent residents, one who has lived in the village all her life.
There is one restaurant in the village, open only at weekends during the low season. Some of the buildings have been converted into hotels, the village is a popular with hikers and mountain bikers. Gondramaz is known for stone sculpture, which, if you look carefully at some of the photos, you will see dotted around the village.
Castelo de Lousã, also known as Arouce Castel, sits on the bank of the River Arouce. Castles tend to be built on high ground, however this castle was part of the defences created in the 11th century, to control the southern access to Coimbra.