Wandering around modern Fátima and its commercial zone, I’m impressed by how it mirrors my image of a medieval pilgrim zone: oodles of picnic benches, endless parking, and desolate toilets for the masses. Just beyond the church, 30 stalls lining a mall await the monthly onslaught on the 13th. Even without any business, old ladies still watch over their booths, surrounded by trinkets for pilgrims--including gaudy, wax body parts and rosaries that will be blessed after Mass and taken home to remember Our Lady of Fátima.
Vivid memories of Portugal--whether heavenly sweets or slick new freeways--are abundant in this country with one foot in the past and one in the future.
Rick Steves (www.ricksteves.com) writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to him c/o P.O. Box 2009, Edmonds, WA 98020.
© 2010 Rick Steves