The village of Caracol is situated alongside and parallel to the main road from Góis, just before Várzea Grande (Vila Nova do Ceira). Most of the houses that sit on the gently sloping hillside. are recently built or renovated. The village runs without a marked boundary into Varzea Grande on the top road, and on the main road the boundary is marked with the adjoining village of Fonte de Soito. On the other side of the main road is the Extensão de Saúde (Health Centre Annexe). The large building alongside the Extensão de Saúde was once a private house that was bought by Comendador Monteiro Bastos after his return from Brazil in the 19th century. Comendador Monteiro Bastos later became President of the Câmara of Góis, and he converted the building into a hospital and donated it to the Câmara. For this he was awarded the “Ordem de Cristo” medal by King Carlos in 1881. Later the hospital was turned into a TB sanatorium, then into a holiday centre for young people, and then a day care centre for the elderly.
Today it stands empty. A little way out of the village is the chapel in honor of Sr.ª da Boa Morte. Until a few years ago, the villagers of Caracol used to hold their annual festa at the chapel in the month of November. Now the chapel appears overgrown and unused.
The fields above and below the village, down to the river Ceira, were at one time all cultivated. The main crop was maize, but they also grew rye and wheat. The fungus “cornecho” (we think this is ergot) that sometimes grew on the rye, was sold to a trader from Poiares.
The day we went to the village people were busy harvesting their grapes.
An elderly local inhabitant told us that as a child he and his friends used to go to play in the lower part of the old TB sanatorium, where there was a wine cellar, and an old vehicle with wooden spokes to the wheels like a cart. They used to sit in the vehicle (this may have been an old ambulance) turning the steering wheel and tooting the horn, pretending to drive it.
At Carnival time the villagers used to perform the game called “cantar as pulhas”. One or more people hid in a place called ‘Barreiras do Boiço’ and, with help of a funnel as loudspeaker, told all the secrets and rumours and events that had occurred in the village during the last year.
During the festas of St.º António, São João and São Pedro they used to erect a pole in the middle of the square outside the chapel, decorated with myrtle, and people would dance around it. Sometimes the local celebrity, the “Cego de Sacões” (the blind man of Sacões) would come to the festas to play his accordion. We were told that he managed to come alone to the village, accompanied by a dog, a bell and a wheel that was fixed on a wooden stick that was held against his shoulder, called a “carreta”.
The name ‘Caracol’, incidentally, means ‘snail’ – but although we asked several residents if they knew how the village came by this name, unfortunately no-one could tell us!