Travelling Portugal - March & April 2018

So I am in Portugal now, and I have about 6 weeks to see every corner of the country.

 

> click on the pictures to enjoy them in fullscreen!

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Nordeste

Furnas is located in a historically active volcanic complex.  In and around the village there are springs and fumaroles, each of differing temperatures and chemical compositions, including warm iron-rich streams and piped examples of mineral-rich warm and cold water. Go and watch some videos about the fumaroles, it's awesome how the water or mud boils in those pools and it smells like sulfur in the whole town! In the first picture you can see the valley of Furnas, in the second the crater-lake Lagoa das Furnas. The "molehills" that are visible at the end of the gallery are actually holes for underground cooking. The most famous kind of food made there is sweet bread called Bolo Levedo.

oh my. The Azores stole my heart. To be more exact: São Miguel, the main island, where I landed early in the morning and made my way along the south coast. My mind was totally blown when I entered a black beach for the first time, saw the crystal clear but yet bright blue sea and the cute colorful villages. The funny thing about this island is: you can cross it north-south in about half an hour by car, while east-west it would take 2-3 hours. So from the south coast I went up to Lagoa do Fogo, a vulcano lake, and further north to the coast until i reached the small town of Maia, where I slept in an abandoned villa for the whole week.

Èvora is surrounded by a dozen of medieval castles. On my 39th day in Portugal, Camila, Philipp and I went to visit probably the cutest of them all: Èvoramonte!

After the surfcamp, Philipp joined my plans to go to the university city Évora. We got to stay with Camila, a lovely girl from Brazil doing her Erasmus here. She showed us around a bit and told us a lot about her home country and how studying in Portugal is like.

Èvora is a small town in the heart of Portugal. It is historically important and besides a Roman Temple you can admire a medieval cathedral + cloisters there. 

After a more or less successfull surfclass in Arrifana, I wanted to show the boys the awesome beach of Carrepeteira, that I discovered with Jakob the week before. I think they enjoyed it a lot, and I enjoyed some new views of the town itself!

After arriving at the surfcamp at the south western coast I decided to check out the sea-views from there. After a to or three hours of climbing and stunning I got home pretty soaked from a storm that suddenly had come up, but not less impressed by nature's beauty.

I could capture some interesting angles of Lagos while a storm was coming up.

All beaches are beautiful! Especially those around Lagos.

On the (unfortunately unsuccessful) hunt for the iconic Benagil Cave we passed Praia de Benagil and Praia da Marinha (the one with the two-arched gate). After seeing so much sand it felt like a necessarity to be back in an urban landscape for a change, so we drove up to the small town of Silves. But because sunsets are so much nicer at the beach, we drove back down to the coast and hit Praia da Falésia as the last stop of this mini roadtrip.

On my 24th day in Portugal we visited Praia da Bordeira, which has a tiny desert, later the south-western tip of Europe Sagres, and for the sunset we found just a random beach with a name that I forgot.

Praia de Odeceixe: an unpronouncable name and unbelieveably wild cliffs!

From the cold north to the sunny south: joined by Jakob for a few days, I had four days full of cliffs, beaches and the wild sea. That day we saw, in chronological order: Praia do Malhão, Praia do Tonel, Praia da Amália

Going further north I came to Gerês, the only national park in Portugal. It is full of waterfalls and blue lakes, which I was able to find thanks to Silva, who is a local in the north and drove us around in his Jeep to show us the most beautiful spots.

Livraria Lello in Porto is one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal and frequently rated among the top bookstores in the world. The interior is marked by a forked staircase connecting to a gallery on the first floor with detailed wood balusters.

Over this staircase is a large 8 by 3.5 metres stained glass window, with the central motto Decus in Labore and monogram of the owners. The ceiling and interiors are treated exhaustively with painted plaster, designed to resemble sculpted wood surfaces and decorative elements.

Note to Harry Potter Fans: The bookstore was frequented by JK Rowling when she taught English in Porto and is reported to be an inspiration for her writing.

In the afternoon I left Porto and continued to go north, to the town of Guimar
ãesFounded in the 4th century, it became the first capital of Portugal in the 12th century. Its historic centre is an extremely well preserved and an authentic example of the evolution of a medieval settlement into a modern town.

The charming town Aveiro, next to the sea and the ria, is crossed by a network of channels. It's occasionally dubbed the Venice of Portugal because of that. You can't see that in my pictures as I didn't have that feeling at all, but I didn't find it less lovely.

 Most famous is problably the beach area of the city called Praia da Costa Nova. The streets there are flanked by picturesque striped beach houses and also sand dunes can be found there. In the older part (Praia da Barra) there is an impressively high lighthouse, and the minimalistic 20th century architecture of the houses is dominating the scenery, giving the whole area a nice Wes Anderson look.

Foggy Porto, you got the love!

After spending the night and most of the following day surrounded by snow, it is obviously a good idea to enjoy the sunset at a beach called 'the desert' in Figuera da Foz. This was day 12:

Burned down forests, waterfalls and snow: this is Serra da Estrela, a mountain rage in the east of the country. I was able to explore that area thanks to Fernando, who I met through couchsurfing. He loves the mountains and made an excellent adventure guide!

Day 10. Coimbra is all about the university: Situated on a hill overlooking the city, the University has grown and evolved over more than seven centuries to form its own well-defined urban area of two components within the old town of Coimbra. Created initially as an academy in the late 13th century on the hill above the town, it was established in the Royal Palace of Alcáçova in 1537 before developing as a series of colleges. Coimbra University is an exceptional example of a university city, which illustrates the interdependence between city and university and in which the city’s architectural language reflects the university’s institutional functions.

It seems obvious that a nerd like me has to visit all of the World Heritage sights, so I also went to the third of the big monasterys in this area: the Convent of Crist in Tomar. 

Originally a 12th-century Templar stronghold, the order was dissolved in the 14th century the Portuguese branch was turned into the Knights of the Order of Christ, that later supported Portugal's maritime discoveries of the 15th century. Built over the span of five centuries, the Convent of Christ is a testimony to an architecture combining Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Renaissance, Mannerist and Baroque elements. The Convent’s centrepiece is its 12th century rotunda, Oratory of the Templars, influenced by Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre Rotunda. It was based on a polygonal ground plan of 16 bays including an octagonal choir with ambulatory: this is one of the typical "rotondas" of Templar architecture of which few examples are still extant in Europe. The paintings and frescos depicting mainly 16th century biblical scenes, as well as the gilt statuary under the Byzantine dome were carefully restored. When the Manueline church was built, it was connected to the rotunda by an arcade.

On the way to Coimbra there is the ancient Roman settlement Conímbriga, which is one of the largest excavated ones in Portugal. It  consists of various structures such as a forum, basilica and commercial shops, thermal spas, aqueducts, insulae, homes of various heights (including interior patios) and domus (such as the Casa dos Repuxos and Casa de Cantaber), in addition to paleo-Christian basilica. 

The Alcobaça Monastery was founded in the medieval period by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriques, in 1153, and maintained a close association with the Kings of Portugal throughout its history. The church and monastery were the first Gothic buildings in Portugal, and, together with the Monastery of Santa Cruz in Coimbra, it was one of the most important of the mediaeval monasteries in Portugal. The Alcobaça Monastery was built following an early Gothic style, and represents the arrival of this style in Portugal. Following the precepts of the Order of Cistercians, the original monastic buildings were built under clean architectonic lines, without any decoration apart from some capital sculpture and a statue of the Virgin Mary. 

The kitchen of the monastery was built and covered with tiles in the mid-18th century. The central chimney is enormous, supported by eight iron columns. Water and fresh fish were diverted from the river Alcoa to the kitchen basin through a specially built canal.

The Monastery of Batalha was erected in commemoration of the 1385 Battle of Aljubarrota, and would serve as the burial church of the 15th-Century Aviz dynasty of Portuguese royalty. It is one of the best and original examples of Late Gothic architecture in Portugal, intermingled with the Manueline style. It took over a century and the efforts of fifteen architects to build, starting in 1386 and ending circa 1517.

One outstanding part of the building is the funeral chapel of the founder. The chapel's floor plan consists of an octagonal space inserted in a square, creating two separate volumes that combine most harmoniously. The ceiling consists of an eight-point star-shaped lantern. The most dramatic feature is to be found in the centre of the chapel: the enormous medieval tomb of Dom João I and his wife, Queen Philippa of Lancaster. Bays in the chapel walls contain the tombs of their sons, among them Prince Henry the Navigator.

OH SINTRA! Take a train going west fom Lisbon and whithin 40 minutes you can find this hotchpotch of great castles, a cute and tiny oldtown and rich nature. I went to see the Quinta da Regaleira, which is a castle classified as a World Heritage Site. The property consists an amazing palace and chapel, and a huge park that features lakes, grottos, wells, fountains, and a vast array of amusing constructions. The palave is also known as "The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire", which is based on the nickname of its best known former owner António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro. It is a magical place and perfect to get lost in the gardens or the Initiation Well, which is an inverted tower laying in the ground.

On the 4th day I went back to Belém to visit in the Jeronimos Monastery, which is a prime example of Manueline architecture (and to have one of the famous Belém Tarte). Commissioned by King Manuel 1st, the construction began 1501 and was completed almost 100 years later.
The Church is breathtakingly beautiful with is vast high arched ceiling held up by octagonal pillars. A spider’s web of carving weaves across the vaulted ceiling. The pillars themselves are intricately carved with a variety of motifs. In the Church you will also find the tomb of Vasco de Gama.
The monastery is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world. As in the church, almost every surface is ornately carved with everything from planets and animals, the Virtues, nautical and religious themes. Look hard and you will even find sea monsters!

One of my highlights of the third day was definitely the Carmo Church. This amazing gothic monument was finished in 1423. It was the biggest church in the area until an earthquake took it down in 1755. Reconstructed, it now houses the Archaeological Carmo Museum. I also enjoyed the beautiful coloured Romanesque styled rose-window of Sé Cathedral as well as the view from the St George's Castle.

Belém is a district of Lisbon and it contains a lot of museums and historic sights, such as the Jerónimos Monastery and the Tower of Belém. I think looking at these pictures it's obvious that I liked the architecture a lot:

Day 1 I spent in Lisbon and Cascais, a little town 30km west of Lisbon. In the company of my couchsurfing host Shivam I experienced the beautiful architecture and powerful sea. A lovely way to start this adventure!