"When truth and compassion part ways, follow compassion." ~ Unknown

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Castles and their spiders

Walking in Sintra
One of the coolest things about Lisbon is all the medieval castles, palaces and other historic sites open to the public for a minimal fee. Each is fascinating in its own right but our favorites were in Sintra, part of the greater Lisbon area. Sintra has such a rich history that the town itself is a World Heritage Site. We got there twice, one day exploring the Pena National Palace and Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors) and the next Quinta da Regaleira and the Sintra National Palace.

The inverted tower
Of those, it's hard to pick which is my favorite. OK. Quinta de Regaleira, otherwise known as "The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire". Monteiro was a true eccentric, a lover of esoterica, the occult, science and nature all brought together with incredible theatrical detail at his estate which is also a World Heritage Site.

Duck pond from a cavern passageway
For us, wonderful as it is, the palace was second to the grounds surrounding it. It's full of exotic trees and plants, paths and ponds, wonderful stone carvings, statues, grottoes, caverns and towers, even strange inverted towers and underground passageways all a collaboration between Monteiro and the great Italian set designer and architect Luigi Manini. After traipsing around the tunnels, we decided they were part of a structure built to look like a mountain rather than tunnels actually dug into one, i.e. a theatre set. All the better.

Minerva at Quinta da Regaleira
We had great fun discovering a few of the more obscure, darker, wetter places between the inverted towers. As for the towers themselves, built into the ground rather that rising above it,  whatever they symbolize, the nine levels of hell, purgatory and/or rebirth, Monteiro's day in they were the scene of secretive Tarot initiation rites and other esoteric ceremonies, and probably augmented with a selection of the world's then finest psychedelics. We did, of course, walk the nine levels and grope our way through as many secret passageways and subterranean grottoes as we could find. I'm not sure we achieved esoteric rebirth but, for my part, I'll settle for none of the resident big black spiders coming away with me in my hair.

Swami on the balcony
The Secret Buddha
of Castelo dos Mouros
In the last two weeks, we also visited museums, the best being the Musea Berardo in Belem, walked through several medieval cathedrals and ate far too many pastéis de nata, Portuguese egg tarts. Decidedly, the best are in Belém but I will say no more. I think it best you come here to decided for yourself. Also we just walked, as is our custom. The narrow, winding, slippery cobblestone streets definitely fit my medieval fantasy. And, as Lisbon is built on seven hills, we walked up and down a helluva lot of narrow, winding slippery cobblestone stairs, including the four flights of narrow, steep, potentially slippery stairs in our charming centuries old apartment building in the Alfama. And after a long day, we also climbed the final fifth flight to our bedroom where we crashed each night like felled trees. My legs are decidedly stronger. Of course, there are more photos at flickr and more to come. It's just that it all takes time. Now we leave for Madrid where, among other things, we must visit the Museo del Prado.


Roy said...

The whole place seems bizarre. I would love to go there some time and see this stuff.

asha said...

It is and I hope you do.