Continental Portugal was not unknown to me until two weeks ago. I have always heard about how amazingly beautiful it is. One of my Brazilian colleagues once told a Portuguese colleague “Fiquei encantando com seu pais!”(I was enchanted with your country!). I now know exactly what he meant especially after Raquel showed me around the Ribatejo and took me to Porto. Two days after the trip to Porto Raquel took me and Leo to Sintra where the sentiment was emphasized even more!
Sintra is a town forty five minutes drive from Lisbon. The town is famous for being the summer residence of the wealthy and the kings during the Portuguese monarchy. The city is home to many beautiful estates, palaces and castles. On a clear day some of these palaces can be seen all the way from Lisbon.
However on this day, it was cloudy, foggy and raining… But even this bad couldn’t dissuade Raquel, Leo and I from checking out the rain. Armed with flimsy umbrellas and camera we went exploring (on foot). We walked around and took photos. Well me and Leo took photos, Raquel just wondered why she had to go through this misery, that is until she saw Leo’s awesome snaps at which point she had no problems with him taking photos.
There were two places which Raquel wanted to take us: Palacio da Pena and Castelo do Mouros. Castelo do Mouros, is a castle of Moorish origin from which Palacio de Pena and Sintra’s Royal can be seen.
Palacio da Pena is something quite otherworldly in comparison to other castles you’ll ever visit. Imagine a schizophrenic architect which drifted between Arab, Middle Age and Renaissance personalities… As trusty Wikipedia says:
The Pena Palace has a profusion of styles much in accordance with the exotic taste of the Romanticism. The intentional mixture of eclectic styles includes the Neo-Gothic, Neo-Manueline, Islamic and Neo-Renaissance
Or as another blogger put it:
This is where Gaudi meets Shrek: it’s the castle of your dreams, an oversized chess rook covered with wild sculptures and fake coral, battlements and arches, ballustrades and cornices and other architectural conceits of vague meaning.
I prefer Jeff’s explanation. Though what he says is true. Every room makes you think you’ve time travelled to another era from the previous room. The exterior is so whacky that it ends looking cool. Aparently the story is that young prince Ferdinand had a dream about this whacky palace with all these different influences that when he woke up, he asked for palace to be built exactly as he saw it in his dream.
We all walked around completely spellbound by its ornate and odd interiors, while the fog outside gave the exterior a ‘haunted’ castle air. We did our tour talking photo after photo trying not to miss any of the wacky features that it make it one of Portugal’s greatest touristic treasures. Walking back to the car we got lost. It seems like Leo and I have penchant for getting lost even though here it would have been so much simpler had we just followed simple signs indicating exit…
As we wasted a good hour trying to find our way out, meaning that it would be too late see Castelo dos Mouros, but I’m not that fussed as I know I will be back in Portugal to explore Sintra some more. With our day to Sintra over, we headed back to Lisbon, where in some weird freaky way the strange and schizophrenic nature of Palacio da Pena seem to manifest itself through the weather as Lisbon saw a freak hailstorm paralyse parts of the city.
With our crazy day behind, Leo, Raquel and I were joined by a friends and colleague from Libya for dinner. It was another good day in a country I was slowly falling in love with…