Sunday, June 21, 2015

Magical Sintra


RICHARD:
Spring Break in Lisbon and the daughter is here on a break from her Stockholm studies. 
It was time for this Tour Guide and Travel Planner to also take a break... 
We let Ren pick the Sites, Palaces and Castles she was interested in and off we go to Sintra...





WANDA:
Spring Break Richard?  My, we are a little behind  - I think it's summer now...Oh well, we all needed a break...

Renata did a great job planning our 2 days in Sintra, and if you are ever in Lisbon, a 20 minute drive to Sintra is a must!  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with castles, palaces, and a myriad of other medieval sites, as well as mountains and nature parks - quite a spectacular town! .....You need 2 days or more here because there is so much to see of this fairy tale town - here are a few of our favorite things....


.....Wait a minute!...  I know that is the Pena National Palace on that mountain, but really Ren - we have to hike up to the top to see it!!  Wow, Lisbon all over again...


.... The walk up the many paths and narrow roads that led us to the Palace was beautiful - it is a wonderful 200 acre forest/park that surrounds the Palace, with 500 species of trees brought in from around the world, ferns, flowers, statues and birds. ...






The Palace was built from the ruins of an 18th century monastery that was damaged by lighting and later destroyed by the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755.  
In 1838 King Ferdinand II built the palace as a summer residence.

King Ferdinand II, besides his duties as King of Portugal and husband of Queen Maria II,  was an artist, a ceramic painter, a dedicated patron of artists, and the Grand-master of the Rosicrucians (a secret society) - it's no wonder his palace is so colorful and full of symbolism...


This decorative window is the god Neptune (an ugly Neptune), ruler of fire, water and air - thus the 3 windows...



Our favorite part of the Palace is the Royal Dining Room....imagine the food and conversation that went on over this royal table...



Medieval and Islamic elements are found throughout the Palace...


...Time to head down through the gardens to visit the Castle of the Moors below...


... As we leave the Pena Palace, wow - the breathtaking view of the mountainous cliff  the Castle of the Moors was built on...





"Castelo Mouros"  
A medieval Moorish Castle built in the 8th century during the Muslim period of Iberia...
  


Panoramic views of Sintra from the Castle...

 Rich walks the walls pretending to protect his people from invading forces  ....what?  The only invading forces I see are all the touristas!



View of Pena National Palace from the Castle of the Moors....Thanks Ren, we did quite a bit of hill walking today...



Time to move on to another Palace found on flat ground in the town of Sintra...





"Quinta da Regaleira" 
 A mysterious palatial summer residence that changed hands various times in it's history, but Carvalho Monteiro bought the residence in 1893 and transformed the magnificent 10 acre gardens and main house to what it looks like today... He hired Luigi Manini, an architect and set designer who devoted 14 years of his life on this project...





....This is the laboratory where Monteiro did his magic as an alchemist.  The buildings on the grounds are full of symbols with esoteric meaning that are related to the Knights Templar, Masonry, and the Rosicrucians (secret societies!)





...the Palace is surrounded by amazing gardens filled with magical grottoes, fountains, tunnels, lakes, wells, and a chapel....


The Labyrinthic Grotto


"Portal of the Guardians" ...has a hidden entrance way to the "Initiatic Well"
.


There are 2 "Initiation Wells" that were not used for water but for ceremonial purposes in secretive initiation rites  ...Getting scared??  The wells connect to each other through underground tunnels...



This well is really a "subterranean tower" that sinks 27 meters into the earth.  It has 9 platforms (you can climb up from a tunnel or down from the top) that are said to be symbolic of Dante's Divine Comedy - heaven and earth...  Rich and Renata are at the bottom and you can't see, but the floor has a compass over a Knights Templar's Cross...


This well was "well" hidden and took Renata to find it.   "The Unfinished Well" and the spacing and number of steps are dictated by Masonic principles......


...Labyrinthine Grottoes connected by tunnels are found throughout this unique garden - it is easy to get lost here - quite incredible!  
We did lose Ren in a few of the tunnels that she ventured into...










View of the chapel from the top of the Palace... The crypt has a subterranean passage that links it with the main house.

.....time to leave this enigmatic place and head to one more place.... 


The Convento Capuchos
is known as the Cork Convent - built in 1560 against large granite rocks with the use of the local cork trees to decorate and insulate the convent....  "the buildings merge inseparably with nature and the surrounding vegetation"...   A contemplative place in nature for the Franciscan Friars to worship, mediate, and do good works...
The small dormitories look like little Hobbits lived in them - Rich seems a giant in the cramped hallway where the Friars entered the cells on their knees...

All in all, a tiring but fascinating day!!... Thank you Renata!
 I think it's time for dinner and a drink or two!



Some things do not change,  college kids still drink  Mateus - probably because it was cheap then and it's still cheap!!!...  love it!



...Dinner was a Portuguese Seafood Cataplana!! 
(there was a vegetarian dish somewhere on the table too...)




Hope you can visit someday!.... Saude!!  
We did miss a few sites such as the National Palace of Sintra that we will have to save for another day!

Renata goes back to Stockholm, and we head to the north of Portugal!

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