Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lisbon - Day 3

So, on the third day of the visit, I had a choice to make. There are three famous places to visit around Lisbon for a day trip. Since I was leaving back on the fourth day, I only had time for one such day trip. The choice was between Cascais - famous for its beaches, Sintra - famous for its history, Fatima - famous for its Marian shrine. I was in no mood for relaxation on this trip and wanted to explore Lisbon and places around it. Why to relax and not explore the city of explorers ? So I ditched Cascais, even though going there would have allowed me to see the westernmost point of mainland Europe. I thought of keeping that for the next trip since I will be coming back to this place again, for sure. Now the tough choice was between Sintra and Fatima. I am always pulled by sacred places of pilgrims and like to visit them. I believe that such places still have good vibrations in the air which can influence you and motivate you to be a better person. I tried to check with local people at the restaurant where I used to have my dinner if it is possible to do both Sintra and Fatima on the same day. The guy said that it is possible but did not recommended it. It was a good advice which I realized later. He asked me to visit Sintra. Taking the man's advice, I finally decided to visit Sintra for its nature and history. I asked for forgiveness in my heart for not making up to Fatima this time but promised myself of visiting it next time whenever I get a chance to be in Portugal.

Unfortunately, the day started a little late for me and I missed the train which I was supposed to take from Rossio train station to Sintra. I had to wait for about 40 minutes to catch the next one. So, by the time I reached Sintra, it was already quite late in the morning. I took a map from a Tourist center near the station and started walking to the first destination of the day, the Sintra National Palace. It is situated in the heart of the city and can be seen from quite a distance because of its two famous and gigantic conical chimneys. Here is a peep-in to the palace :)

The Palace is actually transformed into a Museum these days. A lot of things inside the Palace have been kept the way they were in the olden times. I decided to see the museum to have a glimpse of the royal life of Portuguese kings. While buying tickets for the Museum, I saw these souvenirs being sold there which caught my attention. They were the replicas of traditional glazed tiles called azulejos typical for Lisbon. I got a box for myself with one of them as its cover.  

Inside the Palace, many of the things used by the kings were on display and I particularly liked this one. How about this study table for my study room. Those hand crafted ivory boxes with a wooden frame on the front panel were making me feel jealous of the kings :)

The Palace has several amazing rooms and halls. One of the most decorated on is in the picture below. It is called Sala de Brasoes or Coat-of-Arms. This room has a dome like ceiling with pictures of Stags all around. The walls of the room are decorated with hand painted traditional glazed tiles or azulejos in blue. Each side of the wall has a story to tell through its beautiful tiles.

In addition to the above, there were several other rooms. One such room was called the Magpie Room because the ceiling of the room was painted with birds of the same name (Magpie). There was a story behind it that the king of that time was caught kissing a woman of the court by the queen. The king then ordered to put up a Magpie for every woman of the court to hush up the gossip.

The picture below is of the Chapel made by the king later in the Palace after taking it over from the Moors. On the ceiling one can make out their typical architecture and style. I liked such a spacious praying place for yourself to have that moment of solitude.

After the Palace tour and the big casserole of Lasagne at the local restaurant, I was ready for the second part of Sintra. I went to the local tourist information center to ask for local places to visit. The people there told me that there is a castle and a palace on the hills of Sintra. There were two ways of reaching there. One was with the local bus and the other was on foot through the woods on the hills.

Now, I am a person who is not a big fan of these buses when on trips specially those hop-in and hop-off ones. So, the nature person that I am decided to trek up the hill to see the places. Unfortunately, I underestimated the power of sun and the heat that day. It was quite hot still I decided to take the walk. Still, I think it was a good decision although it took some extra time. I was not disappointed since I had a great time walking.

After starting up the trail, I noticed there were not many nature lovers like me. I was almost the only guy going through those woods. I didn't mind it and continued on my way. After a few minutes on the trail, I saw a couple doing some hanky-panky stuff from a distance. I tried to alarm them by making some extra sounds with my feet. They noticed me coming so got back to normal. The woman was wearing heels which amused me a lot. I said to myself, that could be the best trekking gear, ever !! Incidentally, I kept bumping into them even later at many other places during the day. Most of the time we shared that awkward smile and used to go on our ways. But it was only the last time we saw each other, that we broke the ice and started talking. The guy was an American and the girl was his girlfriend. They were quite nice people I found talking to them.

The view below is of the National Palace from the middle of the trek on the way up to the Castle of the Moors. Actually, the Moors were the black North Africans and Arabs who conquered and ruled the Iberian peninsula (historically, majority of Portugal + Spain). They were later defeated and driven off by the Christian rulers. 

Finally, I made it to the top. The photo below is from one end of the Castle wall. It looked like a dragon tail to me. The wall had some post towers in between. At the end, I decided to climb up the top post of the castle. 

While climbing up the stairs to the top of the castle one can spot the famous Pena National Palace on top of a neighboring hill in the background as seen in the picture below. It was definitely not a short way to the top :)

The view below is of Lisbon from the top of the castle. The view as you can see was breathtaking and made up for all the efforts in reaching there. I met a lovely Dutch couple there who somehow recognized that I live in Europe and got curious to know about me. I had a good chat with them while resting after climbing all the way up.

From there, the next stop was the Pena National Palace. Regarded as one of the seven wonders of Portugal and one of the most visited places in Lisbon, this one was a shocker for me. I have seen and can identify many different architectures and styles in Europe but this Palace left me confused. It looked strange, something like I had never seen before. The reason was that it was not based on a single style of architecture. It was a mix of many different ones. It had shades of Manueline, Gothic, Renaissance and even Islamic styles. It was made this way on the orders of the king of that time by a German architect. Below is the entrance to the Palace.

The Palace is now transformed as a Museum for visitors so as usual I decided to check it out. As soon as one enters the big main gates of the Palace, one cannot help but notice this huge statue on top of one of the arched doors. It looked quite repulsive on the first glance.

On the back side, there was this beautifully decorated wall with the glazed tiles. The place around the window was also pretty impressive and what I particularly liked was the skylit ventilator below the window. I particularly liked its design.

After checking out the Palace, it was time to head back. It was time that I start my descent. Then, I got to know that the green area around it was actually the Queen's garden and she used to go there quite often. I decided to check it out on my way back. Here are some of the pictures through the garden. I took some shortcuts like in the picture below on the way.

At different levels of the hill, there were many flat areas which were specifically decorated with special plants, trees and small ponds like the one below. I was confused at first to see some distinct varieties of plants which for me did not seemed to belong to this place, like ferns and palms. Later did I learned that the king had ordered plants from around the world to be put up in this garden. Some were from as far as New Zealand !! If Shah Jahan could make Taj Mahal for his queen, at least the king here could get some fancy plants for his queen's garden. Anything for love :)

While passing through those lavish gardens, I spotted a resting area with a water fountain inside. I was quite surprised to see the structure. It was typical to the Islamic architecture. A dome at the top with something written on it in Arabic. Then the metal grill doors with the half moon on each of its spikes. I did not knew the history of the Moors before so was quite surprised to see such a structure in remote part of Lisbon. Maybe the king of that time was quite tolerant and kept this thing as it is which exists even now. I was pretty impressed.

Finally, after another long walk, I made it back to the base. Just at the end of the descent, I found a refreshing fountain of fresh and cool water. Many local people were coming in cars with plastic bottles to collect water for their homes from there. I decided to rest for a while and removed my shoes and socks. I had some water, splashed some on myself. It was really refreshing after the day's trek. Mind you, the temperature that day was around 30 degrees :) After collecting back my energy, I walked back to the train station for Lisbon through the small local market. Suddenly, I saw a granny giving me a motherly invitation for supper. And I couldn't say no to her :)


A Restless Mind With A Sensitive Heart! said...

Interesting read. The pics made the place look really nice. Architecture of the monuments is worth a visit!

tks for sharing!


btw - how should we address u?

Vetrimagal said...

Such beauty! They knew how to collect stuff, those kings, and display. Such treasures of art, and the country is preserving them till date, proudly.

I am impressed. And a special thanks to you for details, and pictures. said...

Restless - I tried my best to portray it but nothing beats seeing it yourself :) You can address me as you like :)

Vetrimagal - You are right about these people respecting and preserving their treasures till today. I was quite disappointed to see the vandalism on our treasures last time I visited Jaipur. Bigger thanks to you for appreciating the efforts :)

A Restless Mind With A Sensitive Heart! said...

Hello there!

No... i wud request u to give some name to ur blog avataar, so that d readers can connect with u identifying ur name.

I had a long profile name, as u can read, but readers began to address me as "restless" :)

U can address me as Restless!


btw, i replied to ur comment on my blog... pls c when u find time. said...

well .. if you insist ... you can address me as a NOTE or Mr. Note :)