16.12.2016 - 18.12.2016 15 °C
Evora is a historic 2000 year old city in the Alentejo region of Portugal. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The walled old town boasts Moorish, Roman and Catholic monuments, hilly cobbled streets, narrow lanes and spacious squares.
The Alentejo region is a major provider of the renewable resource, cork. All manner of cork items are sold including purses, shoes and hats. (Likely more necessary for the industry now that so few wines have actual cork stoppers!!)
The bark of the Cork Oak tree is removed manually with an axe once every 9 years. Bark cannot be harvested until the tree is 25 years old. The bark is only taken from the tree base to the branch line. The Cork Oak lives about 200 years.
The famous acorn fed pigs that turn into Iberian ham feed off the acorns of cork oak tree.
There are numerous Neolithic stone formations in Alentajo but the ones not to miss are the 95 standing stones of the Almendres Cromlech about 15 km from Evora and 4 km from the village of Guadeloupe.
The term cromlech refers to a prehistoric circle of standing stones with a religious or spiritual overtone.
The Almendres Cromlech is older than Stonehenge and was in continuous use for 3000 years!
The dirt road from Guadeloupe to the parking area near the Cromlech is narrow, full of ruts and potholes. I was afraid the taxi driver would refuse to take his car further but he persevered and we did not get stuck in the muddy patches.
The one person in Evora who does tours was away for the weekend. The cab fare (and tour rates) on weekends is ten Euros more than on weekdays. The driver spoke German and Italian as well as Portuguese but no English.
Cab fare was 45 Euros because it is Saturday and we booked for 9 am
It was a fine sunny day, much nicer than yesterday. As I walked down the path leading from the car park to the stones I had no idea what to expect. The bright morning sun was shining in my eyes when the path curved and they came into view.
Beneath the shadows of cork and olive trees, a holy place, a message from an ancient people. It was larger and more expansive than I had expected, the placement of the rocks deliberate, their sizes and shapes purposeful.
The intimacy of the site was amazing. We were alone in the field, no other tourists, nobody but us. The stones were spread out in an oval shape, I touched them, hoping to leave a fingerprint.
Nobody knows exactly what this site was used for, possibly sun worshipers. Maybe they did ceremonial sacrifices here, I hope not since this is the highlight of my trip.
For thirty minutes I was completely engaged with mostly egg shaped stones, some taller than me. Words cannot describe, and pictures cannot capture, the beauty of this monument on a sun drenched December morning.
Sometimes the shadows in the pictures surprise me. Seriously, I just looked at the foreground of this one and said out loud, 'Who is that?'
I reluctantly trudged back to the taxi. 'Wonderbar,' I said to the driver, 'magnifico'. My eyes watered as I climbed into the back seat.
It was a quiet ride back to Evora. We enjoyed a cafe au lait in the main square and were rewarded by the music of a folk choir along with a metal working demonstration.
The square I really wanted to see was the one with the Roman Temple. Pretty impressive for recent stuff. I am all about pre history now. Where did they come from and where did they go?
On this sunny day the Roman Temple ruins are stunning. The Temple of Diana has been here since 200 AD.
I like the saying painted on the fence, "Everything is a story".
We had lunch in the courtyard of an upscale restaurant with Moorish architecture, seems to be connected to a pousada. It was very pleasant. I had plum cake and Rhea had a Bifana. The Bifana is a just cooked pork cutlet on a bun and was Rhea's go to Sandwich.
We each sampled a bite of the others food. Biting down on the chewy crust of the bun I dislocated my jaw.
Ouch, throbbing pain and my teeth did not meet on the left hand side.
The Museu de Evora is located in the Bishop's Palace. Admission was about 3 euros, it is closed on Mondays and free on the first Sunday of the month. We were disappointed in the small display of prehistoric archaeology, the Roman tombs were more impressive:
We toured the museum, had a drink on the third major square, poked through souvenir shops and then stopped by the church with skulls and bones. The Chapel of Bones is located in Saint Frances Church. Very macabre, kind of a downer after this morning.
There is a museum in the church and stairs lead up to rooftop viewing points, Along the way I looked at their collection of nativity scenes from around the world.
A street fair was set up near the bones cathedral so we looked around and on the way back to our hotel stopped at an indoor market to buy cheese and fruit.
We are staying at the Moov Hotel just inside the old city gates. It is located in a refurbished bull ring but the hotel is ultra modern.
The room is not huge but very good value for money spent.
I asked for ice at the hotel desk and they helpfully scared some up. Back in the room I take an anti inflammatory and ice my jaw. The ibuprofen kicked in, I felt a bit better. We walked to a nearby wine bar "Winetime" for supper. I had a beer and dates wrapped in Iberian ham.
I recommend this place as the waitress was super friendly, the price really reasonable and there was some ambiance. My portion of the eight euro bill was 6.75 Canadian.
The next morning we had time for a coffee before getting to the bus station.
The main square, Placo do Geralda, is near our hotel. Back in the day, during the Inquisition, public executions took place here. Today it is pretty tame by comparison. We sat by the cafe window to enjoy the view with our coffee.
One end of the square features Santa Antao Church. Nearby is a marble fountain built in 1571.
Santa Antao Church is built over the old site of a Knights Templar church.
I cannot put any of my teeth together and can barely open my mouth. It seems less painful when I don't move my mouth so I resign myself to a slackjaw kind of look.
We get two seats each on the bus so I am happy, lots of room.
We are going to Lisbon, our last stop.
On the one hour bus trip I go through my photos of Evora. I edit the rocks, enlarging areas that might have a picture or some marking.
Remember when you looked at clouds and identified shapes? I see an elephant, I see a tree. No two people will see the same thing. Maybe the peeling bark of the London Plane tree is really communicating with us. What do you see?
Can you see the kid with big glasses?
Archaeologists have found faint markings and drawings on some of the stones and put forward some theories, but it remains pretty much a mystery. Why would a neolithic society take the time to move, modify and embellish large rocks?
The cromlechs are 6000 years old.
The scenery along the route to Lisbon: