Off to Evora

Trip Start Mar 01, 2014
Trip End Apr 05, 2014

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Flag of Portugal  , Alentejo,
Saturday, March 22, 2014

We have ventured in to the Alentejo region of Portugal. It occupies one third of Portugal from the Tagus River, south to the Algarve. The landscape changes to rolling pastures of olive trees, vineyards and cork trees. A lot of pine standing like umbrellas for cattle, sheep and goats. The villages are all whitewashed, the blue trim is everywhere. We chose Evora because it is at the regions geographical centre, is home to the stone circles, dolmens and other relics of Stone Age life, and Debbie and Mike are there for a couple of days, we will meet them for lunch.

Evora was founded by the Romans. The land surrounding Evora was valued for the wheat fields. They irrigated and established enormous farms to grow grain for the empire. Some still exist to this day run by cooperatives. Products from the olives, grapes and cork from the Cork Oak, are seen everywhere. The cork tree is very interesting. We have seen it line the Friars Cave from days gone by and now we see household items, shoes, bags, hats, toys, jewellery, even postcards made from this tree. The "alentejanos" are widely admired for their handicrafts and their singing. When we arrive we hear a male chorus filling the main square with their voices echoing under the castle walls.

We parked outside Evora. It is a walled city. Started by the Romans, strengthened by the Moors, recovered from them by Gerald the Fearless, it flourished throughout the Middle Ages as a centre of learning and the arts. The historic legacy of this city was recognized in 1986 by UNESCO when it was declared a World Heritage Site. The Roman Temple, dedicated to goddess Diana erected in 2nd or 3rd century AD sits just outside the pousada where Deb and Mike are staying. They greet us!  This pousada was a 15th century monestary. Guests sleep in the cells and dine in the cloisters. All very luxurious but not changing the original structure. We start our walk.

At the Roman Temple a group of individuals have arrived with dogs, every breed combination you can imagine. Others are standing by and watching. The dogs have signs that say "adopt me". It would be hard to walk away if you lived here. We hope new homes are found for them today. We head off to the cathedral, there are over twenty churches and monasteries but this cathedral took over fifty years to build, looks like a fortress and has a pair of mismatched towers. It is also near The Chapel of Bones!
The Chapel of the Bones - some think grisly. I didn't - I was fascinated by it all. This chapel was created in the 17th century from the bones of 5000 monks. Skulls, femurs, tibias, and others cover the walls, columns and ceilings. There are two leathery corpses that dangle from a chain. It is bizarre to me - I wonder why? The entrance reads, nos ossos que aqui estamos, pelos vossos esperamos, (we bones that are here wait for yours).

Outside there is some comedic relief as you glance at the street signs - "Alley of the Unshaven Man", "Street of the Countess's Tailor". Everyone meets in the Main Square, a place where beheadings took place in the late 1400's and it was the site of an Inquisitional burning in 1753. 

 We head off to lunch with Mike and Debbie at a very quaint restaurant. As we approach our table it is laden with plates of appetizers, or tapis, a common occurrence anywhere we have been. You chose what you want, that is what you will pay for, and the others are taken away. Cheese has always been at every table along with bread, olives and the beautiful mild prosciutto style ham from the region. Here there are no olives and in addition to the ham and cheese we find mini chicken pies, fava beans, roasted peppers, pigs ears, and squid salad. We keep the ham, roasted peppers and squid salad. Debbie and I had lamb chops and the boys the local fish soup. We even managed room for dessert, I was the winner I thought with a wonderfully creamy homemade wild berry ice cream. It was nice to catch up on their experiences over the past week. They start heading down to the Algarve tomorrow.Thank you Provans for your lovely celebration treat! 

There is marble everywhere, a beautiful fountain from 1571 sits in the main square. This town is lovely, we must leave to return home before dark but on the way we stopped at Dolmens, a place where Neolithic communities were thought to bury their dead with all of their possessions,

Just outside Evora about 10 or 12 kilometres away are hewn stones dated by archeologists to 4000 and 2000 B.C. Their symbolism will remain mysterious but they certainly feel very spiritual to me, especially the ones that look arranged or organized in their space. More than 130 are in this area, we visited two sites. The first at the very end of a sheep path, stands alone, tall (8 ft.). Very phallic, it did not impress me but this may be because in the background are storage bins from one of the Cooperatives. Nice rock Tony! Tony explains this is a symbol of fertility rites, I agree, am tired at this point but carry on! I chuckle all the way back down the path because I am overwhelmed by all of this history and how does it not get all mixed up over the years with all of the interpretation. This rock was obvious though. The next stop wasn't. Just up the road was the Cromlech.

This cromlech or oval was made up of 95 elliptical stones and is believed to be a temple dedicated to a solar cult. As the sun came out eerie shadows cast behind them, making them look twice their size. Carvings are on some, others take shapes, I believe left for interpretation by those invading this space from 7 - 10 thousand years ago. It is overwhelming and I am glad to have made this stop. Thank you Tony. Very nice rocks, to me now more than a rock for sure. As we head home, a couple of hours away we get lost in our thoughts.

It is an early night for me.
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Jessica on

Sounds like a perfect field trip for me!

Todd on

Did the monks volunteer?

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