jn82’s Epic Adventure

Day 22 [20 Feb 09] – Lisbon

Posted in Lisbon by jn82 on February 20, 2009

Took a day trip to Sintra today, a municipality in the Lisbon coast region, forty minutes from Lisbon‘s Estação do Rossio by train. This is probably the most popular day trip out of Lisbon because of the fantastic views, hills and castles, and The town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on account of its 19th century Romantic architecture.

The first stop in Sintra was Quinta da Regaleira, which consists of a romantic palace and chapel, and a luxurious park featuring lakes, grottoes, wells, benches, fountains, and a vast array of exquisite constructions. Concession entry fee was €4, and worth every cent.

The main house.

Perhaps the coolest thing about this place are vast number of grottoes, some interlinked with one another. They are all over the grounds and seem to just pop up out of nowhere for no particular reason. The grottoes are totally quiet and pitch dark for most of the way, so a torch light is very necessary to get around in the caves, even so it can still be pretty scary as there are also very wet with puddles on the sandy floor and water dripping from the top.

Entrance to a grotto (yes, that is a pond like water feature around me, one wrong move and I would have been be very wet).

Inside a grotto (the only one with a light).

At the end of one of the grottos was this insane spiral staircase which seemed to go up for a few stories. It was a very strange experience as there was water dripping from the top and it was almost totally dark except for the sunlight coming from the top.

About halfway up the stairs.

Looking down from the top.

We were pretty baffled upon reaching the top of the staircase as there seemed to be no exit out into the gardens as indicated on the map. After a few minutes of considering between jumping down about one story of the side of a steep hill or going down the stairs again, I kicked around a wall which had some light shining through the cracks, and discovered a revolving hidden trap door!

Hidden door which has probably fooled many others, not me.

After this, it was time to leave Quinta da Regaleira as we had other sights to see within a short span of time. Next stop was for lunch, and we decided to try some of the Sintra pasteries from the very famous Periquita cafe. Not exactly usual lunch fare, but it was a good experience.

Round 1 of lunch, bottom half of the picture from right in a clockwise direction: Latte, Pastel Nata (egg tart), Travesseiros (puff-pastry with egg and almond cream) and Queijadas (soft cheese, eggs and cinnamon).

Round 2 of lunch: Salgado (savory pastry with stuff fish and seafood) and Pastel Nata (egg tart).

After that was done, we headed to Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle). The following is an exerp of its history from Wikipedia.

“Originally, the Castle of Sintra was built by the Moors, possibly between the 9th and 10th centuries. Arab chronicles depict the Sintra region as being very rich in cultivated fields. Its castle was one of the most important in the surroundings.

In 1147, after the conquest of Lisbon by King Afonso Henriques, the Moorish garrison of the castle surrendered to the Christians without resistance. Afonso Henriques promoted the development of the region by granting a foral (letter of feudal rights) to the inhabitants of Sintra and its castle in 1154. During the reign of King Sancho I the castle was repaired, as well as the romanesque Church of Saint Peter, (Igreja de São Pedro) inside its walls.

The decline of the castle began in the 15th century, when most of the population settled downhill, in today’s old quarter of Sintra. In the 16th century the castle lost all military relevance and was abandoned by its last inhabitants, the Sintra Jews.

In 1830, after a long period of ruin, King Ferdinand II started a profound renovation of the castle in the romantic spirit of the time, which saw in the Middle Ages a source of inspiration. The walls and towers were rebuilt, while the Church of Saint Peter was intentionally left in ruins. The castle, blended with the vegetation and topography of the hill, gained a fairy-tale, romantic atmosphere.”

The main thing about the castle now is the amazing views you can get from it, as well as the huge stone castle structure itself built on the hill overlooking Sintra below.

The final stop of the day was to Palácio Nacional da Pena, with a very long history as a chapel and a monastary dating back to the middle ages. However the actual palace was only built in the 19th century and served as a royal residence. The inside of the palace now shows what the interior of the palace was like during the days when the royals stayed in it.

Palácio Nacional da Pena.

Link to today’s full gallery of pictures is available here.

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