My flight was scheduled to depart at 2100 hours so I walked towards the eastern point of the Lisbon peninsula ending up at Belem. It is here there are two iconic structures of Lisbon.
As well the original coal fired electricity station serving Lisbon has been turned into a remarkable Museum of Electricity! Well worth a visit for the engineers of this world
And finally the inevitable Cathedral and monastery at Belem. This had by far the longest queue to gain entry! I needed but little excuse to remain outside.
Summary of physical activity of the holiday
One week cycling average
60 km a day
800m ascending a day
Two week of walking
27 Flights climbed/day
0.25 glasses / day
The final and fourth destination on the day tour was Obidos. It is the closest ancient walled town to Lisbon. It is thus a Mecca for tourist buses from the capital. However on this day it seemed relatively relaxed. It is very well maintained and not as potentially garish or gaudy as one may anticipate. Granted the predominant shops were alternating restaurants with arts and crafts boutiques. The other rather ubiquitous offering were stalls selling “nips” of Portuguese cherry liqueur in an edible chocolate thimble for 1 euro.
I could not but fail to compare this commercialised walled town to the several relatively untainted medieval villages during my week of cycling
The third port of call on our day trip, this is fishing town with both an “old part” perched on the hilltop and a Gold Coast development down below with a wonderful expanse of water and high rises to the edge almost. I had lunch at a local cafe and ordered the fish stew! It was monstrous in quantity and acceptable in quality!
see I told you it was like the Gold Coast
nuts by the sea with pigeon droppings
these delightful seaside houses in the older part and abandoned!!
roasted chestnuts without pigeon droppings!
the town square
This was the second destination on our small group tour in a Mercedes van, there were 8 of us plus driver /guide.
Batalha is a small town amidst the hills of the Leiria area. It lept into the history books after a gigantic battle when the smaller Portuguese army against all odds defeated the Castillian hordes (Spaniards) at the Battle of Aljubarrota in 1385.
What provoked the battle? Well the King of Portugal died without any heirs! However he had an illegitimate brother who in an Abbottesque moment declared himself King! But King Juan of Spain cried foul and declared war! Now the King of Spain was revered by the populous as somewhat of a suave, nimble and noble man who cut an awesome figure in the bull ring! Indeed his ballet like movements and pirouettes where he would, in a blur, turn 180 degrees on the head of a pin were legendary.
But his elevation to almost god like status around the Taverna of Madrid was his signature movement in which as the bull’s horns were within millimetres of his groin, he execute a complete 360 degree turn which absolutely confused and disoriented the poor bull. It was folklore that when performed perfectly even the entire Spanish audience were confused! His nickname in spanish was “Turn-bull the Terrible”.
The spanish King before “Turn-bull the Terrible” was regarded as the great pretender (intentional lowercase). King António had as a prince been of great concern to his parents – he excelled at sports impaling several of his playmates at jousting before the age of 10, but was severely retarded in terms of language. In the 21st century we would describe this as autistic although in the 13th century court it was a given that he was simply plain dumb! His parents, despairing for the future of the monarchy, negotiated with the Friar of a Cistercian Order of Monks for a term of several years of monastic life. The Cistercian Monks take vows of absolute silence. The young prince should have been a “sandal-in” to succeed.
Unfortunately within the year he was removed back to the Palace when he appeared to have no self control, pacing around the cloisters chanting in a monotonous repetitive way which made no sense to his elders much less his peers.
But back to the impending battle! Not surprisingly the illegitimate Portuguese usurper was terrified and he fell to his knees praying to the Virgin Mary for deliverance. (The practice of falling on one’s knees and praying for salvation is known as “pyne-ing” in Portuguese).
And the rest is history as they say!
As a thanksgiving for his miraculous victory the now legitimate Portuguese king decreed that on the site of this great battle a cathedral and monastery be built and named the monastery in her honour – Mosteiro de Santa Maria da Vitória.
Rather unfortunately (there were problems with the building and construction unions even in the 12th century) it took more than 200 years to complete and whats more is still unfinished!
It is described as the pearl of Portuguese architecture and another UNESCO world heritage listed site.
The unfinished part!
I had forgotten about the apparent miracle of Fatima until today when I signed up for a tour involving four different and divergent attractions.
3 adolescent children minding their herds saw a bright light on or about the 13th May 1917 and there appeared before them a vision of the Virgin Mary. Now one could safely assume if this were an isolated event that the 3 kids may have succumbed to some more plausible explanation – meteorological or whatever. But a little against this is the same apparition appeared several more times as foretold by the Virgin Mary on 13th day of the month on at least three more occasions, the last being in the presence of several thousand peasant Portuguese. Consequently the village of Fatima is up there with the Shroud of Turin, the Camino Trail and the holy tears of Lourdes. The bush or tree on which the vision perched was over the years literally chipped away by pilgrims so that it was completely axed so to speak splinter by splinter. A statue of the Virgin Mary sits we were told on its original stump.
Two of the children sadly died whilst still young, the eldest girl survived, became a Nun and claimed to be visited on several occasions during her life by further apparitions of the Virgin Mary. She died in the 1990s. As a consequence of these events, various Popes shifted some assets and had constructed a cathedral and semicircular cloister and huge square that basically has the same look and proportion to the Vatican and its’ square!
Next year 2017 is the centenary and the cathedral was hidden by scaffolding being renovated. The Pope will attend. Special prayers are being said in the hope that the Virgin will also make an appearance.
As well as the typical baroque cathedral there is at the opposite end of the square an elegant and spectacular modern marble church and cloisters built after the visit of a latter day pontiff.
Fatima has over a million pilgrims a year and the place seeths especially on the 13th of May.
My accommodation in Lisbon is the York House. It describes itself as an historic hotel, once an old Carmelite convent dated from the 17th century. there is stone staircase leading up to to a garden terrace.
There is NO lift access so one has to bear ones suitcase, cross like up more than 43 steps! They will send a man down upon request. My reading of TripAdvisor suggests it was a somewhat mediocre, dark, musty, and ant infested establishment until a change of ownership about a year or so ago!
only 27 steps to go!
how many men have knocked at this door a few centuries ago !?
I fantasise as I walk up the wooden staircase and the corridor to my room, what stories and events these dormitory like rooms and hallways have to tell!
The conference these past two days has been moderately enjoyable and stimulating. One of the more impressive presentations was given by the physician who is the Portuguese representative on the Cochrane Database Organisation! Lots of food for thought and insights that reinforced my own opinions and approaches to the interface between EBM (evidence based medicine) and the application in clinical practice
a Portuguese Hawkers Corner
A few pictures of Lisbon