By Karen McBride
Portugal is Full of History
Portugal is known for its rich history, delicious cuisine, and of course, intricate tile artwork. On a recent trip, we were exploring along the narrow roads that led through the quaint village and we stumbled upon an excavation site of a Roman amphitheater. The original amphitheater was constructed by Emperor Augustus in 10 BC and many of the artifacts are on display at the Museu do Teatro Romano. It is amazing to see structures that were built so long ago, and they are still standing.
Castelo de S. Jorge
We continued on our way enjoying the old-world gift shops selling local artists’ work, while heading to Castelo de S. Jorge (Saint George’s Castle). The castle, dating back to the 10th and 11th centuries, was built high on a hill as an advantage during oncoming attacks. Eleven towers are still standing, including the Tower of the Keep, which was the most important and structurally sound tower, built to withstand a heavy attack. Major restorations began on the castle when it was declared a National Monument in 1910 and visitors can enjoy a tour of the castle and grounds.
Sanctuary of Christ the King
Later we hired a driver to venture out of Lisbon to Almada. High above the city is the Sanctuary of Christ the King. The Catholic monument was inspired by the statue of Rio de Janeiro, after the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon visited Brazil. The statue of Jesus with his outstretched arms atop a pedestal, faces Lisbon, overlooking the Tagus River, and the Abril Bridge, which resembles the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco. Visitors can walk along the olive trees that surround the 361-foot monument and view the artwork throughout the park, while appreciating the beautiful view of the city and surrounding water.
After working up an appetite, we visited the local bakeries for a Portuguese custard tart, called Pastel de Nata. The light flaky tarts are filled with a cinnamon-flavored custard. We heard that bakers may have their own unique recipe for the tarts, so we made it our mission to try as many as we could during our stay!
Decorative Ceramic Tiles
In addition to delicious pastries, one of the most appealing features in Portugal is the tiled walls. The glazed blue ceramic tiles are known as azulejos. The decorative tiles are found throughout the city of Lisbon, adorning restaurant walls, fountains, train stations, and even the roadways. In addition to adding beauty to the surroundings, the tiles serve a purpose in that they help to protect the walls of the house from damp and low temperatures.
The tiles date back to the 14th century and may tell a story in Portuguese history, from a navigator telling tales of his voyages to churches sharing the history of their saints. Inspired by Chinese porcelain, artists used blue and white when creating the tiles and the geometric styles and flower motifs are influenced by Arab cultures.
Portugal is truly a unique and enjoyable place to visit, full of welcoming people with many sights to explore. For more information on other sites to see in Portugal, go to https://www.portugal.com.