This log covers September 23rd to October 5th, 2004 where we are super excited to be exploring ancient Europe. So Amazing.
Saturday, September 25th - Castelo de Sao Jorge high on the hill above Lisbon of today
So we completed our Atlantic crossing landing at Cascais, just outside of Lisbon. Legend has it that Lisbon was founded by Ulysses, but it was probably the Phoenicians who first settled here 3000 years ago, attracted by the fine natural harbour and the strategic hill where Castelo de Sao Jorge now stands. Lisbon has had more than its fair share of glory and tragedy: the opulent days of great Portuguese navigators; gold discovers in the 17th century; and a massive earthquake in which its extravagance crumbled, never to be regained. Portugal's entry into the European Community in 1986 finally cemented stable government and is now allowing Lisbon to reclaim a place on the European stage.
Castelo de Sao Jorge
Inside Castelo de Sao Jorge
We begin our sight-seeing in Lisbon at St. George's Castle. Perhaps that is St. George himself with the big sword! (Or maybe King John I).
|Knight with a big sword|
We wind our way through the extremely narrow streets up to the castle. Within the massive battlements are beautifully maintained grounds complete with turrets and sentry guard posts.
From it's Visigothic beginnings in the 5th century, the castle was later fortified by the Moors in the 9th century, sacked by Christians in the 12th century, and used as a royal residence from the 14th-16th centuries-and as a prison in every century. Though what remains has been considerably reconstructed, it is still very impressive. The inner area is now the focus of an archaeological survey. Roman and Islamic remains are anticipated.
Back in the historic center of Lisbon, this square, formally called Terreiro do Paco (Palace Square) after the royal Palacio da Ribeira that overlooked it until the morning of the great earthquake on, November 1, 1755, would have greeted most visitors arriving by river or sea in bygone days. The huge square still feels like the entrance to the city, thanks to the bronze equestrian statue of Dom Jose I and the grand Arco da Victoria, the grand arch in the background opening onto the main street of Rua Augusta.
|Dom Jose I and the grand Arco da Victoria|
Monday, September 27th - Atlantic Crossing Party
When we were in the Azores, we had met numerous cruisers going various directions. With some of the cruisers 'going our way,' we had set up a communication schedule for boat 'check in' on the crossing from the Azores to Lisbon. We were one of the last to leave the Azores, but once all were safely across, we hosted a huge potluck celebration. On board were the crews from s/v Chinook, s/v Peregrine, s/v Nai'a, s/v Haven, and of course the crew of Tioga. Friends back home, a toast to you from us and some of our new friends out doing the same thing we are and to our successful Atlantic crossing!
|Atlantic Crossing - Class of 2004|
Tuesday, September 28th - Age of Discoveries Monument, Belem
Today, we set out to see some of the sights in the district of Belem. First is the 'Age of Discoveries' monument symbolizing a memorial to Portuguese sea power. It was inaugurated in 1960, on the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator. It is shaped like a stylized ship and crowded with important Portuguese figures. At the prow is Henry the Navigator and behind him navigators like Vasco da Gama and such.
|Discoveries Monument, Belem|
Inside we see the movie, 'Lisbon Experience', and have a quick 15 minute view of the incredible history to Lisbon. The movie depicts many centuries of takeover after takeover, but what sticks mainly in our minds is the massive earthquake at 9:30 am on All Saints' Day, November 1, 1755. Residents were caught inside churches as 3 major tremors hit, followed by devastating fire (kindled by the thousands of votive candles) and a tidal wave that submerged the lower town. At least 13,000 people perished in the tragedy.
The site of the monument most famously marks the place from which the great explorer Vasco da Gama set sail on July 8, 1497. He completed a two year voyage on which he discovered a sea route to India around the Cape of Good Hope, setting into motion a fundamental shift in the world's balance of power.
Vasco da Gama
Torre de Belem (The Tower of Belem)
Well, we're now into buildings only found in fairy tales and chess games! This hexagonal chess piece is perhaps Portugal's most photographed monument.
|The Tower of Belem - A giant chess piece|
It was built as a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon's harbour but, unfortunately the shoreline slowly shifted south, and the tower now sits out in the stream of the River Tagus.
|Tower now surrounded by water|
We enjoyed the climb up the narrow, circular stairs to the top floor, and then quickly viewed each floor on the way down. The turrets and guard posts each boasted their own views of Lisbon and surrounding area.
The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos - Monastery in Belem
From the Tower of Belem, we cross over to Mosteiro dos Jeronimos. King Dom Manuel I ordered this monastery to be built in memory of Vasco da Gama's discovery of the sea route to India and, while he was at it, arranged that its church be made a pantheon for himself and his royal descendants, many of whom are now entombed in its side chapels. The building is built on the site of the riverside chapel in which da Gama and his officers had kept an all night vigil before departing on their historic voyage. It was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, St Mary of Bethlehem - hence the district's name Belem. Work began in 1502 and before completion towards the end of the century, it became a combination of Gothic, Renaissance and Classical architectural styles.
|Monastery - a hodgepodge of architectural styles|
As we walk through, we view the tombs of past kings and queens. They would have a crown on top of the tomb, which was in turn held up by marble elephants.
|Tomb held up by marble elephants|
It was also very clear for us to distinguish the various architectural styles, the lines between them were very distinct.
|Inside the monastery's cathedral|
We then ventured to the central courtyard of the monastery's cloisters. The monastery was populated by monks of the Order of St Jerome, whose spiritual job was to give comfort and guidance to sailors, and of course to pray for the king's soul. The cloisters were a peaceful place where the monks would go to rejuvenate and meditate. The architectural work done here is considered the jewel of the manuline style….absolutely stunning. Click on the image for an even closer view.
|Take a close look at the detail - amazing!|
Museu Nacional dos Coches (National Coach Museum)
Our final stop of the day takes us to the National Coach Museum which is one of the best collections in the world of horse drawn coaches from the 14th - 19th century. There are coaches for every occasion; wedding coaches, baptismal coaches, burial coaches, all illustrating the staggering wealth of the old Portuguese elite. Our favorite was the 'Exchange of Princesses' coach. It was used when the princess of Portugal was taken to Spain's border to then go off and marry a Spanish King, while the coach then picked up a Spanish princess whom returned to marry a Portuguese King. Ahh, the stuff fairytales are made of!!
|Very grand coaches|
Thursday, September 30th - Our family friend 'Nik' arrives
Since leaving Calgary, we have been trying to find a mutually convenient time and place for our old neighbor, Nik, to come spend some time with us. He is able to get to Lisbon, which will allow him to travel with us into the Straits of Gibraltar and up the Rio Gualaquiver to Seville, Spain. Three boys on board creates a unique dynamic and they are always looking for something to do. Here, they build a raft with the duct tape and 40 plus empty water bottles our friends on s/v Chinook gave them. Gerrit could stand on it, but Nik would sink it, big difference in size!
|What to do with three kids and 40 water bottles...|
Friday, October 1st - Train Station
With time rapidly running out on our three month visas for Portugal (we landed in the Azores on July 8th), we begin to watch weather and look for a good weather window to head south. Currently it looks like an early next week depart. We have time for one last trip to downtown Lisbon for some final sights. We come upon this old building that now houses the train station. The horse shoe archways are a dead giveaway of the Arabic influence of past days.
|Very typical Arabic designs on the train station|
Sunday, October 3rd - Castelo dos Mouros in Sintra
We were told if we could only make one day trip from Lisbon, it must be to see Sintra. For 500 years the kings of Portugal chose Sintra as their summer resort, and the nobility built extravagant villas and surrealist palaces. The Sintra mountains are rich and beautiful and are essentially the heart of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park , which is the most westerly point in Europe. They are the only area in the world to have been classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage site both for their cultural interest an their natural beauty.
|Moorish castle high in Sintra's hills|
Within the town of Sintra, we catch a bus up the steep, winding road to the ruins of Castelo do Mouros (Moorish Castle), which overlook the town. This amazing castle was first built by the Moors but captured by Christian forces under Alfonso Henriques in 1147. We could not help but think of the Great Wall of China as we viewed the battlements snaking over the craggy mountainside to and fro from various turrets.
This castle was composed of many cisterns (wells) thus it had the capacity to sustain siege as it had its own water. We all totally enjoy clambering about and marveling at the stunning views of the countryside as we imagine the peril invaders would have to endure to try to overthrow such a strategic location.
|View of the valley from the castle. Look at the other villas...|
Palacio Nacional da Pena, Sintra.
After a quick bite to eat, we catch the bus further up the steep hill to Palacio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace), a bizarre building with extraordinary architecture.
According to history, King Dom Manuel I was hunting on the hill one day and caught sight of Vasco da Gama's fleet sailing up the Rio Tagus estuary having completed their first voyage to India. There was already a chapel built there but the King ordered a convent be built there to give thanks for the success of the expedition. Three centuries later, on the remains of the 15th century convent, Prince Consort Ferdinand built a palace, complete with all the fantasy and romanticism typical of the period.
The palace is said to remind people of Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, though it is older and considered more beautiful. It rises up from the rocky hillside like a natural extension of it and the views are spectacular. The interior is mind-boggling with a real sense of mystery where many of the decorative elements are said to have underlying secret meanings. The rooms are said to have been left just as they were when the royal family fled on the eve of the revolution in 1910. As we walked through, we tried to imagine the life of the rich and wealthy families complete with royal coaches being pulled up and down the narrow pathways. Truly an amazing place.
Maybe Disneyland copied Sintra's Pena Palace??
Sunset on Sintra Valley
On the way down, we stop for a rest and a snack before catching the bus back into Sintra. It is very busy and we are amazed at how the bus driver could maneuver the massive bus through the narrow streets lined with cars. At one point, he nudged a mirror but that was it! Back in Sintra, we head to Pizza Hut…what adventurous local eaters….it was really good though for our hungry, tired bunch. Unfortunately, we miss our 7pm bus home so we must wait until 8:25pm for the 40 minute ride back. At least we get to view this magnificent sunset of the valley.
|Sintra Sunset - what a great day|
Tuesday, October 5th - Fouled Anchor!
All week long Sheila has been concerned of a fouled anchor as the scraping sounds vibrating through the anchor chain are none like we've heard before. Well, sure enough our chain was wrapped around this massive chunk of rock. With the help of fellow cruisers anchored beside us, we manage to raise and unwrap from our chain the foul debris. We are very relieved to be raising the anchor in a calm flat anchorage, it could have been bad if we were trying to raise our anchor because of a wind shift causing waves to roll through the anchorage. That could have resulted in our windless (mechanical anchor raiser) being torn off the deck!
|Fouled anchor - natural or man made?|
We leave the Cascais anchorage around 2pm with an overnight sail planned. If things time out, we'll be going around Cabo de Sao Vincente, the most southerly and westerly point of Europe, at first light, and we'll be into Lagos 24 hours ahead of an ugly weather system fast approaching.
|Nik takes the helm as we depart Lisbon|
Catch you in Log 28 - The Algarve of Portugal!