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  • Day864

    Évora, Portugal

    October 17, 2019 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    A free aire, just outside the 14th-century walls, was our home for a few days while we visited Évora, described as 'one of Portugal's most beautifully preserved medieval towns', located on a gentle hill overlooking the Alentejo plain.

    The highlight of our visit, however, was not medieval but Roman. Dating from the 2nd or early 3rd century, and once part of the Roman Forum, 14 Corinthian columns, each capped with marble from nearby Estremoz, have survived remarkably well for 18 centuries. How come? In the Middle Ages, the temple was walled up to form a small fortress, and then used as the town slaughterhouse. It was only uncovered in the late 19th century and is an imposing sight in the town centre.

    Our next highlight wasn't medieval either but prehistoric. Megaliths (large rock structures, think Stonehenge) are dotted all round this area, built around 5000-7500 years ago, and there are also a huge amount of Neolithic dolmen (stone tombs). Very close by was the Great Dolmen of Zamujeiro, Europe's largest dolmen, so we paid a visit. In what seems like the middle nowhere, under a huge sheet-metal protective shelter, stand seven stones, in a circle, with a closing slab that connects the chamber to the entrance corridor. Each stone is 6m high, strategically placed astronomically, and together form a chamber of about 5m diameter. It was not possible to enter but we could stand on a mound behind and peer inside as the capstone had been removed by archaeologists in the 1960's when most of the relics inside were removed. It really was a feat of incredible engineering to achieve this structure without the tools and knowledge of today.

    Being back in Portugal meant being able to sample 'pastel de nata', traditional custard tarts. However, I went one further and tried pastel de nata ice-cream. Delicious!
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