The hidden gem AlentejoApril 24 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C
Alentejo, a region that’s covering a third of Portugal but is not so much discovered by tourists yet. Completely unjustified, is our conclusion. We drive through the rolling hills of this wine region and see that spring has arrived here earlier than in Douro, the other wine region we visited. The vineyards are already showing fresh green leafs and it’s beautifully green around us. Very conveniently the vineyards are accompanied by fields of cork trees, native to Alentejo. Another thing that characterises Alentejo are the megalithic monuments. These consist of prehistoric stones carefully placed in shapes and structures that are likely to have had astronomical and / or religious ritual functions. On our way to the camp ground we visit two of such sites. It takes a bouncy trip on a sand path and a muddy walk on a narrow path to get there (see the video and hear the sounds of nature!), but there’s definitely something special about seeing these large stones with our own eyes. This kind of site makes one feel like looking at the past, and wonder how on earth it was built without help of any machines. This has too been topic of many researches done. Possibly these big stones were moved on sleds sliding on rollers, needing up to 150 people to move them around!
The camp ground we have chosen happens to be owned by another Dutch couple. We find ourselves a beautiful spot with view on the cork fields, where bunnies are hopping about and birds are singing their song enthusiastically. A perfect place to stay a little longer, relax a little, read some, explore the surrounding fields by foot, and use the “resting” day (who needs resting during a holiday?) to do some laundry.
After one day of “rest” we go for a gorgeous 13 KM walk. It’s a nice mix of vineyards, olive groves, green hills, and the beautiful town Estremoz. Furthermore the sun is out, giving our day an actual summer feel. We also continue to enjoy the peace and quiet: apart from the cities it has been a blast to go without many other tourists around. I know it’s hypocritical but as two tourists ourselves we like places best when we don’t see any other foreigners enjoying the same place as us. We are actually guilty of whispering to each other: “there goes another Dutch couple, yuk!” - something I am not shy of sharing publicly as I know we aren’t the only one feeling like this. We humans are strange creatures, aren’t we? Anyway, we do care to stop for a good conversation with those we meet on the way - see video :-).
Two nights at the Dutch owned site we pack our van and with a detour of sightseeing through Évora and Évora Monte get ready to return to the west coast of Portugal. A special mention to the “Capela dos Ossos” in Évora. This translates as Chapel of Bones and if you are left wondering about this curious name: that is exactly what it is. The chapel’s interior is not simply covered, but DECORATED with human skulls and bones of more than 5000 skeletons. Franciscan monks living in the 16th century thought this was a brilliant solution to overcrowded graveyards, exhuming the human remains to repurpose them in the chapel. They clearly took their sweet time and creativity to do so, I would almost dare to say they must have had fun playing around with the bones fitting them in the most beautiful patterns. This suspicion is supported by the somewhat humorous text engraved above the entrance of the chapel: “Nós ossos que aqui estamos, pelos vossos esperamos”. In English: “We bones that are here, for yours we wait”. The two mummified bodies also showcased in the chapel could not get my appreciation as much - it made me a little sick looking at them (and therefore you won’t find any pictures included of these bodies here).
I’ll leave you with this sonnet (dated 1845!) that was on one of the chapel’s walls and that I thought was worth remembering:
“Where are you going in such a hurry, traveller?
Stop… do not proceed any further.
You have no greater concern,
Then this one: that on which you focus your sight.
Recall how many have passed from this world,
Reflect on your similar end,
There is good reason to reflect,
If only all did the same.
Ponder, you so influenced by fate,
Among the many concerns of the world,
So little do you reflect on death;
If by chance you glance at this place,
Stop… For the sake of your journey,
The more you pause, the more you will progress.”Read more