Monday, April 17, 2006

Sintra, Day 1.

Made my way to historic centre of Sintra, a feast for the eyes and a photographer's paradise (see for instance here). Sintra was taken over by the Moors from whose castle they dominated all the way to Cascais and the Northern end of the Tejo river, and which, by the way, you can appreciate on a clear day from atop the Castelo dos Mouros, a vigorous 2 or so hour hike up the road from the town's historic centre.

Anyway, the Palacio Nacional (it is that white building that pops out often in the photos, with the two conical structures), has some nice relief tiles added on to the original Moorish ones (the palace was originally built by the Arab geographer Al-Bacr). Remember what I told you about tile innovation a few posts ago?

The juxtaposition of Moorish and Portuguese is quite striking in the Palatine chapel, where rather ironically the Christian altar is decorated in very typical, geometric-patterned Moorish-styled tiles, and in the ceiling of the chapel, the Portuguese royal coat of arms is overlaid among the also characteristic Islamic intertwined wooden arabesques.

The white conical spires? They make the kitchen ceilings! Lots of smoke when cooking, I guess. They're about 35 meters high, according to the curator of the rooms in question.

Anyway, after visiting the National Palace I took the nice verdant hike up to Palacio dos Mouros, which must've been a nightmare to defend, judging by the labyrinthine ramparts that twist every which way along the perimeter, that could've conceivabely been attacked from all sorts of odd angles. Or perhaps, maybe not, since the castle is right at the corner atop a big, steep hill, and fairly inaccessible, but then again, who knows, since simply standing on the ramparts with the view to Cascais and the Ocean and Lisbon all around at 360°, with the cold and the wind bellowing in your ears at vertiginous speeds, is enough to make you expend all concentration in making sure you don't fall off the ramparts yourself. {shrug}.

Man, I could live here in Sintra. Got my laundry done (the concept of coin-operated laundromats doesn't seem to exist here, so you have to leave your stuff at the laundry shop, dry-cleaning style), and their library has a beautiful broadband connection. What more could one want?

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