April 27 Cáceres - Marvão - Evora

We passed into Portugal through the arches of the abandoned customs and border crossing, and into the Parque Natural de Serra de São Mamede. The roads, farms, and towns seemed older, less prosperous, the landscape more lush. We quickly abandoned the highway for a one lane road leading through farm land, cork orchards, and pine woodlots. The old farms and outbuildings were like something out of a movie or of another time. In the distance, the fortified town and castle of Marvão (pronounced Marvon) crowned a granite peak of the  Serra de São Mamede. Warm sun, cool breeze, blue sky, thin cloud, the smell of pine on the air, old farms, open cork orchards and cork depots with piles of curved cork slabs held the promise of something special. The road to Marvão was hard to miss, wider, more recently surfaced, well marked, and clearly leading somewhere popular. Named for the Maladi Duke, Ibn Marwan, who used it as a fortified base by while establishing an independent emirate in the 800s CE, the town was further fortified through the centuries, most extensively in the 13th century. Today, Marvão still dominates the surrounding countryside. Public parking near the top of the hill was a short walk to the fortified town gates. A multi- arched passage led onto the nearly deserted medieval streets. Contrails from international flights left incongruous white traces across the blue sky. A small busload of tourists and a few others from parked cars quickly disappeared in the warren of spotless cobblestone streets and alleys. The hilltop and adjacent castle provided spectacular 360 degree views of  the countryside and villages below. Washing hung from lines, poles, and windows, small gardens were well tended, a small well maintained school playground showed evidence of use but no children, and the streets were eerily empty. Small shops displayed artisanal crafts, foods, and souvenirs but no customers browsed, restaurants were open but unoccupied, at one small shop we could find no-one to pay for our purchase and had to leave money on the counter. It felt as though some emergency had caused the town’s sudden evacuation, and it was with some relief that we came upon a small tour group and a craft shop with the owner in attendance. In conversation with the owner we learned that the town is suffering. The economic crunch in Spain has caused Spanish tourism to dwindle dramatically. Unlike the hill villages near Pals in Catalonia, retreats for the upper class with their high end restaurants open only 3 days a week or by reservation, Marvão, is almost wholly dependent on tourism. It is struggling, trying to weather the "recession" and keep the place up but hard times are beginning to show. It is ironic that the castle and town whose purpose at one time was to keep the Spanish out, is now dependent on Spanish tourists for its very survival. A tiring but scenic drive brought us to Evora, the divided highway split in four to accommodate the stone arches of the ancient Roman aqueduct, still integral to the city’s architecture. Despite this intriguing introduction, we decided to wait before exploring and headed off instead to our campground.  Warm evening sun, cool breezes, open shade, large pitches, and clean washrooms set amidst pasture and farmland provided a great place to recharge our batteries.
On the M1136 near the Rio Sever Entering Marv„o Roman Aqueduct on outskirts of Evora
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
by David E. Moon
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Slideshow Slideshow Route Map Route Map

April 27 Cáceres - Marvão - Evora

We passed into Portugal through the arches of the abandoned customs and border crossing, and into the Parque Natural de Serra de São Mamede. The roads, farms, and towns seemed older, less prosperous, the landscape more lush. We quickly abandoned the highway for a one lane road leading through farm land, cork orchards, and pine woodlots. The old farms and outbuildings were like something out of a movie or of another time. In the distance, the fortified town and castle of Marvão  (pronounced Marvon) crowned a granite peak of the  Serra de São Mamede. Warm sun, cool breeze, blue sky, thin cloud, the smell of pine on the air, old farms, open cork orchards and cork depots with piles of curved cork slabs held the promise of something special. The road to Marvão was hard to miss, wider, more recently surfaced, well marked, and clearly leading somewhere popular. Named for the Maladi Duke, Ibn Marwan, who used it as a fortified base by while establishing an independent emirate in the 800s CE, the town was further fortified through the centuries, most extensively in the 13th century. Today, Marvão still dominates the surrounding countryside. Public parking near the top of the hill was a short walk to the fortified town gates. A multi- arched passage led onto the nearly deserted medieval streets. Contrails from international flights left incongruous white traces across the blue sky. A small busload of tourists and a few others from parked cars quickly disappeared in the warren of spotless cobblestone streets and alleys. The hilltop and adjacent castle provided spectacular 360 degree views of  the countryside and villages below. Washing hung from lines, poles, and windows, small gardens were well tended, a small well maintained school playground showed evidence of use but no children, and the streets were eerily empty. Small shops displayed artisanal crafts, foods, and souvenirs but no customers browsed, restaurants were open but unoccupied, at one small shop we could find no-one to pay for our purchase and had to leave money on the counter. It felt as though some emergency had caused the town’s sudden evacuation, and it was with some relief that we came upon a small tour group and a craft shop with the owner in attendance. In conversation with the owner we learned that the town is suffering. The economic crunch in Spain has caused Spanish tourism to dwindle dramatically. Unlike the hill villages near Pals in Catalonia, retreats for the upper class with their high end restaurants open only 3 days a week or by reservation, Marvão, is almost wholly dependent on tourism. It is struggling, trying to weather the "recession" and keep the place up but hard times are beginning to show. It is ironic that the castle and town whose purpose at one time was to keep the Spanish out, is now dependent on Spanish tourists for its very survival. A tiring but scenic drive brought us to Evora, the divided high- way split in four to accommodate the stone arches of the ancient Roman aqueduct, still integral to the city’s architecture. Despite this intriguing introduction, we decided to wait before explor- ing and headed off instead to our campground.  Warm evening sun, cool breezes, open shade, large pitches, and clean washrooms set amidst pasture and farmland provided a great place to recharge our batteries.
On the M1136 near the Rio Sever Entering Marv„o Roman Aqueduct on outskirts of Evora
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Slideshow Slideshow Route Map Route Map