Portugal – Day 8 – Lisbon

Today I spent more time exploring Lisbon. I started off with another breakfast sandwich and a coffee at Starbucks. It’s easy and consistent, and the only way to get a coffee that isn’t the size of a thimble.

First stop was the Aguas Livres Aqueduct, designed by Italian architect Antonio Canevari. It is a historic aqueduct that covers 18 kilometres, however the whole network of canals is closer to 60 kilometres. The City of Lisbon suffered from a lack of sustainable drinking water, and King John V decided that an aqueduct needed to be built to bring water from sources in the parish of Caneças, in the modern municipality of Odivelas. The project was paid for by a special sales tax on beef, olive oil, wine, and other products. Construction occurred between 1731 and 1744. Custódio Vieira, is the centerpiece of the aqueduct, that arches over the Alcantara valley. A total of 35 arches spans 941 metres across the valley, with the tallest arch reaching a height of 65 metres. The views from the bridge are also quite spectacular!

The Palace of the Marquises of Fronteira is a Portuguese Palace that was built in 1671 as a hunting pavilion to Dom João de Mascarenhas, 1st Marquis of Fronteira, who received his title from King Afonso VI of Portugal for his loyalty to the House of Braganza in the Portuguese Restoration War. The palace is still a private residence of the Marquesses of Fronteira. The building is built in Baroque architecture style.

Panoramico de Monsanto is a graffitied, abandoned high-end restaurant that’s now a popular spot for panoramic views over Lisbon. The restaurant was built in 1968 in the Monsanto Forest Park. Designed by Chaves Costa, it was comprised of five floors, including a 360 degree panoramic view of the city. It was decorated with a ceramic panel by Manuela Madureira, a mural painted by Luís Dourdil, a tile panel by Manuela Ribeiro Soares, and a granite bas relief made by Maria Teresa Quirino da Fonseca. All are still visible. The building was abandoned in 2001, and reopened in 2017 as a viewing platform.

Believe it or not, I had already covered 20000 steps before noon, so I was quite hungry. I went to Tasca do Gordo for lunch, and had traditional Portuguese white bean stew with chorizo and tripe, but it was honestly quite bad, and I barely had any. I felt bad not finishing it, and I could tell that the staff were not impressed. I had this same dish back in Porto, and loved it.

After lunch I took the bus to Belem Tower. Belem Tower, officially known as the Tower of Saint Vincent, is a fortified tower that was built between 1514 and 1519 as a defense system for the mouth of the Tagus. Belem Tower served as a gateway for Portuguese explorers who arrived and departed to sea. It was built during the Portuguese Renaissance, and is an excellent example of Portuguese Manueline style. The structure was made from Lioz Limestone, and stands nearly 30 metres (98 feet) tall! Today it is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I then found another piece of street art made entirely of garbage from Bordallo.

Jeronimos Monastery is a former monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome located near the Tagus river. Built in Portuguese Gothic Manueline style, it was opened in 1601. It took 100 years to complete! The monastery replaced a church that was built on the same site in 1495. It is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) was built in 2016. The beautiful flowy building was designed by Amanda Levete. MAAT’s houses four exhibitions.

Next door to MAAT is the former Tejo Power Station. The power station was used from 1909 to 1972, although it transitioned to a reserve power station in 1951. The original building was built in 1909, and operated until 1921. In 1914 construction bean on the low pressure boiler buildings and machinery room, which was later expanded several times. In 1941 the high pressure boiler building was finished, and later expanded in 1951, with the addition of another boiler. In 1990 the Electricity Museum was opened in the former power station. Output of the original power station was 7.75 MW from 5 generators.

The Lx Factory Art Center is one of Lisbon’s most visited art centers. In 2008 the city transformed a historic manufacturing area into an Art Center called LX Factory, however it’s also known as Creative Island. Every year the arts center hosts several events ranging from acting, yoga, dance, and art. Another Bordello piece of art was here too, this time that of a bee.

I went back to the hotel for a few hours to relax at the pool and spa, and then I got ready to head out to meet a family friend named Yasmin, and her husband Mauricio for dinner at a lovely restaurant named Taberna Sal Grosso. The food was tapas style, and definitely didn’t dissapoint.

We finished dinner around 11pm, and rode the train back into the city center together, before parting ways. I ended up going to bed around midnight or so.

Be sure to check back tomorrow, as I explore even more of Lisbon.

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Portugal – Day 6 – Sintra & Cascais

Today I explored the beautiful areas of Sintra and Cascais. I had a delicious breakfast at the buffet at my Myriad hotel. It was one of the best buffet breakfasts I’ve ever had. After having breakfast I checked out of the hotel, and took the metro to pickup my rental car, Citroen 308. I quite enjoyed driving it, because I love driving manual transmission, and it had a square steering wheel, which was super comfortable to drive. I wish more cars took real world ergonomics into consideration. Most people drive with a hand at the 12 o’clock position, so having a square steering wheel is nice.

I set off towards Sintra area, with a quick stop at a gas station for a coffee. The drive took about 30 minutes, and had a bit of congestion for 5 minutes or so. First stop was the Palace of Sintra. The Palace of Sintra, also known was the Town Palace is one of the best preserved medieval royal residences in Portgual. It was utilized as a royal residence from the 15th to 19th century, before becoming a museum. It is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site. The palace is a blend of Gothic, Manueline, Moorish, and Mudejar architecture styles, due to the extensive time period the building was built over. The oldest surviving part of the palace is the chapel, which was built during the reign of King Dinis I around 1281. The palace chapel has a tiled floor with tiles in the apse laid to resemble a carpel. The walls are painting in patterned square that look like tiles, and depict the Holy Ghost descending in the form of a dove. The ceiling is constructed of wood and is decorated in geometrically patterned latticework. In the late 14th century, Portugal was conquering strategic areas in North Africa, and the Iberian Peninsula, and established central trade routes. With this massive infusion of wealth, King John I ordered the large-scale Palace of Sintra project to be built. Most of the current day palace dates back to the era when King John I ruled. The most noticeable features are the twin chimney towers, that can be seen from miles away. The rooms surround the central courtyard are also from this period. The Arab Room is covered in elaborate motifs and blue ceramic tile work. The Swans Room’s ceiling is covered in painted swans. The Magpies room has 136 painted magpies holding a rose and scroll with the words Por Bem (For the good). 100 years passed, and King Manuel I made some additions to the palace, which included the Coat of Arms Room, a room with a hexagonal roof with paints of deer and the coats of arms of 72 noble families. This also saw the transition from Gothic to Renaissance art styles. In 1755 the palace suffered damage during the Lisbon Earthquake, however was quickly restored. The Palace of Sintra remained in use by the royal family until 1880. In 1910 the palace became a national monument. In the 1940’s the palace underwent major restoration.

After exploring the Palace of Sintra I walked about 45 minutes uphill to the Castle of the Moors. The Castle of the Moors is a hilltop medieval castle located in Sintra, about 25 km Northwest of Lisbon. It was built by the Moors in the 8th and 9th centuries. It is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The castle was constructed on an exposed rocky outcrop, which provided the Moors a strategic view along the coastline and surrounding lands. In 1147 Christian Crusaders stormed the castle and became rulers. The castle was left for ruins and was eventually overtaken by dense forests. In the 1800’s King Ferdinand II was mesmerized by the natural and serene setting of the castle ruins, and ordered the site to be restored. It was partially restored.

Further along the uphill path is the Palace of Pena. After another 30 minutes of walking I arrived at the Palace. Park and National Palace of Pena. The Pena Palace is a Romanticist castle located on the top of a hill in the Sintra mountains above Sintra. It was completed in 1854, and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as of 1995. The castle’s history starts back in the middle ages when a chapel dedicated to “Our Lady of Pena” was built on top of the hill above Sintra. In the 18th century the monastery was severely damage by lightning, and the following Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 essentially reduced the monastery to ruins. The chapel somehow escaped significant damage. The ruins remained untouched until King Ferdinand II decided to acquire the old monastery, and surround lings, including the Castle of the Moors. He transformed the monastery into a palace that would serve as a summer residence of the Portuguese Royal Family. The current Romanesque style building was constructed between 1842 and 1854. It would have been completed sooner, however King Ferdinand and his wife Queen Mari II decided to make some extensive changes in 1847. After the death of Ferdinand the palace was passed onto his second wife Elisa Hensler, Countess of Edla, who then sold the palace to King Luis. In 1889 it was purchased by the Portuguese State, and after the Republican Revolution of 1910 it was classified as a national monument and transformed into a museum.

After a 1.25 hour walk back to the car I drove towards the coast and checked out a few areas, including a few beaches, a lighthouse, and an abandoned hotel.

Last stop before returning the rental car was Cascais. This is a beautiful small city on the coast.

The Condes de Castro Guimarães Museum, originally known was Sebastian’s Tower, was built in 1900 for Jorge O’ Neil, an aristocrat who owned many businesses. It became a museum in 1931. This beautiful building has neo-gothic and Revivalist architecture styles.

Palacio Seixas is a small two-storey neoclassical palace that was built in 1900 on behalf of Carmen Graziella Castilla da Rocha. In 1907 Carlos Seixas, an industrialist, purchased the house. In 1997 Instituto Camões purchased the house.

Casa das Historias Paula Rego is a very unique museum in Cascais. The building was designed by Souto De Moura, who was chosen by Paula Rego. The building consists of two pyramid-shaped towers, and red-cloured concrete. The building consists of four wings of different heights and sizes, a large exhibition space, a 200 seat auditorium, a shop, and a café.

The Citadel of Cascais is a set of fortifications that were built between the 15th and 17th centuries to defend the Cascais coastline against attacks on Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. The citadel consists of Santo António de Cascais, the Fortress of Our Lady of Light (Nossa Senhora da Luz de Cascais), and the former Royal Palace area. In 1488 a fort, known as the Torre de Santo António de Cascais, was built to provide resistance on possible military attacks on Lisbon. In 1594 the fort of Nossa Senhora da Luz de Cascais, designed by Italian Captain Fratino, was ordered to be built by Philip I. The fortress continued to undergo upgrades until 1755, when it was significantly damaged by the Lisbon Earthquake.

Casa de Santa Maria was a luxury private residence in Cascais. It was built in 1902 for Jorge O’ Neil, an aristocrat who owned many businesses. He originally built what is now the Condes de Castro Guimarães Museum, and later on commissioned this building as a wedding present for his daughter. Raul Lino designed the building, which was built by materials only found within Portugal. In 1914 the building was sold to engineer Jose Lino Junior, who was the older brother of Raul Lino. He expanded the building by adding parts at each end, with the architecture being designed by Raul Lino. In 1934 the house was acquired by the Espirito Santo family. In 2004 the building was acquired by the Cascais Municipality.

Santa Marta Beach is a beautiful small cove with a sandy beach located behind the Marina in Cascais. The views here are simply incredible!

The Santa Marta Lighthouse was built in 1868 on the site of Santa Marta to provide light for navigation of ships. It originally had a fixed red light, given by a dioptric lens. It was later replaced by a fixed-light catadioptric system in 1908. In 1936 the tower height was increased by 8 metres, due to new buildings in the area that were impeding existing light. In 1949 a foghorn was installed. In 1953 the lamp was electrified, and even included a backup system. In 1964 a generator was installed. In 1981 the lighthouse was modified. Further upgrades occurred in 2000.

Be sure to check back tomorrow, as I explore more of Lisbon.

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Portugal – Day 3 – Porto

Today was a bit of a rough start. I tried to go to bed at 10:30pm last night, however my neighbour in room 402 was listening to music fairly loud, and smoking pot. I had enough by the time 11pm rolled by, so I knocked on his door to ask him to turn off the music. For some strange reason he was trying to use a hairdryer to blow the marijuana smoke from his room out the window. It was not working very well… He came home from partying at 6:00am or so and tried to enter my room, instead of his, so that woke me up. After having my breakfast it was time for me to venture out into the city.

First stop was Cais da Ribeira, which is is Porto’s historical city center square. It is included as part of the recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Ribeira district spreads along the Douro river front, and was used as a center for commercial and manufacturing activities since the Middle Ages. In 1491 the majority of the buildings were destroyed in a fire, and rebuilt with arcades on their ground floors. In the mid-18th century the city needed to improve access for the swift flow of goods and people between the neighbourhood and other areas of Porto, so a new street, the Sao Joao Street, was opened on the North side and connected Ribeira Square and the upper town. The project took place between 1776 and 1782.

While I was in Ribeira I took the Elevador da Lada to the lower area of the Dom Luis I Bridge. This elevator was designed by Antonio Moura, and was built in 1994.

After looking at the view from the lower portion of the Dom Luis I Bridge I took the Guindais Funicular to he top of the Fernandine Walls of Porto. The funicular railway that was built in 1891. It descends 61 metres (200 feet) down the steep cliff from Batalha to the quayside at Riberia. The journey takes a mere 3 minutes.

The Fernandine Walls of Porto are medieval fortifications that began construction in 1336 during the reign of King D. Afonso IV. These Romanesque walls were topped by bastions, strengthened by turrets and watchtowers. The Trecho dos Guindais part of the wall was restored in 1920 and is open to the public to walk along, and also is home to the nearby Funicular dos Guindais.

After exploring the walls I walked across the Dom Luis I Bridge, which is a double-hinged double-deck arch bridge constructed of iron and granite. It has two decks that span nearly 400 metres across the Douro river. It was designed by Théophile Seyrig, and constructed by Société Willebreck between 1881 and 1886. The bridge utilized a toll system from its inauguration until 1944. Today the top deck is utilized by the D-Line public transportation and pedestrians, and the bottom deck by cars. In 2006 the lower deck was widened. The top of the bridge provides some incredible views below.

The Monastery of Serra do Pilar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as of 1996. It was originally built in 1672 and houses a circular church and cloister. Both are situated quite high above the Douro river. The first monastery was constructed in 1538 by the order of St. Augustine. It was completed in 1564, with the cloisters finished in 1583, however was quickly rendered obsolete due to being too small. In 1597 work began on a new church. It took until 1672 to complete! The importance of the site wasn’t recognized until the Peninsular War when it was utilized as a fortified stronghold during the Siege of Porto. The destroyed portions of the monastery were reconstructed beginning in 1927. In 1947 some of the monastery grounds were converted into a military barracks, which remains on site to this day.

The Real Companhia Velha winery was founded in 1756 by King D. Jose I. It is also known as the Royal Oporto Wine Company, and has some of the most ancient cellars in the country. Here I had a tour of the Port House, and tried four delicious port wines.

It was time to get some lunch, so I walked about half an hour in the pouring rain to Aquele Tasco, and had a traditional Portuguese dish called Dobrada, which is tripe, white beans, chorizo, etc. in a tomato sauce served with basmati rice. It’s very similar to French Cassoulet. Afterwards I took pictures of a few more buildings before coming back to my hotel for the rest of the day, since it was raining so hard.

Rua de Santa Catarina 533 is a unique Art Nouveau style building, but I couldn’t find much information on it unfortunately.

Porto Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church constructed between 1110 and 1737! The church encompasses the multiple architectural styles of Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque, because it took so long to build. The cathedral is flanked by two towers, which are each supported with two buttresses and crowned with a cupola (dome-like structure).

The Coliseum of Porto is an Art Deco (Streamline Moderne) style theatre and concert venue that was built between 1939 and 1941. It has a capacity for 7000 people (3000 seated, 4000 standing). The building was designed by Cassiano Branco. Originally built as a concert hall, it was transformed to a cinema/studio in 1971. In 1995 the coliseum was to be sold to IURD, the Brazilian Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. This caused a huge uproar by locals, municipal council, civil governor, etc. The “Amigos do Coliseu do Porto” was established, and stopped the sale of the building. In September 1996 the building was purchased by the Amigos. Unfortunately a fire started inside not too long after, which destroyed the stage, principal hall, and dressing rooms. The building was repaired and reopened in December 1996. Between 1997 and 2001 the building underwent numerous upgrades, which included electrical system upgrades, new washrooms on all floors, water supply upgrades, security upgrades, fire protection system upgrades, roof repairs, dressing room renovations, lighting and moving equipment upgrades, HVAC upgrades, etc. A very lengthy list! The building became a protected heritage building in 2005.

A Pérola do Bolhão is a beautiful Art Nouveau styled grocery store.

Be sure to check back soon, when I explore more of Porto. Tomorrow is my last day of exploring Porto before taking a train to Lisbon.

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Czech Republic – Kutná Hora & Český Krumlov

After visiting Prague it was time to move on to my next destinations; Kutná Hora and Český Krumlov. First stop was Kutná Hora.

Kutná Hora was first founded in 1142 with the settlement of Sedlec Abbey, the first Cistercian monastery in Bohemia. In 1260 German miners flicked to the area to begin mining for silver in the surrounding mountain region. There was great economic prosperity from the 13th thru 16th centuries and the city competed with Prague economically, politically and culturally.

In 1420, Emperor Sigismund made the city the base For his unsuccessful attack on the Taborites during the Hussite Wars, which lead to the Battle of Kutná Hora. Kutná Hora was taken by Jan Zizka, but was burned by imperial troops in 1422 to prevent it falling into the hands of the Taborites. Zizka still the reigns of the city nonetheless and it emerged to new prosperity.

Kutná Hora was eventually passed to the Habsburg Monarchy of Austria in 1526. In 1546 the most prosperous of the mines was flooded. Eventually the plague, 30 years war, and a fire did the city in. The city became impoverished and the mines were eventually abandoned at the end of the 18th century.

The city has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995. When I was here I visited the Church of Saint James (which was under construction), and St. Barbara’s Cathedral.

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After visiting Kutná Hora is was time to drive further along to my next stop, Český Krumlov, where I would be staying for the next two days.
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Český Krumlov started in 1240 when a settlement rose around a castle by the Vitkovci family, descendants of the Witiko of Prčice. The family died off in 1302 And Kind Wenceslaus II ceded the town and castle to the Rosenberg family. Peter 1 of Rosenberg, the Lord Chamberlain of King John of Bohemia, resided here and had the upper castle erected. Most of the people living below the castle were German-speaking at the time and migrated from Austria and Bavaria.

The Rosenbergs encouraged trade and crafts within the town wall, and when gold was found next to the town, German miners came to settle. William of Rosenberg, High Treasurer and High Burgrave of Bohemia, had the castle rebuilt in a Renaissance style during the time.

In 1602 Williams brother Peter Vok of Rosenberg sold Cesky Krumlov to the Habsburg emperor Rufolf II, who then gave it to his son Julius d’Austria. After the Battle of White Mountain, Emperor Ferdinand II gave Český Krumlov to the noble House of Eggenberg. From 1719 to 1947 the castle belonged to the House of Scwarzenberg.

After Word War I the city was part of the Bohemian Forest Region, which was initially declared part of German-Austria. The Czechoslovak army occupied the region by 1918, and it eventually became part of Czechoslovakia. in 1938 it was claimed by the Nazi Germans. After World War II the German speaking population was expelled and the town was returned to Czechoslovakia.

Under the communist ruling of Czechoslovakia the town fell into disrepair, but since the Velvet Revolution in 1989 much of the town has been restored. The city has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992. The town was severely damaged in a great flood in 2002, but has since been repaired.

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