Today was tour day, and it was a grand time
I walked about fifteen minutes to the Barrio Alto Hotel where I met my guide and travel companions. There were eight of us in all—myself, an Armenian couple now living in Las Angeles, a Chinese couple now living in Michigan, and a family of three from Buenos Aries, Brazil (the history of Portugal and Brazil is closely knit together.)
From there, we drove north (our driver averaged 95 mph in the Mercedes van) to Fatima (about an hour). Along the way, the guide explained to us (first in English, then in Portuguese) the significance of the site, the apparitions, the three shepherd children, and all. It is fascinating to hear, even if you are familiar with the story.
When going to Fatima, it is not about the buildings. It is about the location and the events that occurred there. The buildings came much later. The first picture below shows the actual location of the apparitions and the original place of worship that the Virgin Mary asked to be built. The second, the church, was built later as the site grew in importance and more pilgrims arrived. There is now a third church, which is more like an auditorium, that will hold 8,000. I was glad that the Pilgrim’s Mass was held in the first church.
The Vatican has not yet revealed all the messages that were given but have officially declared the apparitions to be valid; this is primarily due to the fifth apparition: the Virgin Mary asked that six individuals be brought on that day so that they could be healed. When the day arrived, there were at least 40,000 in attendance and 500 to 1,000 were healed and… all reported that the sun danced in the sky. I encourage you to read more about this miraculous event.
From Fatima, we travelled to Batalha (means battle) the site of a great battle and the location of the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victory. Construction began in 1386 in thanksgiving for the victory at the battle of Aljubarrota between the Spanish and the Portuguese (these people still don’t like one another, and our guide tells us that anyone who says differently is lying.) There are some fantastic circumstances regarding the battle, but in the end, 6,000 Portuguese defeated 36,000 Spanish in about forty-five minutes. I would probably have built a church myself. At the far right side of the church you see columns that appear to be incomplete… they are. After 129 years of construction, the government said, “Enough,” and put the resources elsewhere.
A note on paying your artist: the one who crafted the horse and rider (general who led the battle) was never paid properly, so the artist made a few “mistakes” in creating the horse. 1) both left feet of the horse are off the ground. Guess what happens when both the left/right feet of a horse are off the ground. 2) It is a male horse that has three of what it should only have two and none of what it should have one. I’ll let you sort that all out.
It is as though they were attempting to enclose heaven itself in such a dramatic space. The acoustics are incredible as the sound bounces off the ceiling (106 feet) and around the columns.
On each stone, you will see certain marks. These are the marks of the stonecutter. No mark = no pay. When a stone has two marks, it means that it was cut by an apprentice under the tutelage of a master.
I shared lunch with this delightful Armenian couple who insisted on paying for mine. I protested, but he gave me a look that informed me I would not “win” the argument, so I said, “Thank you.”
Nazaré was next. It is known for its waves and the last three world records surfing have been attained here. Most tourists come for the huge waves, but as our guide explained, it is only about five days out of the year that the massive ones (120+ feet) come in. It was still spectacular.
If you think that the name, Nazaré, sounds remarkably close to Nazareth (my Armenian friend pointed this out), then you would be correct. A wonderful legend. You can find it here.
And then we were off to Óbidos (I’ll never get the hang of the language, but it doesn’t sound like it reads.) It is a well preserved example of early life in the region and is surrounded by the castle walls. It became a part of the queen’s dowry, so she would dictate the color that all the houses must be painted, which was white, but the owners had the option of color for “framing” the house.
You are allowed to walk along the top of the wall and you do so at your own risk (definitely not OSHA approved!) By this time of the day, I was pooped out, so I did not take my chances in going all the way around, but the view…
The van was quiet for the ride home. All of us, including our guide, had a very full day. When I returned to the apartment, I had a couple of boiled eggs and a piece of bread, then put my feet up.
Two more days remaining = two more adventures.