Tourist First

Travel notes and advice from around the world. Above, the daily flight from Managua at the San Carlos, Nicaragua, airstrip.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Portugal: Obidos, the Past and the Present

The Oratory of Our Lady of Piety was installed inside the main gate long after it was built in 1380.
  Obidos, just off the highway that connects Lisbon and Porto, is considered Portugal's best-preserved medieval walled town and it's easy to believe that its old stone buildings and narrow streets look much as they did 600 years ago, with the addition of TripAdvisor signs in most windows and promotional umbrellas shading sidewalk tables.
      A morning or an afternoon is probably all anyone needs to spend in Obidos, and we arrived from Sintra in time for lunch and an afternoon of walking around. We chose one of the many sidewalk cafes, this one with bowls of oranges on each table. I had one while waiting for our food. I was surprised to see a 1.5-euro charge for the orange when we got our bill. (In Portugal, it's customary to be charged for bread, olive oil or butter, olives and anything else that's brought to your table whether you order it or not. The trick to avoid being charged is to refuse them and send them back. But I somehow thought the orange would be free.)

For the itinerary of our April 2017 Portugal trip
and links to hotels, click HERE

     The Obidos castle has been converted into a pousada (click HERE), the term for an historic building now used as an inn or hotel. We climbed the hill to it, thinking we could walk its ramparts and have a drink in its bar. The ramparts looked too sketchy for anyone but a mountain goat, and we wandered around the hotel without finding anyone anywhere.
       We were staying two nights beyond the town walls at Casa d'Obidos, an old and solid manor house set on well-tended grounds with a pool and a few guest cottages. You could see the castle and town walls from Casa d'Obidos; a walking path connects the inn with the town. Near our inn is a run-down baroque church, Santuario do Senhor da Pedra (Our Lord Jesus of the Stone Sanctuary), which boasts a Paleo Christian stone cross in its altar. Beside it is a cozy family restaurant called O Caldeirao (click HERE) where we had dinner our first night in Obidos.
      Our one full day here was spent largely out of town, in the nearby rural district of Bombarral at Buddha Eden (click HERE), a sprawling sculpture park notable for its many, many images of the Buddha and its several large groups of life-size blue Chinese warriors that look as if someone had spray-painted the famous Terracotta Warriors of Xian.  The park, which is connected to the Bacalhoa Winery, got its start in 2001 when, in reaction to the Taliban's destruction of the Giant Buddhas of Afganistan, wealthy Portuguese art patron Jose Berardo decided to build a park of peace.
      It would take at least a full day to walk all the paths and contemplate all the many works of art. In addition to scores of marble Buddhas and the blue warriors, there are many works of contemporary art, along with ponds, fountains and other water features.
     Although there is a winery cafe, for a late lunch we drove a few minutes along country roads to Supatra Thai (click HERE), also in rural Bombarral, where Thai food served in a converted winery was a welcome break from heavy Portuguese food. It was well worth seeking out.
    After a lazy late afternoon beside the pool at Casa d'Obidos, we headed into the walled town for dinner at A Nova Casa de Ramiro (click HERE), probably the best and most expensive restaurant for miles around.  Its menu, which expands on traditional Portuguese fare, and its dessert cart may be the best reason for visiting Obidos.
Rua Direita, the main street of Obidos, leads from the main gate to the castle. Many shops offer
shots of ginjinha, a local sour cherry liqueur served in a chocolate cup. 

A side street.

The Igreja de Santa Maria was a Visigoth temple in the eighth century.

The town is enclosed by crenellated walls, here see from a terrace outside the castle. Most
Obidos buildings are painted white with blue trim.

Just inside the main gate, steps lead to one of the bastions.

The dining room at A Nova Casa de Ramiro.

One of several groups of blue warriors and horses at Buddha Eden. Note the vineyards in the distance.
The entrance to the park is also the sales room for a winery.

This group had no horses.

Small figurines show up along shady paths at Buddha Eden.
Contemporary but primitive-looking sculptures on a hillside in the huge park. I could
not discover how many acres it is.

Reclining figurines line the bank of one of the park's several water features.

"Temple" is one of many modern works included in the park.

Steps lead to one of the reclining Buddhas at Buddha Eden.In the background is the park's tallest statue.

I imagine that if you climb to the top of a pyramid in Egypt,
there will be a sign asking you to promote it on Facebook,
Instagram or TripAdvisor. 

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