by far surpassed our expectations. Portugal is a fascinating
country with a rich cultural heritage, charming old cities, picturesque
landscapes, dreamlike beaches with idyllic bays and not at least
the country, where 1917 happened the wonder of Fatima , which made
the city a world famous place of Christian pilgrimage.
We started our tour with a one
week's round-trip by car, which gave us unforgettable impressions
of life, the cultural heritage and the beauty of the country.
Our itinerary lead us more than 1000
km through the country, from Faro at the southern coast
up to the region around Lisbon and back to the Algarve, to
Albufeira, where we spent another week.
The Algarve is a hilly coastal region in southern
Portugal with 20-50 m high cliffs, picturesque ormations of yellow and reddish-brown
limestone and sandstone rocks, romantic grottoes, caves and coves as well as fine s
andy beaches and lagoon landscapes.
Especially remarkable and impressive
were the unusual large fortresses on high hilltops like in
Sintra, Marvao, Estremos or Obidos, with mighty
ramparts surrounding mediaeval cities, still inhabited,
as well as marvellous castles and architectural masterpisces of churches and cloisters. Thus we often felt like taken back
into the times of the Moorish conquerors and the expulsion of them
by the Portuguese.
On the way we enjoyed seeing the varying landscapes -
steppes, mountain chains and fertile plains with exotic subtropical vegetation. While Eucalyptus-, olive- and cork
oak plantations, fruit trees and wine form the lovely picture of
the countryside, palms and a lavish abundance of colourful flowers
give the white villages, the nobleman's country seats, the socalled
quintas and the cities a charming flair.
But it is not only the flowers, which make the historic cities
so attractive. It is the magnificent cultural heritage
with multi cultural architectural
styles of the edifices and monuments which come from the Roman and
Moorish past just as the traditional decoration of the houses with
colourful ceramic tiles and elaborate lattices from wrought iron
at windows and balconies, historic street lamps and narrow alleys...
The most beautiful and typical example uniting all features is the
capital Lisbon itself.
of walls with ceramic tiles, the "azulejos" - inside and
out of the buildings - is a special feature all over Portugal. Since
the Arabs brought this craft to Portugal, it developed into
a real traditional art. Elaborate wall paintings from tiles decorate
banqueting halls of palaces as well as churches and common buildings.
Even street signs on houses are made from decorative tiles!