One of the main purposes of our move to Europe was to use Portugal/Lisbon as a launchpad for exploring the rest of Europe. But what we have discovered in the meantime is that Portugal is a place full of wondrous things to see all by itself.
Northern Portugal features scenic beauty, historic villages, the highest point in Portugal, and castles galore. We came to see as much as we could, and we certainly did that. Seven days of driving put over 1,000 miles (1,600 km, or .0041866 of the distance to the moon) on our little trooper of a car, Marco the Polo.
But the real difficult part of the whole trip was cataloging and organizing all the pictures. While the castles became something of a blur to our memories, each one had its own unique characteristics that made it worth viewing. After figuring out which of the over 1,000 pictures we had was what, I then had to organize, label, cull, and somehow put them in the blog while still being entertaining.
O meu Deus!
So I organized, labeled, culled, and put a bunch of them in the blog. I’m not sure about the entertainment part, but if you’re interested in scenery you probably have never seen before, at least there’s that!
We used the city of Viseu, with a population of about 100,000 (100,000 in metric), as our launchpad for visiting the surrounding area. While we didn’t find Viseu all that interesting on its own (it did have a ginormous seven-story mall with a skating rink on the top floor and an indoor fountain that spouted all the way to the top), it did serve as an excellent point from which to see everything we saw up there.
The hotel we stayed at, The Pousada De Viseu, was interesting in that it was a converted hospital, and quite beautiful inside.
We had a few hiccups upon check in: they wanted to charge extra because I had the audacity to bring my wife. A good old fashioned American-style pitching of a fit cured them of that notion. Also, the electronic room keys only worked after ten or twenty attempts, but otherwise it was a very nice place.
Above are some photos as we traveled in and around Viseu. They had a nice little stream running through town, part of which had hot springs, but the only access to the hot springs was in a hotel/spa.
Of course, being on the road for a week means eating out a lot. However, a breakfast buffet was included with the hotel (and it was pretty good!) and we tend not to eat out very fancily as we travel. We’d rather spend time driving and seeing more sites than sit down for a typical three-hour Portuguese meal.
As a result, our lunches often looked like this… a bunch of flotsam and jetsam purchased at a grocery store.
Which is fine except that sometimes you end up with a really crumby wife.
I did have a tasty turkey burger in White Castle. What? White Castle you say?
For those who know that chain of American hamburger restaurants, you might not have known their reach extended all the way to Portugal. The reason you wouldn’t have known that is because it’s not true.
Actually, the whole town is named White Castle. And it has nothing to do with the hamburger chain. But, when in White Castle, one must eat a burger I guess.
One would of course expect Castelo Branco (which literally translates to White Castle, in case your Portuguese is rusty) to have a castle, right? Well, it does, but after seeing about a dozen of them throughout that area, we have to place Castelo Branco’s castle pretty much last on the list.
This is about as good as it got in terms of Castle-ish scenery.
The above photo makes it look interesting from the outside, but in truth it was pretty barren and didn’t offer much to see, other that the typically great views of the countryside from the castle walls.
But now that we have the least interesting castle out of the way, we can get to the other ones, which ranged from “cool” to “this is freakin’ awesome.”
We’ll start with marvelous Marialva.
Marialva dates back to Roman times, being reconstructed during the time of Trajan and Hadrian. According to the 2011 census, the village itself boasted a population of 255, making it quite the bustling metropolis. It isn’t often we get to visit a town and thereby increase its population by almost a full percent.
Construction of the castle is dated back to around 1179. I wonder how many things we build today will be around almost 1,000 years later?
They have a suggested trail of the most important historic towns and castles, and while we didn’t follow those instructions, our route throughout the area looked an awful lot like that Family Circus-esque trip as well.
Below is a slide show of some of the pictures we took. It’s a cute little town with a cute little castle. And of course… we love castles!
Usually you get a great view from atop the castle walls. But it can be even better when you climb up above the castle itself!