Every year, in Portugal, from 15th July until 15th September, there are several free activities under the program “Ciência Viva no Verão” (Summer Living Science). These activities can be related with Astronomy, Biology, Geology, Engineering, Castles or Lighthouses.
On 3rd August 2013, JB, his parents, two of his parents’ friends and I traveled to the Portuguese historical village of Marialva to participate in a guided tour to Marialva Castle under the program mentioned above.
At 10h30 we were at the meeting point, the “Porta do Anjo da Guarda” (Guardian Angel Door), which is the main entrance of the Castle.
There we met our guides, Sofia, an archaeologist, and Helena, graduated in Tourism. Sofia talked mostly about the Castle structure and location and showed us some details on the rocks found inside the castle and on its walls. Helena talked about the history of the Castle.
At the Castle’s entrance, our attention was drawn to the left side wall of the gate, where 3 linear marks with different sizes are carved. These 3 marks represent the measure units used for trading inside the Castle during the Middle Ages.
We visited first the citadel. Sitting on the top of the wall that surrounds the citadel, we listened to Sofia and Helena while we were admiring the vast plain that surrounds the Castle. It’s a very beautiful landscape! From there we saw everything around, which justifies the choice of that spot to build the Castle.
Among many things, the guides told us one of the versions of the legend of Marialva, also known as the legend of the lady of goat feet.
“I will marry the man who gives me a pair of shoes that fit my feet”
As the princess tried her new shoes, the spell cast by an evil witch was broken. She was confined to the tower and had goat feet until someone give her shoes that would fit her feet.
The village got the name of the beautiful princess Maria Alva: Marialva.
We went down to the urban nucleus, where we distinguished an administrative and a religious area. On the administrative area we observed the ruins of the “Casa da Câmara” (Town Hall) and of the “Casa dos Magistrados” (Magistrates’ House), which housed the court and the prison. Nevertheless, it was the pillory from the 16th century and the well that caught our attention. They are both located in a paved square and, unlike the buildings in the vicinity, they are not in ruins. But only because they were already reconstructed.
We visited the “Capela do Senhor dos Passos” (Chapel of the Lord of Steps), where we admired the paintings on the coffered vault. Saint Lucy, who holds her eyes on a golden plate, was one of the saints we recognized in the paintings. Afterwards we went to the Mother Church, which is dated from the 16th century.
After a small walk in Marialva, we left this beautiful village and went to Mêda.
We had lunch in the restaurant “O Retiro”. Good food, good service and good price.
After lunch we discovered the town by foot. We followed a route suggested in a book owned by one of the members of the group.
We began the walk next to the city hall of Mêda and went to “Rua da Corredoura” (Corredoura Street), where we found the “Fonte das Fontaínhas” (Fontaínhas Fountain) and the “Solar das Casas Novas” (Manor House of Casas Novas). The Manor House is a baroque building from the 17th century that has a curious coat of arms on its facade, since on its top there’s a sculpture of a cow.
Some meters ahead, we found a Manueline fountain, the “Fonte do Espírito Santo” (Fountain of the Holy Spirit). We continued walking until we had found the stairway that led us to the hill where the “Torre do Relógio” (Clock Tower) is located. We contemplated the city from there and we looked for a geocache hidden in there.
We went down the hill following the stairway that led us to the historic center of Mêda, which includes the Mother Church, the former court, the prison, the pillory and the Municipal Museum.
A kind old lady who saw us around the Church came to us asking if we wanted to visit the Church. Of course we accepted the invitation to see the interior of that beautiful Romanesque Church dated from the 16th – 17th centuries.
We left Mêda and drove to the next destination, Longroiva.
Longroiva is a small town whose main attractions are the Castle, the “Capela da Senhora do Torrão” (Chapel of the Torrão Lady), the “Igreja de Santa Maria” (Saint Mary Church), the “Fonte da Concelha” (Concelha’s Fountain) and the “Fonte Nova” (New Fountain).As we arrived to Longroiva, we went to Saint Mary Church, a Romanesque church, and to the Chapel of the Torrão Lady. The Chapel is located next to the Church and they were both closed, so we could not visit their interior. But we could admire the anthropomorphic sculptures from the 12th century that surround the Chapel.
On the highest point of Longroiva lays the Castle, or which remains of it. Longroiva Castle is one of the most important examples of the templar architecture in that region.
The keep tower, dated from 1174, was the only thing that remained from the original castle. The holes on the top of the keep tower indicate that there was a wooden structure, named hoarding, surrounding the tower. The hoarding improved the capacity of defense by allowing the tower defenders to fire directly downwards to the tower base.
Longroiva Castle is the only castle in Portugal that shows signs of a former hoarding, a structure that was introduced by the Templars.
The bailey of the castle was converted into a graveyard.
Next to the castle we found a few almond trees that still had some almonds. Although the almonds were old, they were delicious. So we stopped there to grab some of them and to find a geocache hidden nearby.
We returned to the town center, where we found the “Fonte Nova” (New Fountain) and where we stopped for a coffee. After we rested a little bit, we walked to the “Fonte da Concelha” (Concelha’s Fountain), which is 600 m away from the town center.
Before we left Longroiva, we visited the “Pólo Termal de Longroiva” (Longroiva’s Thermal Complex), which, due to its sulfur waters, is focused on the treatment of musculoskeletal and respiratory pathologies.
The final destination of that day was Trancoso, where we spent the night. As soon as we arrived there, we looked for a restaurant to have dinner. The one we were looking for was closed, so we had to find another one.We ended up in the restaurant “Bandarra”, where we had a simple and cheap dinner.
For desert we tried the famous “sardinhas doces de Trancoso” (sweet sardines of Trancoso).The sweet sardines are a traditional pastry of Trancoso that is filled with a mixture of egg yolk, almonds sugar and cinnamon.
We tasted the sweet sardines from three different places – restaurant “Bandarra”, “Casa da Prisca” and from a cake shop located in the Corredoura Street, whose name I don’t remember.
Although the sweet sardines from “Casa da Prisca” are more pleasant to the eye and are covered by chocolate, we preferred the ones from the restaurant “Bandarra”.
On the next day, 4rd August 2013, we participated in another activity under the program “Ciência Viva no Verão”. It was a guided visit to the Medieval Castle of Trancoso.
We left the “Residencial Dom Dinis”, the hotel in Trancoso where we had spent the night, and as we still had some time till the scheduled time of the visit to the castle, we wandered around looking for a few geocaches.
At 10h30 we were at the entrance of the castle, where we met Sofia. Sofia was our guide on the visit to Marialva Castle, on the previous day, and she was going to be our guide again.
We went inside the keep tower and climbed to its top, from where we enjoyed the surrounding landscape.
After the visit to the castle we had a delicious lunch at restaurant “Cantinho dos Arcos”. Oppositely to everybody else, who ordered meat dishes, I order boiled hake accompanied by potatoes and greens. It was really good!
We dedicated the two next hours to discover the city of Trancoso by foot. Once again, we followed a route suggested in a book owned by one of the members of the group.
This route took us to the “Capela do Senhor da Calçada” (Chapel of the Lord of Roadway), next to which we found a large cherry tree that had huge cherries. Then we went to the “Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Fresta” (Church of Our Lady of Gap). And finally we visited the former Jewish Quarter, where we still can see some houses that have a Jewish symbol on its facade.
A famous Jewish house in Trancoso is the “Casa do Gato Preto” (House of the Black Cat), which took us some time to find.
Standing out from the other buildings around, there’s the Jewish Interpretation Center Isaac Cardoso, inaugurated in 2012.