Weekend in the region of Almeida – day 1

DAY 1 (29th August 2015)
– Castelo Mendo
– Castelo Bom
– Almeida: Recriação Histórica do Cerco de Almeida (Historical Reenactment of the Siege of Almeida)
DAY 2: (30th August 2015)
– Almofala
– Castelo Rodrigo
– Santa Maria de Aguiar ConventRestaurant: A Cerca (Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo) – 10€/pax

On 29th August 2015, a very hot Saturday, my brother, my cousin JP, JB and I went by car to Almeida to attend the Recriação Histórica do Cerco de Almeida (Historical Reenactment of the Siege of Almeida).

We visited two historical villages before arriving to Almeida. Well, to be accurate, although Castelo Bom had been classified as Aldeia Histórica (Historical village), it has no longer that classification. Therefore, from the two villages we visited, Castelo Mendo is the only historical village.

Castelo Mendo
We parked the car in the large area in front of Porta da Vila (Town Gate), in Castelo Mendo. We were the only visitors.
The Town Gate is bordered by two turrets and two animal sculptures. São Vicente Church, from the 13th century, was the first building we noticed when we crossed the gate.

The parish church is located in Praça do Pelourinho. It is also known as São Pedro Church and it still is a place of worship today.

Near the church, I was surprised to a find public WC. Special one so beautiful and clean! Actually, the whole village is very clean, well maintained, beautiful… What a peaceful and charming place!

We visited the oldest part of the castle, which is in a more elevated area. We passed under Castelinho gate, saw the cistern, passed by the nobleman’s tomb and we visited the ruins of Santa Maria do Castelo Church.

Castelo Bom
Castelo Bom is less than 10 Km from Castelo Mendo.
We crossed the medieval wall through “Porta da Vila” (Vila gate) and then we climbed the stairs that led us to the top of the wall, know as “adarve“.
Unfortunatelly, the castle is very damaged. This section of the wall is one of the best preserved structures of the castle.
The place of the former castle of Castelo Bom is marked by the flag of Portugal.
We did a picnic in one of the viewpoints. The high temperature was unpleasant, but the view was fantastic!

Due to its location, Almeida played a very important role in the defence of the Portuguese border. Almeida was the stage of many fights between the Castilians and the Portuguese and it was taken and reconquered many times.
The great fortification in the shape of a star was built in 1640. The fortress, with its six bulwarks, each with its own ravelin surrounded by a ditch with an average depth of 12 meters, was almost impenetrable.
The fortress was only conquered in 1810, during the Peninsular War. That happened because a chance shell ignited the main gunpowder magazine, which exploded, killing and hurting more than 500 men and destroying most of the town.

Our time travel to 1810, back to the time of the 3rd French Invasion, began when we accessed the fortress throught the “Portas Duplas de S. Francisco” (São Francisco Double Gates).
We met a friend of mine from Almeida in there. As she was working, she did not accompany us. She just told us about the main places and activities to visit and attend.

We wandered through the historical village, seeing the main buildings and spots, such as the casamatas, the Picadeiro D’El Rei, the Praça Alta and the ruins of the castle, which are classified as National monument.

Casamatas” (casemates), located underground São João de Deus bulwark, are a set of 20 bombproof rooms used as refuge by the population when the town was under attack. They were also used as prison and as food store. In 2009, they was adapted into a museum – the Museu Histórico-Militar de Almeida (Historical-Military Museum of Almeida). Nowadays, the term “bunker” is more commonly used than “casemate”.

Picadeiro D’El Rei” (King’s manège) is, since the late 20th century a riding arena. On that day, it was the place choosen to shoot a tv show about the event.

Praça Alta” (High Square) is the highest point of the whole fortress, being a perfect spot to enjoy the view of the town. It houses the tomb of John Beresford, a British officer who commanded the Portuguese army and who died in battle.

We returned to the 21st century late at night. We left the fortress and went with my friend to her parents house, where we spent the night.

Castelo Mendo

Castelo Bom


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