Monday, November 2, 2015

Halloween Weekend in Sintra

This past weekend I went back to Sintra. I'm glad I went to do this post because it made me realize I had forgotten to post about my very first trip to the area. Anyways, my friend and I had found an event on Facebook called "Caminhada de Halloween", or Halloween Walk, a few weeks ago. We really had no idea what it was but we decided to sign up so that we would be doing *something*, plus there was some more sightseeing we wanted to get out of the way. And boy, did we sightsee.

Moorish Castle:
This can be clearly seen from the city center of Sintra but this was my first time going up since last time we only saw the Quinta da Regaleira. It was constructed in the time between the 8th and 9th centuries.
My parents will probably appreciate this one.... there is an inordinate amount of pictures of me standing in pretty much the exact same place. Again, the pictures are pretty repetitious but it was so beautiful up there I couldn't help it.

 In the background you can see the Palácio da Pena (see farther down):

View of the Sintra National Palace (see farther down) from the Moorish Castle:

After we finished with the Moorish Castle we took a bus back down to the town. It was too late to go see anything else so instead we went to go eat a dessert called Queijada de Sintra. SO DELICIOUS!! It's made of a super crispy shell (almost like a super thin cracker) filled with a cheese mixture. However, it does not taste like cheese at all so if you're trying to imagine it don't think of cheesecake or anything like Blintzes. It tastes heavily of cinnamon and the filling is more warm and creamy. They pretty much only sell them in Sintra so I know I'm going to have to go back.

After dessert we went to go get dinner at a little cafe/tea house:

Finally, it was time for the Caminhada de Halloween. We all had to gather in the town center at 9pm. We really had no idea what we were actually doing, as I had just found the event online, hardly reading the description, while my friend had just agreed automatically. When we got there there were a bunch of people wearing sneakers and jogging gear. When we found out it was a 7-8 km walk (around 4-5 miles) uphill, back to the area near the Moorish Castle, we had a tough decision to make: Were we actually going to do this? Also, it was going to cost 10 euros to join. What this money went towards I still have no clue. However, I had come all this way specifically for this, so I wasn't backing down. It took 20 minutes of convincing my friend, but we finally got checked in (the guy almost walked off when I said my name for him to spell). 

Waiting to start
 So how was is? It was strange but oddly fun. There were probably about 75 people all together, all in a group. There were a few guys spread throughout with walkie-talkies who were supervising and leading. We started on the regular road, then went to a gravel road, and then an overgrown dirt path between the fences of different properties, and then I completely was lost and I still have no idea where we were. I'm not sure if they had told everyone to bring flashlights but we didn't so we had to stick close to the people in front of us who did have them.. because let me tell you, it was pitch black. There were a few times when I got too far from the beam of the flashlight in front and I almost died, either tripping over rocks or running right into a wall. Eventually I realized my phone had a light which works really well, maybe even better than a regular flashlight because the beam is a lot wider. Anyways, we eventually got back onto the main road up in front of the entrance to the Moorish castle, continuing like this for about 10 more minutes before we turned off back into the woods on some sort of hiking trail to start our descent. At this point I got lost again... it seemed there had been a huge storm not too long before because extremely large trees had fallen everywhere over the path and we were continually having to scramble over, under, and between them, all in the dark. Eventually we got back to the bottom of the mountain, back onto the road, and eventually back into the city center. We went straight back to the hostel and I feel asleep almost immediately. We had walked well over 10 miles that day. Was the walk fun? Yes I think so. Was it like any Halloween I had ever had? No, not at all. Did it fit my expectations? Almost no one was dressed up, no one was hiding waiting to jump out at us, there were no Halloween lights....literally there was no Halloween theme. Not that this was a problem but I just wasn't sure what to expect when I heard the phrase, "Caminhada de Halloween"... Now I know. 


The next day was really rainy but we woke up and went to go see the Sintra National Palace (Town Palace):
The Castle was originally also built by the moors, but after the Reconquest it continued its existence under the ownership of the Portuguese Crown. Since then it has been added onto multiple times. It is right in the city center of Sintra.

"The Swan Room":

The ceiling of "The Magpie Room". Written next too every one of the magpies is, "Por Bem" or "For Good"

"The Galleon Room", with ships painted on the sides of the ceiling:

 I wish I had gotten better pictures of this room as it was breathtaking. The ceiling had the royal crest in gold in the middle with the crests of all the royal families in a circle lower down. The walls were covered with blue and white tiles depicting hunting scenes:

Bedroom with Moorish style mosaic floor. Alfonso VI (who was mentally ill) died in this room after he was deposed by his brother and confined for years to house arrest:

Above is a view up one of the chimneys of the castle. I don't know why I did not get a picture of the outside of the castle so here is one off of Wikipedia so one can get an idea of what they're looking at:

 Those two white cones are the chimneys which you can see the inside of in the above picture.

Really cool delicate glass chandelier and mirror:

Finally, we took a bus back up the mountain to the Palácio da Pena, which is near the moorish castle and can be seen in one of the above pictures I took as the red and yellow building higher up the mountain. Now, I keep hearing about how cool this place is, and how amazing the extensive gardens are... and it was indeed really cool, BUT it was just such a rainy, cold, miserable day that we never saw the gardens AND it was sooooo ridiculously crowded that you could hardly move inside the building. All this and it cost us 5 euros to get up the mountains by bus, 11.50 euros for entrance, plus another 3 euros for further transport to the front of the castle. Maybe it doesn't seem like a lot but to put it into perspective we've been paying 3 euros to get into all of the monasteries we've seen. Anyways, it was disappointing but here are some of the few pictures I took:

I took a lot of pictures of ceilings since there were too many people to take pictures of anything else.

This one is pretty cool because it was painted to look exactly like wood:

Another ceiling;

This one is completely painted:
The owners:

The Great Hall:

Baking Moulds:

Me with the wall of fog:


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