Ferran El Valent (Ferdinand, The Brave) was having a rest under a Cork Oak. It was August in the old Castile, and Ferran had to stop in the midday in the only shadow he found before crossing towards the Kingdom of Portugal. A piece of cheese, a slice of bread and some wine, this was his lunch before falling sleep.
Coming from the capital of the County of Barcelona, part of the Aragon Kingdom, Ferran was looking for new adventures. He heard of a recent land discovery. It was the beginning of XVI century and America had been just discovered by Cristopher Colombus some years before. He had tried to board on a ship in Barcelona, but he was rejected. He had tried the same in Cádiz, in the southern part of the Kingdom of Castile, and the same result was found. He was lame. His disability made him to be one of the best horse riders in the Peninsula because the horse was like a natural extension of his body. However, this was not enough to join a ship towards America. His faith: to cross the Atlantic at the Kingdom of Portugal orders.
Six o’clock in the afternoon. Ferran took his hat, tied off his horse from the Cork Oak tree and started the last part of the journey towards Portugal. More than 40ºC under a yellow, almost orange, sun and riding to the west. Alone. A hope. A new Kingdom for him. Elvas was his first stop in Portugal.
Sometimes you can describe a place by just using colours. Elvas description would be: white and yellow. This town is situated at the top of a hill, exalted by two other hills with two forts: Forte da Santa Luzia and Forte da Nossa Senhora da Graça. When you arrive in Elvas and cross the walls you can close your eyes and hear the sound of the horseshoes from Ferran’s horse when passing through the gate. The path, made of boulders, burns. The sun is reflected in the darkness of the stones and the whiteness of the intramural buildings. At the top of Elvas there is a castle that can be visited. Those walls were used to look to Castile and look out the border.
Fire! – The cannon fired a gumboil and hit in the Spanish army forefront.
Almost dark night and Portuguese army was winning the independence war against Spanish forces. From the fort of Santa Luzia, bombs were whistling the air and hitting the last Spanish resistance out of the walls of Elvas. Soldiers running and shouting out orders, oil lamps lighting up every corner of the fort. Smoke smell and sweat on the skin of the soldiers. The war was almost won and the last effort was required.
The Forte da Santa Luzia can be visited and you can feel like a soldier in the mid of the seventeenth century crossing the tunnel between the city and the fort. Darkness and humidity is all you will find today. Once out of the tunnel you can visit the military museum and touch the gumboils around the main building of the fort. Some of the best views of Elvas can be seen from the fort walls while thinking about the history of this place.
The earth trembled. Like a God’s punishment, houses, palaces and main buildings were destroyed. Then fires started to burn the rest that remained. Many towns in Portugal and Spain were destroyed by the earthquake. However, not Évora.
Joao was sitting in a bench, in front of the roman temple and looking to the north when the earthquake hit the ground. Many people started shouting, children crying and everyone was going out of the buildings. Some cracks were created in the cathedral, the university and in many houses. Joao, the oldest man in the town, was looking to this without compassion, not feeling at all. He already knew this was going to happen, somehow. However, everything remained mainly undamaged and the worst could not be seen by Joao’s eyes. In the horizon some smoke began to raise to the sky. Évora was sitting alone in the middle of a destruction landscape. Joao was just thinking about his wife, who passed away some days before…
Évora is one of the most beautiful towns in Portugal and has many hotspots for visitors. It is also a fortified town and the reminiscence of many old epochs can be found. It is considered World Heritage by UNESCO. The Roman Diana temple, the Praça do Giraldo, maybe the best place to have lunch or something to drink, the aqueduct and, of course, the Bone Chapel. Don’t miss the Évora Museum to understand the origin of this city, mainly remains from Roman times.
Évora is the capital of Alentejo and it is the best place for buying some souvenirs from this region, mainly everything you can imagine made of cork. It is a nice place to have a walk and get lost while looking to every detail of the old buildings. But don’t leave Évora without visiting the Bone Chapel. Out of this world, this is a place to stand for some minutes without doing anything else than looking and thinking. Half scary, half surprising, this is, for sure, a unique place in the world.
Henrique Leonor Pina knew there had to be some important Neolithic remains next to Évora. Some hints were in the place. And he was right. In a slightly slope, almost in the top of a smooth hill, surrounded by Cork Oaks and tall and dry grass, there were more than one hundred stones, strategically situated for some reason. And there was Henrique, astonished and happy, with a smiley face in front of the Cromeleque dos Almendres. The Stonehenge of the Iberian Peninsula was found and his name would remain written in the archaeology books.
It is not easy to find it, no main roads or good road signs are in place, so a bit of luck and a good GPS device is needed. We took the dusty road through the typical Alentejo landscape of yellow grass and old Cork Oaks for almost 15 minutes in order to reach this hotspot for prehistorical lovers. You will wonder the reason behind the act of building such a strange pattern of huge rocks. Maybe a calendar?, maybe a religious structure?, a clock? There are many hypotheses but nothing for sure. Let your imagination fly and enjoy. Cromeleque dos Almendres deserves a visit although you may get lost before seeing it. It is free, by the way.
The four stories in this post come just from our imagination, but they are based in real moments of the history. The characters are also invented except for Henrique Leonor Pina, he is the one who discovered the Cromeleque dos Almendres. Everything explained under “XXI” title is the result of our experience in our journeys in Alentejo.