A Perfect Day in Portugal

The guidebook suggested I take a bus, or maybe even a taxi if I wanted to visit some of the sites peppering the mountains surrounding Sintra, but the sign as I walked into town indicated the Moorish Castle was a little over 1,000 meters away. The sun was bright, the clouds were wispy, and the day was beautiful. This was a perfect day for a walk, and the distance didn’t intimidate me at all.

And so I set out following the map on my phone, headed out of the quaint old town and up into the hills.

The paved roads transitioned to dirt paths, with rough hewn stairs, and still I continued upward. The walk had become a hike, and every bit of my being loved it.

“How old are these paths really?” This is what I wondered as I climbed. They are well maintained, but also deeply worn. When the Moors occupied these lands a thousand years ago, did they follow the same routes into the hills? I had so many questions.

And still I continued up, following the well-trod path.

And if there was any question on which way I should turn, trail markers were everywhere. I had learned how to read them trail markers in Turkey a year and a half ago, although the colors today were different.

Eventually I reached the ancient Moorish castle, her swarthy walls standing defensively on the mountaintop.

I think it was a mere two days ago that I derided castles, and yet today I found myself besotted with a castle, a bastion against a hostile world without.

My mind jumped in excited somersaults as I strode along her ramparts and gazed toward the town below, and further away toward the sea in the distance.

I stalked the keep, imagining what had been here. And who these people had been.

And all along these walls, built by hand of ancient rock and stone, where moss has been growing unabated for a thousand years, I was smitten.

A collection of fantasies stands in the mountains west of Lisbon. I spent a day there, in Sintra, and it was magical.

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