We made a quick day trip to see the castles and parks of Sintra during our stay in Lisbon. I’d originally planned to hire a car and drive out, and see a little of the coastline, however I wasn’t sure about parking, so we played it safe and caught a train to the town of Sintra, and then jumped on a hop-on-hop-off bus that circles its way through the hills above town, where the various castles are situated.
Our first stop was to the Moorish Castle, and I was immediately impressed by how wild the place felt, with some of the older walls being overrun by the trees, and modern influences kept to a minimum. Crowds were also quite sparse, which was a refreshing change, and really allowed me to relax and enjoy the place.
The landscape was rugged, and the castle was equally so. The wind was still howling today, and Risa was exhausted as she was still suffering from her stomach bug, so we didn’t linger too long.
Our next stop was the almost Dali-esque Pena Palace, which was perched high above the Moorish Castle in all its multi-coloured hues. The bus took us closer to the palace, however there was still a short uphill walk to reach the summit. Again, if we’d both been well, it wouldn’t have proven difficult, but Risa was feeling incredibly weak. As we made our way through the dense green gardens, the details of the castle were eventually visible. It was far from the defensive castle we’d just visited, but not quite as elaborate and decorative as the Neuschwanstein Castle (a.k.a the Disney Castle) in Bavaria.
The building is actually the amalgamation of the existing monastery (red), with additional wings that were added over time. The contrast of these primary colours certainly made it memorable – though it felt more like a Lego creation than something serious. As always, the details that were visible were incredible, with exquisite carvings, including alligators for drains spouts, and a somewhat disturbing merman.
As with the Moorish Castle, it was built around the mountain, with giant boulders being integrated into the walls at times.
Inside the palace were all the usual luxuries and decadences that you would expect to see in a royal palace of this era.
There was much more to see in the area (especially if you had a car, as parking wasn’t going to be as difficult as I had thought – at least in February when we were there), but the combination of Risa’s sickness, and the relentless cold wind had us make a premature exit back to Lisbon.