Fancy Pena Palace in Fog

 

Pena National Palace. Sintra, Portugal.

Pena National Palace. Sintra, Portugal.

The best time for visiting the mystical town of Sintra in Portugal is June, because:

  • the sky will be blue, the sun will be bright, and there will be no rain, fog, or wind;
  • you will be able to take plenty of wonderful shots of the Pena Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, Convent of the Capuchos, and other attractions of Sintra, but every one of these pictures will be typical and overfilled with your colleagues, tourists;
  • you will be standing in queues everywhere—to take a bus, to buy a ticket, to enter to any cafe, palace, or villa;
  • you will constantly be seeking a parking place for your auto, and, chances are, you will not find one on the narrow mountainous streets of Sintra;

The worst time for visiting the mystical town of Sintra in Portugal is January, because:

  • the sky can be deep-gray, the sun can be hidden by clouds, it can be rainy, foggy, and windy, BUT…
  • there will be no queues anywhere, and almost nobody in buses, cafes, hotels, and nearby attractions;
  • you will be able to take really mystical shots of the Pena Palace or the Convent of the Capuchos, from unusual angles, and show them to the readers of your travel blog;

Sure enough, we chose January.

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Summer Solstice Celebration in Gruyeres, Switzerland

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Knight with armor-bearer. Gruyeres feast. Switzerland.

Knight with armor-bearer. Summer solstice celebration in Gruyeres, Switzerland.

We wanted to visit Switzerland long ago, but we didn’t know what we could find there that was interesting. However, after a wonderful time at the Venice Carnival, the wish to see other medieval festivals in Europe suggested a solution. St. John’s Day in Gruyères, Switzerland, is held in June and coincides with the summer solstice.

For our distant ancestors in pre-Christian times, the summer solstice was the main celebration of the year. Seems, it was time for us now to follow tradition and jump over a ritual bonfire hand in hand.

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Castles of the Knights Templar in Portugal’s History

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Templar's convent and castle in Tomar, Portugal.

Templar’s convent and castle in Tomar, Portugal.

Upon arrival at the Lisbon airport on January 5th, we stayed there only long enough to claim our baggage; a very eventful 10-day car trip around Portugal’s cities awaited us. Our GPS navigator calculated a course and we moved to a little-known Portuguese village, Alvega. Ninety minutes later, our rented Citroen was already parked at the Manor House Solar de Alvega.

That ancient house was chosen to be the starting point for our fascinating acquaintance with Portuguese history. The best places to visit in Portugal we had already identified at home, in advance. Judge for yourself. Within a radius of a hundred kilometers around Alvega, there were such historic Portuguese cities as:

  • Alcobaca with the gravestone of the most popular Portuguese Queen, Ines de Castro;
  • Tomar which has been the capital of the Portuguese Knights Templar since the 12th century;
  • the Almourol Castle, the Templars’ outpost on the Tejo River;
  • Coimbra, one of the first Portuguese capitals;
  • and the unique Portuguese village of Monsanto which would surprise us a bit later.

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