Last weekend we made a date to go visit our new friends Isabel and Greg, who live in the western part of the Algarve where the coast is much more dramatic. But this time we stayed inland to visit first the historic town of Silves, with its 8th century Moorish citadel that commands the top of the mountain as you come into town.
The town is a charming one. The site has been inhabited since Neolithic times and was an important outpost for the Romans, as well as the Moorish kings who invaded the Algarve after the Roman Empire collapsed.
Southern Spain and Portugal were very much the center of the western civilized world for years when the rest of Europe was lost in the dark ages. The Moors brought their beautiful architecture and learning. Up until the thirteenth century, Muslims, Jews and Christians lived in relative harmony and cooperation. It was a golden age here in the Algarve. The famous Queen Isabella was responsible for expelling the non-Christian population from Spain in the thirteenth century. The Moors and Jews lived on in the Algarve for sometime longer, but when the king of Portugal married the daughter of Queen Isabella, the expulsion of the Moors and Jews was a condition for the union.
The ceiling of the entry room of the Silves citadel.
View of the surrounding valley from the citadel ramparts.
You mount to the second level of the castle via a set of metal steps and from there you can walk around the perimeter of the castle, which is rather large. There are no guard rails, the path is both narrow and uneven. I don't usually have any trouble with heights whatsoever, but I became some what panic-stricken as I made my way along the parapet, holding on to the wall for dear-life!
After our tour of the castle of Silves, we met Isabel and Greg for lunch. Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of our meal as I was completely absorbed in consuming it. Our waiter brought us trays full of various fresh-caught fish, including a large wild salmon caught off the west coast. We chose a sea-bass to share, which disappeared briefly for grilling and returned to the table accompanied by simple steamed vegetables. Delicious.
The sun gleams off the ocean in the far distance. World class surfing beaches are tucked into isolated coves all along the west coast.
Along the road on many electric poles storks have built their nests, and they swoop and glide over the traffic. They are protected here. Quite marvelous creatures.
We were able to photograph one from directly below.
You can see one in flight in the tangle of branches on the right. Their wing-span is considerable.
Greg is an American who grew up in the central valley of California. He married an adorable Portuguese woman and took her off to Alaska for eighteen years. What a change for her! He retired early from a teaching post and the whole family moved back to Isabel's home town. We have had such a nice time getting to know them while we are here.