PORTUGAL: Alentejo blue
Anna van DENSKY from ALENTEJO Startling in its beauty, Alentejo is not only the biggest region of Portugal, but a universe in itself, offering splendid nature, culture, art and glorious history. Although Alentejo has an impressive coastline with finest beaches, it is a discovery of its inland that will come as unique experience of travelling in time, encountering monuments and touching history mysteries. The lovers of the seascapes, used to coastlines have all the chances to dive into Alentejo blue, manifesting itself in many sophisticated ways.
At the spacious square in the middle old city of Elvas nothing reminds about the fortifications of the citadel, the terraces are welcoming, and the Old Cathedral of Elvas, or church Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Assunção, keeps the doors open to the visitors.
Since 2014, the Old Cathedral of Elvas has become a part of a project of the Ministry of National Defense, supporting military tourism, which aims to enhance interest to historic places of Portugal by creating itineraries telling, the stories of Portuguese heroes: during the War of Restoration in the 17th century, the Cathedral used to be central worship place for prayers for safe return of thousands of Portuguese soldiers. In spite of lavish golden ornaments, the design creates a sensation of lightness and serenity. The windows situated high above, almost next to the ceiling, open space for light, and blue Alentejo sky, filling the church with a thin turquoise mist.
A true hidden gem of Elvas is the Church of Dominicans built on the older one devoted to Maria Magdalena, erected by Templar Knights, guarding their symbols and secrets. Partially demolished, the surviving part of a chapel with octagonal dome, strikes with its geometric style, depicting the Convent of Christ (Tomar, Portugal) the 12th century Templar stronghold. Dissolved in the 14th century the Portuguese branch created the Knights of the Order of Christ, inspiring maritime discoveries of the 15th century. Later decorated with ‘azulejos’, the interior reflects light in bluish spectrum reminiscent of the sea waves, ornaments and flowers from exotic fabrics Portuguese merchants brought from Orient.
Azulejos constitute a major aspect of Portuguese interiors as they are applied on walls, floors and even ceilings. Many refined azulejos chronicle major historical and cultural aspects of national history. The Portuguese adopted the Moorish tradition and covered the walls completely with azulejos like in the Church of Dominicans.
Reflecting the celestial colors of the landscape in its elegant tiles – Azulejo, the blue hues of the Pousada Castelo de Estremoz are in a magnificent views from the ancient tower, but also in its interiors of the hotel. Situated in the town of Estremoz, in a castle built by Dom Dinis for Queen Santa Isabel (1282 – 1325), Pousada is an authentic ancient fortress, a special place to live moments of Portuguese history, and enjoy sightseeing of the surroundings. From the Torre de Menagem (Tower), one can admire the views, but not less enjoy the fascination of touch with the glorious past, climbing the steps once used by the guards of the Queen to ensure her calm.
Authentic medieval village of Monsaraz, keeps its secrets from times of Knights Templar, and even Moorish rulers. One of the oldest in Portugal in 2017 it won the category “Monument Villages”, confirming its status as an open air museum. Unlike many other museums its undeniable charm is in splendid views on picturesque surroundings.
However it is the Alqueva Lake, which like a magnet attracts the most glances – situated on driving distance it is the next destination to enjoy the blues of its cobalt waters.
For those who would like to navigate, Alentejo blue univers offers ultramarine waters of Amieira Marina – Grande Lago – Alqueva – Europe’s largest artificial lake. Created in 2002 to provide water for Portugal‘s hottest region Alentejo, the lake offers a variety of boat trips, and aquatic sports. Although its beauty should not be reduced to recreation – the amazing blues of the deep waters deserve visits of artists, depicting its hues and profound calm.