Sintra: Mysterious Oasis of Happiness

posted in: Portugal, Travels | 1 |

Sintra is an amazing ancient town near the capital of Portugal. Since the ancient times,this town had been a favourite country retreat for the Portuguese kings. With its incredible number of parks and palaces, the town could offer much to travellers. If you ever decide to come here, take at least one full day to relax and unwind in Sintra. The town is easily accessible by car. Make sure you start your journey as early as possible to avoid heavy traffic and find a place to park your car. You may also get Sintra by train from Rossio Train Station.

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First of all, we could not wait to see the mysterious park Quinta da Regaleira classified as World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Its fabulous atmosphere resemblesPark Güell in Barcelona. Once you enterQuinta da Regaleira, you immediately forget about the existence of time and find yourself exploring intricate riddles and puzzles on your way. The admission is free for children under 8 years and costs EUR 6 for adults. At the entrance you get a map of the park, a helpful tool not to get lost in its numerous labyrinths, caves, and grottos.

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The land of the park had many owners until 1840 when it was acquired by a baroness with a very beautiful name – Regaleira. In 1892, the park was resold toCarvalho Monteiro,the famous Portuguese millionaire and collector,who decided to build some thing unique and special to surprise everybody. Give him his due, his idea was fully embodied in life, and now the park is more like a labyrinth with its numerous secret passages and lakes, a stone well with a spiral staircase, caves,and a chapel. All constructions in the park are very closely intertwined with Masonic symbols and sign smaking you think about the purpose the constructions could serve.

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Every year the park attracts thousands of tourists. The most surprising construction, in my opinion, is the underground Initiation Well going under the ground in a spiral. Its 9 landings symbolise nine circles of hell, purgatory and paradise described by Dante Alighieri. The bottom of the Initiation Well is decorated with eight-pointed star, the symbol of the Masonic Order. The exact purpose of this construction is still unknown; however the well is assumed to be used by the Masonic Fraternity for their initiation ceremonies.

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The system of underground tunnels and caves connecting different constructions throughout the park symbolizes one’s journey between the light and the darkness. Interestingly, the majority of discoveries in Portugal occurred precisely because of Masonry and the Knights Templar.

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In March 1997, the Sintra Town Hall acquired the park, and the park still remains its property.

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Having escaped from mysterious Quinta da Regaleira’s, we enjoyed walking along arrow and shady streets and left Sintra for our next destination – the Pena Palace.

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This amazingly beautiful palace stands on the top of the hill and could be even seen from Lisbon in clear weather. The Palace is also classified as UNESCO heritage. It was built in the MiddleAgesin the place of an apparition of the Virgin Mary. We believethe Palace is the most beautiful building in Portugal, which is also one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. Inspired by his numerous travels, Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege, the chief architect,designed the Palacein a classical romantic style as a summer residence for Portuguese kings, but the palace served the royal family for a short while. Queen Amélia, the last queen of Portugal, had to leavePalacio de Pena44 years after completion of its construction in 1854. The Palacehas been declared a national monument shortly after her escape. In the late 20th century, the Palace was repainted in bright colours to renew its tarnished look. Palacio de Pena reminded us Disney cartoon castles, especially when you are overlooking the Palace from terraces. Today, the Palace hosts official ceremonies attended by the President of Portugal and other top officials.

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The park around the Palace occupies an area of 200 hectares, and is a home for amazing plants from all over the world: sequoias, cypresses, ferns and magnolias amazing you with their incredible colours. The Palace is overlooking the Castle of the Moors which, unfortunately, we did not visit.

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If you decide to come to this place, make sure you have comfortable footwear, as the road to the Castle runs uphill. There is no parking site near the Palace, and all cars park on the winding road along the roadside. Tickets for EUR 10.50 allow you to enter the terrace and the Palace Park. If you would like to visit the Palace, take tickets for EUR 14 per person. Admission is free for children under 6 years.

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Even if you stay in Portugal just for a few days, start your journey with Sintra to better understand the former greatness of Portugal, its history and culture.

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