Friday, 31 March 2017

Shangri-la | Marvão, Alentejo, Portugal

'From Marvão we can see the whole Earth'
José Saramago

In his utopian novel, Lost Horizon, James Hilton described a mountain paradise where the inhabitants lived in happiness and were even overcoming the process of ageing. The mythical place was known as Shangri-la, which has since become a metaphor for finding ones own place of realisation and contentment.

There may be a few grains of truth in this piece of imaginative fiction. I have been spending some time in what could easily be the realisation of such a place. We are in Marvão in Alentejo, east Portugal and I may not leave this place.. From arrival here one is immediately entranced by the sense of peacefulness, the endless views over distant rocky ridges, white painted villages and plains.

Originally conceived by the Moors there has been a fortified settlement here for over 1000 years, the village and castle have continually evolved over the centuries under changing regimes into what it has now become. It is possible to wander freely along the castle walls and gaze out through arrow slits and over the parapets, from where the views reach Espania in the east, and far north to the snow capped Serra Estrella in northern Portugal.

It is a holy place; as well as the walled village and castle, there are also churches and a convent on the site. Rio and I have walked along the old cobbled Roman road which dramatically reaches a resting place by an ancient stone cross, before ascending up even steeper crumbling stone steps towards the imposing entrance to the town walls. All gateways are elbowed with defensive masonry - there would have been no way in uninvited. The village in its time was virtually impregnable.

I don't really remember how long we have been here, and leaving is not really a thought that has yet entered my head. It can be enough just spending a day watching the changing view as the sun rises or sets, or listening to the wind in the trees when it picks up a little. I notice the locals sit on a stone wall and gaze out too, for how long though, I don't know. I haven't yet met the head nun, rumoured to be almost 1000 years old, but in the cafe bar there is a talking parrot called Denise!

Good night my friends, boa noite amigos!

1 comment:

  1. Keep safe my friend.. i watch your adventures from afar.