Algarve Trip Report, Day Three, Part One (Silves)

February8

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The view out of our window on day three was pretty dismal. But being the optimists that we are, we told each other that the rain and clouds might clear. I inquired at the front desk for a good rainy day suggestions and we were off to the Medieval city of Silves. We fould Silves quite easily tucked just above the A22 motorway, not far from Lagoa and Portimão.

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As we approached Silves, we turned a corner and suddenly there she was – visible even in the mist and nestling on the hillside, topped off with the most authentic of castles.

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We circled the town a couple of times, not exactly sure how to ascend to the castle. The architecture reminded me so much of Cinque Terra in northern Italy or Nice in Southern France.

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You can see the steep ascent to get up to the castle and church.

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This is the King Sancho I statue outside the castle. The Portuguese won Silves back in 1253 and it was the capital of the Algarve until Faro took over in 1534.

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There is history on every corner in Silves, hinting at its affluent and colourful history as the Moorish capital known as Xelb, capital of Al-faghar, the Moorish province of the Algarve. The origins of the town can be traced back as far as 1000 BC, with a strong Roman history, however it was the occupation in the 8th Century by the Moors which brought a lavish lifestyle to the area. By the 11th century Silves was the capital of the Algarve and the Moors were reputed to have imported lions and other wild animals that roamed freely through the exotic gardens. It was ruled by the Seville-based Arabic ruler Al-Mu’tamid (Muhammad Ibn Abbad Al Mutamid) who became governor of Silves (known as Shalb) and Emir of Seville at the age of 13, and was known as the ‘poet-prince’.

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The area saw many battles between the Christians and Muslims in the 12th and 13th centuries; until Portugal’s King Sancho I and the Knights of Santiago captured the city in 1189 with the help of the Anglo-Norman Crusaders. It was recaptured by the Moors in 1191; and was finally re-conquered during the Christian occupation of 1242 to 1249 during the reign of King Afonso III, who also founded the first Cathedral, thought to have been built on the site of the former Mosque.

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I mentioned above that the day was rainy. As I walked over these cobblestones, I thought how ingenious they were at keeping your feet from getting soaked.

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Even though we parked as close as you could get to the castle, we still had to climb these steps.

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We happened upon these great little liquor and gift shops.

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More about the beautiful castle and church in my next post.

Kath’s quote: “If you are going to build something in the air it is always better to build castles than houses of cards”. -Georg C. Lichtenberg

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Love never fails.

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