Travels in Portugal, The Town of Silves

Algarve Castle of Silves

After a full day of no driving but plenty of walking today we returned to four wheels and planned a trip to the nearby town of Silves.  I had been there before of course so there were more comparisons to be made.

Silves was once a Moorish city, the capital of the Algarve and the most important city in all of what is now Portugal.  How the Moors must have loved life in Iberia, excellent weather (not as hot as North Africa), no deserts, plenty of fresh water, good fertile soil for crops and not nearly so many flies.

This idyllic lifestyle came to a sudden and abrupt end after the Reconquest when the Moors were forced to abandon their city after a brutal siege by Northern Crusaders.  In Spain and Portugal they celebrate the reconquest but in reality it was the replacement of a benevolent and progressive regime with a barbaric and medieval reversal of progress.

Without the Moors the city became neglected, the river silted up and the city went into a long period of decline.  This is something that always intrigues me, it is rather like the Roman Empire, great civilizations provide advancement in human development but Barbarians always come along and tear it down and set progress back several hundred years.  Rather like BREXIT in the United Kingdom right now.  It really frustrates me because we learn absolutely nothing from history.

What happened to the Ancient Egyptians, the Native Americans of USA, the  Classical Greeks, the Romans, they all showed great progress in human development and then they disappeared and the process was reversed.  What lies ahead for us I wonder?

Silves Street

To reach Silves there was a magnificent approach from the south as the road dropped into the lush green valley of the Rio Arade and then climbed through the ridges and boulders of the other side with all the time the magnificent spectacle of the red sandstone walls of the old Moorish castle undulating along the top of highest point with its defensive turrets thrusting magnificently into the sky above us.

This is what we had mostly come to see so we found a car park and made our way to the castle past the statue of Sancho I of Portugal and towards the main gate.  Interestingly Sancho seems to have been moved and relocated since my visit there twenty-five years before because from modern pictures he seems to be much closer to the entrance than I remember.

IMG_2666223

We went inside and were struck by the fact that the Portuguese hadn’t spent a lot of the renovation budget on basic health and safety.  The Castle was a disaster waiting to happen, with uneven surfaces, irregular steps and almost completely without handrails or safety barriers to prevent visitors accidentally slipping off of the high battlements and becoming a permanent addition to the rocky foundations below.

Except for making sure we didn’t get too close to the edge and fall over this didn’t really spoil the visit to the castle and we enjoyed an hour or so walking around the battlements and through the gardens, discovering interesting fragments of history and reading about the Moorish occupation and the eventual Portuguese reconquest.

Outside the castle we walked around the narrow streets and the pastel coloured houses with their elegant but rusting iron balconies and the window boxes overflowing with boiling geraniums, visited the cathedral and stopping frequently to admire the views and to conclude that Silves hadn’t changed a great deal in the intervening years since my first visit.

The storks were still there…

Silves Stork 01Silves Stork 02

After a couple of hours we made our way back to the coast.

32 responses to “Travels in Portugal, The Town of Silves

  1. Boris the Barbarian! 😂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. By gum, Sancho’s a big lad, isn’t he? I bet Leicester Tigers might take a look at him.
    I agree that the Native Americans were civilised in some respects, but I’m not so sure about the Egyptians or especially the Romans with their gladiators and slavery and genocide of their opponents.
    You’ve got to ask yourself that age old question, “What have the Romans ever done for us? Apart from sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health? What have they ever done for us?”

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  3. And this is one of the safer castles!!

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  4. The storks have gone, sadly! Empty nest syndrome 🙂 🙂

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  5. It is our leaders who learn nothing from history – if they ever learned any. All empires disintegrate or implode – ours disintegrated, others will take it in turns to do the latter

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  6. We love visiting Silves when we are in the Algarve but especially in Spring https://somerville66.blogspot.com/2017/04/wordlesswednesday-silves-in-spring.html

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  7. Jo says the storks have gone but they were still in Silves last Sunday 6th October 2019, though I haven’t seen them in other parts of the Algarve this month.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You know, I was sure I had visited Silves in the early 60s but having read your piece I’m not at all sure now as I can’t remember any of the places you mention. Maybe like a lot of remembered times, I read a guide book or heard about it from someone else. I wish I’d seen it. It sounds a good place in which to spend a bit of time.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m all for foregoing safety . . . it makes for a more authentic experience.

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  10. You have touched a sore point here. “History is written by the conquerors”. That way the barbarians win and we forget the Romans and the Moors and their advances. And we don’t teach the ‘Classics’ any more. We only teach the Sciences and computer games and ……….stop me! It’s your post not mine.

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  11. a wonderful journey and so well told

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  12. I’m often struck by the casual attitude to H&S in other countries. I also agree about the Moors and the winners writing history view (Churchill, I think, but no doubt many before him said the same thing but weren’t big enough winners to have it written down!)

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  13. We certainly liked Silves a lot when we visited a few years back. An interesting place and well worth a visit.

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  14. Pingback: Travels in Portugal, The Town of Silves — Have Bag, Will Travel – Truth Troubles

  15. Looks like a great trip and told so eloquently. But I hardly think we can equate Alaric the Goth sacking Rome with Brexit. That’s an astonishing reach.

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  16. I still have to visit Portugal, and will definitely add Silves to the list. Thanks for the nice story.

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  17. Portugal is on my bucket list! Thanks for the info🤗

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