The Lisbon region has at least a dozen castles and palaces, an embarrassment of riches compared to the lack of such structures in the US, but not surprising for a capital city that was the seat of a monarchy for centuries. So far, though, it has been a rainy week and we’ve only made it to the Castelo de Sao Jorge and walked by the Belem National Palace, which is now the residence of the President of the Republic.
The Castelo overlooks Lisbon from one of the seven central hills and the upper ramparts have great views of the Tagus River and red-tiled roofs. Church domes and spires stand out over their surroundings and are useful points of navigation among the shorter buildings on narrow, winding streets.
Though much of the castle has been reconstructed during the last century, there are plenty walls that have been left half-repaired to fuel the imagination. And, of course, the castle accoutrements of a moat, drawbridge, murder holes, slit windows for shooting arrows, and crenellations evoke storybook medieval sieges and armored knights.
A small museum contains items found during archeological digs inside the walls like glass wear, jars, and plates. Some are dated to the destruction of Lisbon during the 1755 earthquake and bear blackened edges – traces of the fires that engulfed the city. Good to know that we left the earthquake dangers in the Pacific Northwest for a city that is just as prone to sudden destruction…