A Trading Station.
You enter harbours never seen
Sintra - Mountain of the Moon
It was almost seven o'clock of an hot day when we left the old ancient village of Carnaxide (red rocks, they say it meant) and come across the highway, trying to find a cool place to meet the evening. On both sides of the road, the high, uncharacteristic buildings of suburbia didn't greet the travellers, nor did all the cars trying to reach their owners houses, after a long working journey in the sun.
We travelled for 20km, get off the highway, and found another old village, almost as friendly as ours, and much cooler. There, we knew, begins enchantment. We passed the road, bellow the arch of the convent, where old trees mix their branches, and that arch is the first sign, the first sight of what Byron called "glorious Eden": the land of Sintra, the Mountain of the Moon. There, past the ARCH, we feel we have reached another dimension, where earth, rocks, springs and sea, trees and sky meet, to receive you with arms that are opened for a close embrace that will put you in communion with the land. There, past the arch, you feel you are no longer in a motor vehicle, but riding in a horse pulled cart, back to those romantic days of Byron, poor snobbish poet, that could not translate the mythical beauty of this all by merely using the two words "glorious Eden".
First, you go through narrow streets, side by side with ancient farms, built in granite stone, their walls covered with green and red vines, agapanthus flowers, ivy, their ceilings disguises by all kinds of trees, the houses holding to rocks that are huger then them. After a bend on the road, the real town appears, with its CASTLE, built in the 13th century, proudly pointing its two chimneys, made to serve a giants' supper, up to the sky
We park the car and make our way through the streets, sometimes too picturesque, but you have to take little things into account when you are here: the fountain with the small stone, the toys museum, the CASCADES that appear everywhere, from nowhere, just to remind this is a place where all the elements meet.
Then, begins the long walking journey in the mountain, parks and forests spreading their luxurious vegetation, on the top, by the sides, on the ground, anywhere you look, there is a known or strange plant, welcoming and blessing with its freshness. Our aim is the top, Pena, where the PALACE was built, on an ancient monastery ruins, by a German prince of the 1800,s, crazy, as they all were, by the romantic site of Sintra. But, what a Palace! He had to had in mind the place for a king and a queen that were, that will be again, would be pleased to live.
Up, at the top, nearer of the Moon, shining in her crescent on this pure blue evening beginning. The mountain is sacred from the beginning: some say, and I believe, Sintra is a synthesis of feminine, concentrating nature in all its forms. Some say the name comes from the Celtic Cynthia, others say it comes from the Greek Kynthia, but does it matter? They were all here, Phoenicians an Greek, and Celtic, Roman and Arabs, and they all called it the Mountain of the Moon, of Artémis or of Diana, and the cult is patent in the old initiatic caves and prophecy tholoi that are disseminated all over the region.
In the beginning of the 20th century, a millionaire decided to have his own initiation place in Sintra, so he built Regaleira palace and gardens, full of labyrinths and towers and wells: Templars and Masons still go there in procession, and I do not know what else for, but I do not like the place, as it is too artificial, meant for those who need fresh new places to feel the divine. I prefer the Franciscan friars, closer than any other Christian organization to the call of nature, that beat their monasteries in the middle of the forest and covered its walls with warm cork and at the top of a hill, where a large portion of the Atlantic can be observed all year long.
At the top of Pena, there where the Palace is, we observe the view of miles and miles: to the east, there is Lisbon, the Tagus river estuary, the lands on the other side; to the west, the Ocean, and CAPE OF ROCA, the most western point of the European Continent, "onde a terra acaba, e o mar começa, / e onde Febo repousa no Oceano", "where land ends, and the sea begins, / and where Phoebus lays on the Ocean", as they said before Portuguese went out to sea and discovered new lands on the other side.
The sun has really gone to sleep on the Atlantic. Time to go home now, again by the forest path, down the mountain. Night is pulling her shades through the tree branches, revealing the contours of some gnome, of some fairy playing with the leaves. The water, running on the cascades, is starting to laugh, nymphs telling stories of ancient rites and people that we are not supposed to meet. Let them in their peace. Down now, in town again, just another melancholic look at the Palace. Illuminating the NIGHT, above our heads, we only have to make a whish, and desire the Moon rises above it, once again.