Monday, July 15: After leaving Alte, Jo, Mick and I drive further west to Silves in the Algarve, where we find a pretty smattering of orange rooftops above the banks of the Rio Arade. The river used to be an important trade route for the Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians. When the Moors invaded in the 8th century, the town gained prominence because of its strategic hilltop and riverside location. According to Lonely Planet Portugal, it rivaled Lisbon in prosperity from the mid-11th to the mid-13th centuries.
Much later the river became silted up, causing disease and hindering maritime trade. Other Algarve ports gained in importance, and Silves became a shadow of its former self.
We begin our climb to the Castelo de Silves, and walk through the pretty little town on our way uphill.
In June 1189, Dom Sancho I laid siege to the town, supported by a bunch of mostly English crusaders, who plundered and stripped the Moors of their possessions, tortured those remaining and wrecked the town. Two years later the Moors recaptured the town until 1249, when the Christians regained control for good.
On top of the silting up of the river and the growth of other Algarve ports, the 1755 earthquake struck the final blow to the town. It wasn’t until the 19th century that local cork and dried-fruit industries revitalized the town. Today the economy of the town revolves around tourism and agriculture (Lonely Planet Portugal).
Many places in Portugal are known for their stork’s nests, which are frequently photographed. I can’t resist taking one picture myself.
Sé de Silves (Cathedral of Silves) is one of the Algarve’s few remaining Gothic monuments. It was built in 1189 on the site of an earlier mosque, then rebuilt after the 1249 Reconquista and restored later several times after earthquakes.
The Cathedral has a multi-arched Portuguese Gothic doorway.
We finally reach the top of the hill where we enter the Castelo de Silves. We enter the russet-colored walls and walk around the ramparts, admiring the views of the town and countryside below. The castle was most likely built in the 11th century and then abandoned by the 16th century, according to Lonely Planet Portugal. The fort was restored in the 1940s and is a combination of Islamic and Christian styles.
The castle once sheltered the old Moorish ‘alcáçova’ which was the residence of the lord of the city. Not much remains of the defensive walls and towers which protected Silves, but one of the four gates remains and is the ‘Torreão da Porta da Cidade’ (The turret of the City Gate). (SilvesUncovered.com)
Once again, you can see I’m captivated by the tiled walls and pretty windows of Portuguese buildings.
I also love the scruffy look of many of the buildings, with their peeling paint and cracked or missing window panes.
After Silves, we head back to Tavira to rest a bit before heading out for dinner. Jo has promised me both a fig and almond gelato and a glass of port, all in one night (!), so I look forward to our night on the town.
To read Jo’s account of Silves, please see: S is for Silves