Meet King Sancho who wrestled control of the Silves area of Portugal from the Moors for a brief two years. During those two years he ruled the Algarve from this impressive castle which I toured ALONE. After our friend Rudy snapped the photo of Dave and me with King Sancho (1154-1211) outside the Silves Castle the two guys decided they weren’t interested in seeing what was inside. I was not deterred by their lack of enthusiasm however so I toured the castle by myself.The Castle of Silves was primarily inhabited by the Moors who occupied Portugal from 711-1249. Silves was a major trading centre and the mighty castle was a necessary stronghold for protecting those trade interests.
The very first buildings on the site probably date back to the time of the Roman occupation of Portugal (140BC to 212AD.)I looked at the remains of what were once the personal residences of the fort’s governor, his family, military contingents and administrative staff. These will have been two story houses with lounging areas, kitchens, bath houses and gardens. I tried to imagine families living here. Underground storage for grain and water were necessary for times when the castle was under seige. How scary must that have been for the people housed inside? I made my way all around the fort on the elevated walkway. I surveyed the orange orchards and crowded cemeteries from the walkways’ high vantage point. I stopped to read my brochure about the fort and study the various plaques to learn about what life had been like in this place. It was a gorgeous day the nicest we’ve had in Portugal yet so I decided to treat myself to an Indian lemonade, absolutely heavenly with cardomon and ginger and a sprig of pine. I had just taken out my journal to start writing about how the castle courtyard might have looked hundreds of years ago bustling with merchants, servants, farmers, soldiers and citizens…… when some Arabian music began playing and out came………..two gentlemen with an eagle. They proceeded to put on quite a show as the trained bird flew from one man to the other and landed on their gloved hands.
At one point one of the men stood right behind my chair. “Don’t worry,” he whispered to me as the bird flew to his arm. That bird passed a hair’s breadth from me and I could feel the wind from its wings tickling my ear.
By now I was feeling just a little bit guilty about leaving Dave and Rudy outside for so long so I exited the castle only to find them ensconced at a local outdoor establishment enjoying refreshing beverages. I made sure to tell them what an interesting and entertaining experience they had missed by opting out of a castle tour. I’m not sure I convinced them!