Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Back Again

I've only been back about 16 hours, and I'm still trying to get updated on all sorts of different projects. So there's not a lot to report right now, but I thought I'd post some preliminary pictures of Portugal. The trip was a blast, and I found Portugal to be a great country and the Portuguese people to be generally friendly.

First, proof-positive that the Romans were in Portugal. The tower in the background is called "centum cellas", and it's a 2nd-century AD Roman fortification near Belmonte. It's interesting to see already how the classical Roman architecture is morphing into Medieval form even by this point.

Oh, and my wife and I are in the foreground in case you missed us in all this talk about towers and architecture.

Second, a picture my wife took as I goofed around on the old Templar fortress of Monsaraz. I had just spotted the Moors and was shouting for the knights to man the battlements... or something like that. Yes, I'm a medieval history dweeb. I think that's been established by now. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I have the coolest wife in the world because she puts up with this kind of childishness from a 31 year old man.

In general, I was shocked by how much the Portuguese allowed tourists to crawl all over these centuries-old monuments. In other countries I've visited, there are normally lines drawn 100 yards away because idiots like to carry off pieces of history. In the States, you'd also have to worry about lawsuits; It's difficult to tell from the photo, but I was fairly close to a rather precipitous drop on that Templar fortress. There were no rails, and this was not an uncommon situation. A local told us you could not sue someone (i.e. the state trust that cared for the fortress) in Portugal for your own idiocy if you fell over the side. The US could learn from Portugal here (though you still have the first problem mentioned about people taking stuff away from the site.)

Third, a picture of the ruined Moorish fortress above the small town of Sintra (basically a suburb of Lisbon). The picture was taken from the Pena Palace, which was even further up the mountain. My wife and I also ran around these ruins a couple hours later in the day, and, as at Monsaraz, the potential for stupidity-induced death was every bit as real there as well. I don't mean to imply that looking around these sites was death-defying, far from it. I am simply surprised by the lack of safety-precautions coming from such a sue-happy society as the States.

Fourth is the shot in the other direction. My wife and I are looking back at the Pena Palace from the top tower of the Moorish ruins.

Fifth, my wife and I took a typically-tourist cruise down the Duoro River. Here she is with Porto in the background. See, proof that we did actually do something that wasn't history-related! (Technically, there's no proof that I was actually on the cruise, but someone took the picture, right?)

Finally, we took a short drive down to Sagres, to see the south-western corner of Portugal. Yes, it's the Algarve, the home-away-from-home for British tourists. It was so crowded by Brits that I was shocked - SHOCKED - to occasionally hear Portuguese...

Anyway, the Algarve is warm and sunny, right? Not when you're high up on a ledge with the wind whipping around. It was a bit chilled at this point. Yes, I look awkward hunkered down, but it's an instinctive reaction. You see, I'm 6'5". My wife... 5'3". I am so used to random photographers cutting off my head in pictures that I tend to bend down a bit... not that I blame them. Most pictures with my wife and I are better if my head is chopped out of them...

Anyways, it was a blast, but now it's back to work. I may still post a few more pictures, but I'll also try to get an Ossian and Maimed God update next time.


Berliad said...

Looks like an awesome trip!! I'm envious...

::goes back to grading a huge stack of papers in the accelerated summer session::

Alex said...

Ahhh I'm jealous too...sounds like you guys had a lot of fun!

::goes back to summer vacationing:: heheh