Day 26, Part II – Citânia de Briteiros

Day 26 = Friday, April 6, 2012

After our adventures in Guimaraes, we drove to Citânia de Briteiros, about 15 km away. This site holds the ruins of a proto-urban Pre-Roman Celtiberian hill fort. (Gotta love that description!) We got there with only 15 minutes left before closing time, and if the nice people told us how to let ourselves out, we will never tell… but thanks to the generous ladies at the front desk, we were able to roam to our heart’s content.

The settlement was originally excavated in the late 1800s by archeologist Francisco Martins Sarmento, who later purchased the entire property and formed a Society to continue his research. Excavations have continued up to the present day.

The ruins are amazing. The sheer size is impressive; on the top of the hill are approximately 100 family compounds, each including a number of round structures and a courtyard.

Apparently the site is unusual for its age because of its city-like structure; the compounds are separated by a grid of streets, and there are even conduits to the homes to carry water from a spring on the hill.

The remains of the settlement walls are up to a meter high. I think this is what impressed us the most; often, when you see ruins, you are only seeing the edges of the foundation. Here, you could hunker down and feel the actual size, if you felt like hunkering.

Martins Sarmento reconstructed a pair of huts based on his research, but realized when he finished that he had made them too tall. They left them just as he built them, anyway.

The area was taken over by the Romans in the 1st century BC, according to coins found at the site, but besides the coins, very little evidence of the Roman occupation has been found, so they don’t think it was a significant outpost. Remains of a church and graveyard show that the area was reoccupied in the Middle Ages.

We hiked over the whole hill, up and down the bumpy roads, until we shocked some locked-out latecomers by descending from above without warning. (I, of course, picked my way down the slope very carefully. Look at that concentration!)

On the way home, we stopped at the basilica which overlooks the city of Braga. Here we indulged in the official tourist pastime of Taking Pictures of Each Other Taking Pictures.

The view was stunning, though a bit hazy.

We went home to a dinner of bread and cheese, then occupied ourselves as might be expected: I blogged, Q did logic puzzles, and David went out to another Easter procession.

All in all, a very good Good Friday.

Experiences: European Capital of Culture; Guimaraes town square and castle; Celtiberian hill fort; great view of Braga from above.

Expenditures: Lunch at bookstore cafe, ice cream, entry into Citânia de Briteiros. Quite a bargain for such an impressive day!

Toto, I don’t think we are in Portugal anymore…

I am so far behind on this blog, I may never catch up, but I’m going to do my best!

Here’s a real-time update:

  • Left Portugal for Barcelona back in April. Spent a week in Barcelona with my friend Christine from Ireland.
  • Flew from Barcelona to Munich, where we spent a week with our friend Bryann from Portland.
  • Drove from Munich to Hannover, to spend a week with our friends Mitch, Nicole, and Maude.
  • Train to Brussels to drink Belgian beer for a week and then catch a flight to…
  • Pula, Croatia! Hung out for three weeks, did homework, went swimming, and went sightseeing with our new friends Johanna and Kristinn from Iceland.
  • Flew to London, baby! Three weeks of London fun with our friend Liz and her boys, including much yoga and various adventures with my cousin Clare (who took the above adorable photo in Bath).
  • Took the ferry from Harwich to Hoek van Holland, then drove to Nijmegen, the Netherlands, home of our friend Dick, after a quick stop in Amsterdam with our new friend Anj.

Internet here is iffy – I just cajoled the guy with keys into letting me stay on a bit longer – but I am going to make a concerted effort to post more often. I love keeping everyone in the loop, and it helps me keep the memories alive.

xo – Lori

Like a house on fire…

Photo by designshard
This is not a picture of the fire near us, though it looked like this to me.

or, as Q prefers it, “Video Games Save Lives.”

David was up late playing some game on the Kindle and wondering about all the noise coming from a house nearby. He said it sounded like someone was dragging a bunch of chains around. Suddenly, some guy started pounding on the back door, yelling, “FIRE!” (or the Dutch equivalent thereof).

Turns out the building three doors away was burning down.

Luckily David had a) a phone and b) the presence of mind to know that “112” is the emergency number. He got on the phone, woke me up, and told me to get our important possessions together and to wake up Quinland.

The bungalows we are staying in right now are brick, with tile roofs, so the danger wouldn’t have seemed too great, except that it was SO CLOSE. There were all kinds of shards and embers falling in our yard, and the trees between the fire and our area seemed completely lit up with flames.

David kept an eye on the fire and waited for 112 to answer (they never did, but a fire engine finally appeared). I grabbed the important papers, our money belts, the computer, and all my medication, along with a random handful of clothes since I was in my pajamas. Quinland got Speshy and Lanky and her concert t-shirts, a fire-safety plan which she has had in place for a number of years. (I am not kidding, either.) She showed great presence of mind, but asked if we could please leave the area so she didn’t have to be so close to the fire.

We drove over to the reception building and parked facing away from the blaze until they got it under control. Then we went home and collapsed into nightmare-filled sleep until this morning.

Sometimes this European adventure is a little too adventurous for me…