Bragança, Portugal 8/13

September 29, 2013

Still following windy secondary roads over the mountains and passing through small villages, we finally came to the Portuguese border. The old Customs House was abandoned so we stopped for a picture and continued on to Bragança. Again it seems strange to cross these international borders without even slowing down. Gary keeps waiting and hoping someone will ask him to show his special Swiss ID card that took eight months to get.

PORTUGAL! Yes, we are moving ever closer to the start of the Trans-Eurasian Odyssey.

PORTUGAL! Yes, we are moving ever closer to the start of the Trans-Eurasian Odyssey.

Thanks to the EU, the old Customs House at the border was abandoned.

Thanks to the EU, the old Customs House at the border was abandoned.

Following the advise of our new Portuguese friends, we arrived at a large RV parking area with dump station and water, just a short walk from the impressive medieval (oh, there is that word again) Bragança Castle. The old medieval walled town, also known as the Citadel, has been virtually untouched for many centuries. The town was the seat of the Royal House of Bragança who ruled Portugal from 1640 to 1910 when the monarchy was dissolved. People still live within the narrow lanes, unspoilt despite the handicraft shops and cafés that have taken over some of the buildings.

Within the blue schist walls is the castle of King Sancho I, built in 1187 with an assortment of watchtowers, dungeons and the impressive 33-meter high watch tower (42.6 ft). Two thousand five hundred and twelve steps later, (Just a guess. We lost count.), we were standing on the upper fortification of the castle overlooking the city. The interior of the castle holds an interesting military museum covering the history of the Gungunhana War, WW I and the Colonial War. Gungunhana was the last dynastic emperor of the Empire of Gaza, a territory now part of Mozambique, once a Portuguese colony.

Next to the castle, the Santa Maria Church with its elaborately carved granite portal and 18th century barrel-vaulted painted ceiling is characteristic of several Bragança churches.

Back in camp, as previously arranged, our new friends arrived bringing special cakes and pastries, and of course Port wine to welcome us to their country. Camping next to us was a young couple from Asturias, Spain. We invited them to join us. They were on their first real camping trip and it warmed our hearts seeing people doing what we had done 40 years earlier with the Land Rover.

The Braganca Castle was built by King Sancho I in 1187.

The Braganca Castle was built by King Sancho I in 1187.

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Ascending a winding wooden stairway, the view from the 33-meter high watchtower was worth the climb.

Ascending a winding wooden stairway, the view from the 33-meter high watchtower was worth the climb.

The old medieval walled town has been virtually untouched for many centuries.

The old medieval walled town has been virtually untouched for many centuries.

We will see the Portuguese flag atop many castles in the days to come.

We will see the Portuguese flag atop many castles in the days to come.

This interesting still was part of the military museum inside the castle.

This interesting still was part of the military museum inside the castle.

It was hard to imagine men fighting hand-to-hand with such heavy armor.

It was hard to imagine men fighting hand-to-hand with such heavy armor.

The elaborately carved granite portal and 18th century barrel-vaulted painted ceiling is characteristic of several Bragança churches.

The elaborately carved granite portal and 18th century barrel-vaulted painted ceiling is characteristic of several Bragança churches.

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Our new friends arrived bringing special cakes and pastries, and of course Port wine to welcome us to their country.

Our new friends arrived bringing special cakes and pastries, and of course Port wine to welcome us to their country.

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This young couple from Asturias, Spain were on their first camping trip, and doing very well.

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