9 Apr 2012
The hidden beauty of Portugal - Pena Palace
Portugal is one of those neglected European countries when it comes to travel. It doesn't have the food of Italy, or the beaches of Spain (except for resorts on the Algarve) or the ruins and islands of Greece. Yet, it's my favourite Mediterranean country, maybe BECAUSE it is lacking any cheesy, fake touristyness (and if it wanted - it couldn't afford it). People and places are down to earth, it's incredibly cheap and good food and beaches can be found, too - you just need to look a little bit harder.
I always think of my visits to Portugal as "so-so", until I look at the pictures weeks or months later and just keep thinking WOW. My particular favourite was the Pena Palace in Sintra, not far from Lisbon. Growing up in Germany and spending much time in France and the UK, I've seen plenty of castles in my life. Visiting Morocco, I saw lots of Moorish architecture. But no place combined the two, in such a stunning setting. I felt like in Disneyland - a rough, real, "what ever happened AFTER the happily ever after" version of it. Which kind of applies to all of Portugal, when you think of it - from world power of incredible wealth to... well, you're probably following the news more closely than I do.
P.S.: When looking at pictures online, I found a lot of people had tagged Pena Palace as the "Moorish castle", which is not really right. The Moorish castle of Sintra is not far away, just a bit further down the mountain, and looks like this: