The Storks of Böbs

The Storks of Böbs
A Very Fine Pair

Day 20&21 Down the Iberian Peninsular - Castelo do Bode and Tomar

Castelo do Bode 
The Tajo Vines
I left Lisbon following the River Tajo, more or less, I arrived at the small town of Constância knowing I had turn away from the Tajo and follow the Rio Zezere north, the only problem the Sat-Nav didn’t know of any such a road, but trusting on my Boy Scout instinct (you don’t reach 70 years of age without trusting on some instinct or another), I followed that black tarred thing called a road.

It brought me to a bridge that crossed the river, a sign pointing to a camper wastewater drop of place told me where they provide that then there must be a camper spot not far away. Just then along came the cavalry, in the form of a canoeist going into a canoe school. I ventured to ask him, he was kind and told me to go across the river again and hang a left, and follow it, I said were to? He said there is only one road no turn offs so you will arrive at a dam, that is your destination. So off we jolly well went, what the kind chappie forgot to inform me was that he was used to coming down on the river in a canoe (being Sunday a lot playing about on the raging river). After about 15 minutes of ever up and twisting serpentines I saw a blue light up ahead, it was the Bombederos (the fire brigade, they are used for everything in Portugal), I stopped to be informed that during the night there had been several rock falls onto the road up ahead, but if I took it easy I should be all right, it was the should be that I didn’t like), but they had marked the falls and they were quite small as avalanches go, but one of those rocks dropping on you could cause you a bit of a problem. I passed a sign “Barriera campisimo” this I took to mean dam campsite, I was correct and there ahead was the dam wall and a sharp left uphill to the campsite.

The lady in charge (Isabella) spoke no English, no German and just a smattering of French, but I made it known that I would be spending two nights here, (originally it was only going to be one, but having read all about the nearby town of Tomar, this being the last bastion of the Knights Templar Order, it needed investigation in greater depth.

I got my waggon into place, plugged in and levelled up (I had picked the most level spot, so no chocks needed), I went to the little bar come café, and had a chat with the chap in charge, he was  very helpful and I had a beer and decided to walk across the dam, the road crosses it and then onwards in the direction of Tomar, I do believe I saw Eric Idle riding this way in some historic film. At the other end of the dam was an elderly wench, selling local produce and not so local produce, but also a closter of the Sisters of something or other, I must say it was in first class order and had a great view of the dam and the raging cascades. I walked around it, but there was no way inside and I suppose the sisters inside didn’t fancy the likes of a hirsute brigand with nothing better to do on a Sunday that molest young novice nuns.

No one at home
 I returned to the old hag and bought some beans in a plastic bag (you see them being sold all over Portugal) a bag of cherries and a bottle of beer. I sat in the shade and watched the swifts using the updraft of the dam as they darted around catching the insects for their young. High up in the thermals a large bird of prey circled, not a wing beat (I had left my Bino’s in the van foolish boy) it could have been any one of the eagle family prevalent down here ( Bonelli’s, Booted or Short-toed).

I walked back and tried to get internet no go, so I had a beer instead, went back to the camper and wrote up my Lisbon Blog and down sized a load of photo’s will see what happens. It was dark when I finished so settled down to read all about the knights templars and their follow-on order. the Order of Christ.


I was up nice and early next morn 06:00 as usual, was showered and breakfasted (sardines on Ryvita) and up at the café to get my Blog published, alas still no go, but I did have an excellent coffee. I had a chat with the next camper (he was a WES number plate) he was having problems with his electrics and wanted to make his coffee, what would a German do without his kick start in the morning, I said use my socket it is working (I had boiled water for my morning tea, not Earl Grey but Ginger and Lemon).

That done I put my seats and tables, strung about with my wet underwear (I do not only wash my private parts in the shower) in a position to guard my place under the shade of the Paperbark Gum Tree. I set off across the Dam wall and headed the 19 km into Tomar, no problem well signposted. I found a great spot, right next to the covered market (it was here that I was informed that I could park on the very large adjacent car park but would need to vacate it before 16:00 as there was an evening market on. I had done a bit of driving around the town to get to the market place so by now had my bearings.

But first a walk through the covered market, it was a shame, but we had been warned about shopping on a Monday, any fish that is sold is not fresh, as no boats go out on a Sunday. No fish stalls only flowers and veg, no fresh meat either, I suppose the cattle ranchers don’t do any ranching on a Sunday either. I then wandered over a bridge and there before me was Henry the Navigator, he gets everywhere that lad. He was standing right in front of the gates that lead to Templars castle, fortification and Convent of Christ. Through the gates is a very nice garden laid out with rose beds and clipped privet hedges, this formal garden had originally been the vegetable gardens that fed the castles Knights, monks and all the other people that hang around castle walls on a Saturday night.

I looked at the guide, there are three routes to visit the area (it does not only include the castle, but a vast area of forest. I chose the medium one (only because the easy one was closed), I walked slowly up wards listening to the sound of the birds, the trees were full of Black Redstarts, easily identifiable by its flash of red on its tail, white throats and warblers. I stood for quite a while watching red (almost black) squirrels bouncing around the trees. I the distance I heard a woodpecker drumming and a cuckoo calling. On I went, the road turned a few times and crossed a spring that at one time had fed a cistern pool, but this was now dry, I crossed the path to a saintly spring, I didn’t follow the steps up as I wasn’t feeling particularly Saintly today and the steps were very steep. I carried on ever upwards until I reached a water channel this was part of a great watering system, that brought water to the Castle and the Convent a little way outside of Tomar is a magnificent Aqueduct (I did mean to go and see it but was pressed for time). The total length of the aqueduct is 6 km bringing water to the Convent of Christ at times spanning valleys in monumental feats of civil engineering, double vaulting spans. I think the Romans would have been proud of them.

I circled the walls, well about a quarter of them and decided I was in need of refreshment and a spot of lunch wouldn’t go amiss either, so down I went not the long way that I had come by but there is a much quicker way down (it is a lot steeper but going down is easier). Down at the bottom is the ever-welcoming Tourist Information Office, it is house in a wonderful building with massive oak doors and an amazing internal structure. The kind lady gave me a very well informative booklet. Armed with this I went in search of food and drink. I found a very nice little restaurant along the main street with a wonderful view of the Castle. I waited until the waiter had finished dealing with a group of young USA (they could have been Canadians) people, they were neither loud or demanding and were willing to try all things they each selected a dish and shared it, no twisted faces and no ughs and I am not eating that.
Bread and Olives

Cheese and Ham

Cod Roe Salad

The Ham still on the bone

I selected a platter of cheese and air-dried ham, I did want an octopus salad but it’s Monday, no octopus on Mondays. I selected cod roe salad, to be followed by those deep fried small sardines, they must have been frozen, but whatever, they were delicious. 

Meal finished I walked to the end of the Ruo Serpa Pinto, there in front of me in a very nice square was the Town Hall, in the centre a Statue of the founder of the Temple order in Portugal D.Gualdim Pais, opposite is what is thought to be the oldest church in Tomar, the Church of St. John the Baptist, was started at the time the castle was being built and is thought to have been started by D.Gualdim Pais, the then Grand Master, though Henry the Navigator, did some other works on the building, it wasn’t until 1467 that King D Manuel I actually start work on the church that is seen today. It is believed that the bell tower (or at least part of it) is part of the original Church.

From here I walked along the small shady streets as I was interested in the Synagogue, I found it, but alas it is covered in scaffolding inside and out (I managed a quick look and a photo of the works in progress. It was originally built in early 1400s and closed in 1496 when the Jews were expelled from Portugal. Sounds familiar! The building is of interest in that it is the only Gothic style Hebrew Temple in the country. It is built on a quadrangular plan and has a vaulted roof supported by pillars and wall cobels. This shows a lot of oriental influence. The building has had a very varied life, it has been a prison, a haybarn, a grocery store, even a Catholic Chapel, when it was known as The Hermitage of St. Bartholomew. It was saved from total decay by Samuel Schwarz a Polish Jew and Jewish historical researcher when he bought it in 1924. He donated it to the Portuguese State in 1939 to install the Luso-Hebrew Museum Abraao Zacuto.

Total Renovation, inside and out
I then went down to the buildings flanked by the river Nabao on one side and sluices and flooms on the other, these are the “Kings watermills and Olive oil presses, the site dates back to the medieval period, it was once the property of the order Christ from the fourteenth to the nineteenth century, it then became municipal property and it was in use continuously right up to the 21 century. The Powers to be are now in the process of turning it into a working museum showing the earlier mills, Blacksmiths workshops, Sawmill, as well as an electricity generating plant.
One of the narrow streets

It was now time to head back to the camper as the tow away deadline was approaching, the car park was now almost empty and my camper looked a little forlorn sitting all on its lonesome. I started her up waved good by to the chaps that were stopping anyone coming in and headed out to do a bit of shopping before heading back to the campsite so that’s it and good night from me.


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