Imagine finding your roots. Portugal is a place that is overflowing with a rich history from an era many people forget about; Portugal has an older population, and it’s slower in the matter of everyday life. With much of its young seeking opportunities in nearby countries, the population stands proud of its culture, with many locals eager to brag about their country and its culture.
Portugal was once a vast empire and one of the most prosperous places in the early years of civilization. Being the first of the major European global empires, Portugal’s dominion outlasted all others and ruled for more than six centuries until 1999.
Nicole Palas is a woman who moved with her family to America for opportunities that their mother country, Portugal, couldn’t offer them. Since moving to America, Nicole has visited Portugal over eight times. Her time in Portugal is spent absorbing the culture and taking in as much family time as possible. When asked what her favorite thing to do in Portugal was, Nicole’s eyes lit up with excitement as she said, “the Castelo dos Mouros.”
The Castelo dos Mouros, or the Moorish Castle, is 45 minutes outside Lisbon and is a hilltop medieval castle located on the Portuguese Rivera. It once acted as a military fort, while the region was dominated by an Islamic presence in its earlier years. Overlooking the city of Sintra and looking out into the Atlantic Coastline while minding the bends in the Sintra hills, the Castelo dos Mouros is filled with breathtaking views, fresh air, and hints of history through its architecture.
When asked why she picked the Castle, Nicole said, “The views were amazing and breathtaking. On one side you see the town, on the other side you see nature. I genuinely wasn’t expecting it to be as long as it was.”
Due to its length and various other factors, this trek is not recommended for the weak-hearted. Nicole’s walkthrough lasted around two hours; she said she stopped taking pictures often. Although your walkthrough goes at your own pace, Nicole claims that the inclines and scale of the walk call for physically fit visitors. Still, she mentioned the Castle having more accessible routes for disabled persons after admitting she might’ve used one as a shortcut when the incline got too much.
Nicole also noted that in the breathtaking views was a Portuguese palace called the Pena Palace. Nicole said that if she were a tourist visiting Sintra, she would visit both the Pena Palace and the Castelo dos Mouros in one day, adding that the history of Portugal, like most countries, is in its architecture.
Nicole added that the Pena Palace was a more established tourist site. Saying that if it weren’t for her mother, she wouldn’t have known about the Castle, “My mom knows a lot of tourists sites, and we had done the palace which is very colorful a bunch of times before. But this Castle we had never been to.” she added that it was definitely a touristy location. Still, she added that it was a lesser-known one. She went on to say how most people usually just go to like the palace in Suka.
Nicole said she preferred visiting the Castelo dos Mouros noting that she likes to look at the landscapes when she visits other countries, “The Palace is cool, but I feel like the coolest part about it is the outside, whereas like the Castle like you’re just like walking.”
As Nicole walked through the Castle, it made her think about how much the human species has evolved. “It’s a medieval castle, and they’re always so intriguing to me. The architecture was and still is incredibly fascinating. You look at the stones and wonder how people got them so high. Seeing the Palace from afar was amazing since its coloring is so saturated.” Nicole went on to sincerely appreciate the fact that Portugal isn’t overly modernized like many other countries.
Nicole continues to plan for her next adventure as she prepares for her third and final year of law school. She is currently working as a Summer Associate at a law firm in New York and has aspirations of becoming a trial lawyer when she’s not revisiting her roots.