Romancing in the Medieval Village
The nonedsecript medieval town of Obidos in Portugal is easily one of Portugal’s most romantic medieval village. This charming and laidback town of 3100 residents is ideally located in the Province of Estremadura. Legend has it that way back in 1282, King Dinis offered this picturesque town as a wedding gift to Queen Isabel. The town is replete with medieval villages and its trademark cobbeled streets meanders across much of the town with picturesque Portuguese houses for company.
I found the town’s superbly maintained churches with their quintessential Gothic doorways and stunning tile works very refreshing. The town is beautifully surrounded by fortification of a 12th century castle and first time visitors would do well to embark atop the 13 meters high parapet from where one can be assured of breathtaking vistas of this romantic town.
The town’s principal neighborhood – the vibrant Rua Direita is every bit enticing and extends all the way to the Praça de Santa Maria, where a gorgeous fountain comes as a breath of fresh air. There is also the well stocked Town Museum where artefacts dating back all the way to 15th century are impeccably preserved. The sculptures and paintings inside this Museum compels one and all to marvel at the priceless collection of artefacts.
When it comes to heritage edifices, the Santa Maria Church stands out with its superb array of dazzling tile works. Here one will come across the mausoleum of Joao de Noronha, who used to be the erstwhile Governor of this magnificent castle. There is an interesting hitorical twist to this graceful Church – King Afonso V is said to have married his cousin sister Isabel way back in 1444. Time permitting, you would do well to also visit the magnificent Misericordia Church which is conspicuous by its gracefully done up Baroque doorway.
Obidos is renowned for its rich virile past and if historical accounts are anything to go by, then after the fall of Roman empire, this picturesque town was ruled by Visigoth rulers. Legend has it that during the 5th century, the town of Eburobrittium was foresaken and a more strategic hilltop location was preferred. Local folklore mentions that after 713 the indomitable Moors constructed an impregnable fortification on this mountain and the Mozarabs who were of Christian origin settled in the neighborhood of Moncharro.
On closer scrutiny of Obidos’ history, the first royal - King Afonso Henriques captured the town from the occupation of the Moors in 1148. Historians are unanimous in their opinion that the capture of Obidos was very strategic in terms of the domination of Estremadura region. It is believed that the town’s first Charter was pronounced in 1195 when Sancho I was the reigning emperor. Later on in the year 1210, King Afonso II bestowed the title of Obidos town to Her Excellency Queen Urraca and ever since then this picturesque town has been patronized by the Queen of Portugal and the title of – “Vila das Rainhas”, which literally menas Town of Queens is self explanatory.
Knowledgable visitors try to coincide their visit to Obidos town during the classic Medieval Fair, which usually takes place in the month of July for a truly authentic feel of the medieval era. I was told by an elderly denizen – Carlos, who had spent all his life in this town selling grocery items that during the Fair, the entire town is converted into a makebelief Medieval Village replete with knights in armor, classical music, medieval theatre and even medieval witches, all of which transports the visitors to Obidos into an unparalleled historical extravaganza. Another big occasion to be in Obidos is during the International Chocolate Festival and thousands of visitors descend from all over Europe and elsewhere to celebrate one of the world’s most cherished ingredient – CHOCOLATE. This 12 day festival attracts the best of Chefs and a wide range of culinary courses are demonstrated by some of the world’s most renowned chefs.
No visit to Obidos is ever complete without visiting the mesmerising Lagoon of Obidos, which literally is the the most extensive lagoon system in the whole of Portugal and is all of 6.9 kms. There are two principal branches – one is the Braco da Bom Sucesso to the West and the Braco da Barrosa to the East. What is more, the lagoon is ideally located on the border of Caldas da Rainha to the North while the Parish Council of Foz da Arelho and the Nadadouro are to the south. The nature of this lagoon system is to close its link to the sea and ultimately fade away. Of late silting has increased manifold and a large amount of sediments have accumulated on the lagoon. Nonetheless, the local residents have taken up the cudgels in the right spirit and through scientific dredging, the depth of the lagoon has been extended.
There is good news for the avid golfers. The Royal Obidos Spa & Golf Resort, designed to perfection by one of the world’s most legendary golfer – Severiano Ballesteros is absolutely awe inspiring. The green vistas and the undulating topography that extends to all of 6,400 meters is amongst the very best of golf courses in Europe. An impromptu visit to the Resort’s classy restaurant was absolutely gorgeous with some of Europe’s most authentic recipes and gastronomic delights to tease your tongue. I spent hours together just basking at the surreal sight of of the Atlantic Ocean from one corner of the restaurant. I was told by a local caddie that the Resort was the reciepent of the prestigious 2012 Construir Award and the trademark designing expertise of the internationally acclaimed designer duo of John Hitchcox and Philippe Starck is there for all to marvel at.