Castelo de São Jorge

So after asking the receptionist at the hostel how to get to the Castelo de São Jorge and where we could get authentic Portuguese food nearby, Jessica and I make our way towards the tram stop. Our receptionist had told us that the best way to get to the castle was to either take Tram 13 or follow the tram tracks up until we got to the resting point. From there take a left and climb up the hill to the castel. Well since we had already been walking for 2 hours, Jessica and I decide it’s best to take the tram (only 2.8 euros) and wait at the tram stop for 10 to 15 minutes. Finally we decide to go to the nearby tourist information shop and ask for directions again:

“Excuse me, we want to go to Castelo de São Jorge, where is the stop for tram 13?”

The lady looks at us for a good five seconds before saying: “I’m sorry? There is no tram 13. You can either take bus 373 or tram 28, which has a stop right down the street…” She goes on to tell us about the stop to get off at by pulling out a map and showing us the tram route.

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At this point Jessica and I are laughing our butts off because a) we’ve been waiting for a tram that doesn’t exist and b) we had seen more than 4 tram 28s passing by us as we waited by a different tram stop.

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When we finally get on the tram, Jessica and I are thoroughly relieved for a good 5 minutes. And then we look at each other. We have no idea where to get off. All we remembered was that the lady told us to get off at the rest stop, but we have no idea where the rest stop is. So off we go again, bursting into giggles and attracting more stares from the local portuguese as well as the other tourists.

As we puzzle over this predicament, the tram stops 3 or 4 times. As we come to the decision that one of the stops is ours, the tram doors close and we’re stuck. Uh-oh, but at the next stop, we spy a very touristy looking family. Assuming that they’re going to the castle as well, Jessica and I sit back, relieved and get off when they do. We subtly follow them until we come across a small park and a church. By now Jessica and I are thinking and saying “Where’s the castle? Where’s the castle?”

When we see it looming in front of us… on a different hill.

Can you spy the castle in the left corner?

Can you spy the castle in the left corner?

And we burst into another round of giggles at our airheadedness. We walk and walk, getting directions from a very kind portuguese man and realize we did miss our stop (oops). I guess being a tourist on 3 hours of sleep isn’t the best idea, but it’ll definitely lead you on fun adventures!

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So after wandering around and seeing beautiful sites, Jessica and I finally found the Castelo de S. Jorge or as we’ve come to call it, the elusive castle. It’s a national monument that occupies a area of the old medieval alcáçova (citadel).It was build in the mid-11th century, during the Moorish period and it;s situated in an area that is very difficult to access. It makes use of the natural slopes and was used to house military troops. While this castle was gorgeous, I was not all surprised to find out that this castle was not meant as a residence. I mean, there was so many open spaces and mostly stairs that led up to the top of the walls.

IMG_6930Even the little rooms in the towers seemed too bare and cold to actually live in. Although I can see military troops pitching tents and watching over the city.

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I can imagine keeping guard here, but not curling up to enjoy a good book!

Despite the barrenness of this castle (is it just me or do all castles seem pretty empty, cold and dark?), the wall tops were fun to wander on. According to their tour phamplet, the castle still has 13 towers (an unlucky number in the USA, but perhaps not in Portugal), the most impressive being the Tower of the Keep, Tower of Ulysses, Palace Tower, Tower of the Cistern and the Tower of St. Lawrence.

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Walking on the lower walls

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Check out that view!

A watch tower!

A watch tower!

They even had stairs leading back down from the castelo. Unfortunately, Jessica and I got distracted by more watch towers and didn’t manage to explore what was down these stairs

IMG_6935It looks like it leads right back into the city though, I wonder what that does towards the security measures…I feel like the enemy could sneak up here! But I’m no military genius, I suppose they had guards stationed here all the time or something. Or perhaps it was the stairs that allowed the elite to escape here if the citadel was sieged (is that a word?)

There was a little door called the Door of Treason that allowed messengers to secretly enter or exit when they needed too, unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of it.

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But then again, I was very distracted by the gorgeous views of Lisbon that you could see from the Castelo

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From the top of one of the towers!

From the top of one of the towers!

Well that’s about it for the Castelo! After that Jessica and I just wandered back down the hill towards our hostel and stopped by for a quick bite to eat. Just a little tip, in Portugal, they charge for the bread, butter and cheese that you may be given with your meal. We learned that the hard way:/

I’ll leave you with a few more photos of the beautiful views Jessica and I encountered while we were walking!

Hugs and puppies!

Mimi

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