Visiting the city
Capital of one of the biggest and least populated counties of Portugal, Beja is a city where I only entered three times:
1st – In 1971, just to have a look, without any special remark.
2nd – In 1996 only to sleep, in a group visit to Pulo do Lobo
3rd – Last week, coming from Algarve, and after reading in the book that its castle was interesting.
Yes, the castle is interesting, yes, the spirit of Alentejo is present everywhere, yes, it is being made an effort to embelish the city, preserving its authenticity, yes, my brief contact with locals was nice and warm.
Anyway, in our small Portugal, Beja keeps being a secondary visit, until the day that anything special invites me to see it with different eyes.
Once a Moorish castle, its reconstruction was initiated during the reign of D. Alfonso III, and it was finished in the reign of D. Dinis.
The main tower is one of the best examples of the Portuguese military architecture.
With three decorated floors, the windows show diverse styles
The very beautiful tower of the castle is the only one in Portugal built in marble (it took me 62 years to learn that! – blessed Virtual Tourist).
Attached to the Castle there’s a Roman arch.
I had to read to know that it was not part of the castle, and only some respect for history allowed its preservation out of its original context.
Santiago Maior Church
The church of Santiago Maior, adjacent to the castle, became Beja’s cathedral in the first half of the 20th century. Despite the recovering works that took place and modified it, it still keeps elements in baroque, mannerist and eclectic styles.
St. Amaro church
Although the exact date of its foundation is unknown (possibly, the 10th century), the church of St. Amaro was built outside the walls of the city, close to the old gate of Beja, being modified during the 15th and 16th centuries to its actual configuration.
Modest in its whole, with Mudejar windows, it keeps, inside, the richly decorated Visigoth capitals used in the initial construction, making this church an unique example of this period’s architecture.
Saint Andre Church
Originally from the 12th century, the actual construction dates from the 16th.
In the outskirts of town, it’s a small and heavy building, totally covered with tiles from the 16TH century, with a few paintings.
In the historic centre of Beja, this palace from the 18th century, after several uses (even by the rural union) was bought by city hall and adapted as a social centre for third age.
Well recovered, it adds personality to the place.
What a surprise!
Coming from Spain we stopped in Beja for lunch, in search of a “Sopa de Cação” – Dogfish soup (believe me – it is something special, when they know how to do it).
The first checked restaurant HAD the soup.
Now, the second surprise – it was the best that we tasted. Absolutely delicious and well served.
I surely recommend this small restaurant.
The owner was a referee in regional soccer competition (thus the restaurant’s name). With humor, he explained that never went up from regional league, otherwise, instead of a restaurant he would have a hotel.
Favorite Dishes: Sopa de Cação, Ensopado de Borrego
Address: Rua Conselheiro Meneses 4/6
Directions: By the castle
Phone: +351 284389204
Clube de Campo Vila Galé
More than a (good) hotel, this country club is a good opportunity to contact with the wild side of Alentejo planes.
Well, wilderness is a little artificial, but the pace that fills the traditional jokes about “alentejanos” it’s easy to feel and understand here. Winery, horse rides, organized animation, it all help to fill the day in a smooth contact with nature.
Directions: Albernoa, 25 Km from Beja
Website: Vila Galé
One of the several featured activities in Vila Galé is horse riding.
We didn’t do it, but, even in low season, the activity was remarkable, and the weather perfect for a nice ride.
I think that it hardly fits in this well conceived contact with nature, but one of the solutions to travel around is four wheel motorbikes.
Noise and smoke across those fields?
Well, not for me…
Nature around Beja
Showing the nature is the main objective of Clube de Campo Vila Galé.
The area is nice (with some help from man’s work), but not enough to justify the visit.
That’s why it needed to be improved.
A few imported animals joined some native other, in a small zoo that only a large fence opposite to a lake denounces as limited. Storks and other birds “cooperate” with the idea.
Policy in Portugal was largely influenced by the dimension of rural properties – small state in the half north, with thousands of owners led to conservative people; large state in Alentejo led to… communism.
Agriculture is no longer the main activity in the area, but it still has a great influence. The annual agricultural fair, Ovibeja, is a great event, with lots of cultural and sportive activities.
I was taken there by a friend who wished to buy ducks.
After a very amusing day we went back with two roosters fighting for the two poor hens, and…no ducks.