96km Beja to Evora
“We are not thinkers, los espanoles, we don’t stay at home and think like the Germans; that’s why we have practically no philosophers. We like to be out where it’s sunny and interesting, where we can see what’s going on. When we go to other countries, the streets look empty to us. We think, where is everybody? Well, they’re at home, thinking! But we don’t think very much. Perhaps we should think a little more.” — Angel Vilalta
That quote came from a book Andrew is reading about Picasso. Although it refers to the Spanish people, we think it could equally be about the Portuguese. As we wound our way through rural Portugal today, using the back roads to find our way from the town of Beja to the World Heritage city of Évora, we passed through several small villages, their common squares filled with men watching the world go by. They were never doing anything in particular, often not even talking to one another and certainly not playing petanques as is the obsession of French men. Despite their quiet stance, they became surprisingly animated if we waved or shouted hello as we passed on our bikes. Their hands flew into the air to return our greeting and they shouted words of encouragement, or at least we imagined they were encouraging, we don’t really understand Portugese! The drivers urged us on as well, honking and giving us the thumbs up sign as they flew by. Between the villages we mostly had the roads to ourselves as we rode through groves of olive trees and acres of vineyards. Just before lunch we stopped for a history lesson at the Roman ruins of São Cucufate. A villa was build on the site in the middle of the 1st century, then was destroyed to make way for a second in the middle of the 2nd century. Again the villa was destroyed and replaced by a more luxurious version. Today there are only a few walls left of the third villa but it was impressive nonetheless to see the rooms where wine and oil were stored, the bath house, temple and even a swimming pool! After eating our lunch to the tune of bells ringing from the necks of several dozen grazing sheep, we dodged rainstorms throughout the afternoon before stopping in the town of Aguiar for a coffee. The price of a coffee is starting to seem a bit like a limbo contest: how low can you go? This little bar, filled with men playing dominoes, only wanted 0.60 cents for a café au lait, the cheapest we’ve found anywhere in Europe. Near 6pm we finally rolled into Évora and found the campground, a little way from the centre.