Back in the Algarve, the round of Summer festivals was still in full swing on my return. Even though I’ve been many times before, the Medieval Fair at Castro Marim is quite irresistible. The village, with its mighty twin castles, comes alive to a skirl of pipes and rhythmic, marching feet. Every conceivable vantage point is occupied for the parade- some of them quite precarious. I was one of the hypnotised audience.
But first, a wander through the streets and stalls to see what’s new. I don’t seem to be able to escape colourful electricity boxes these days. In Castro Marim the eyes follow you everywhere. It’s just a little disconcerting.
But once you’ve paid your couple of euros admission to the festival you can leave them behind. I disdained a cardboard crown. It didn’t offer the same protection from the fierce rays of the sun as my wide-brimmed hat. I did foolishly buy earthenware mugs to sup from. What to do with them when your hands are full? Balance them on a wall, and hope. A lesson learned for next time- don’t buy, or bring a bigger bag!
Of course, there are plenty of craft stalls and you might just spot that purchase you really need. Or you can sit awhile, under a canopy, and absorb the sounds and smells and watch folk drift by. Someone is sure to offer you a bite to eat, and distractions are plentiful.
It feels like the whole village joins in, from the smallest girls, proudly paraded by parents, to mature gents and their ladies, delighted to don costumes and smile graciously at the watching crowds. Promptly at 3, banners and band turn the corner and the entertainment begins.
Interaction with the crowd is part of the fun, and stilt walkers stride menacingly around, while tumblers joke and totter through the streets, two of them frolicking with a large green ball. There is a menagerie of animals, from carefully controlled hawks to an endearing goose girl, from goats tugging at their leash to grouchy camels. You can’t help but be drawn in by the atmosphere.
But let’s tear ourselves away for a while! The parade will continue on and up around the castle, pausing for a little showmanship, and to rest the legs from the wearying cobbles. Many entertainments later there will be a banquet within the castle walls, but for now I’m needing a quiet place.
I did mention that there are two castles at Castro Marim. The fortress of Sáo Sebastiáo is rarely open to the public, and broods over the town in silence. A former stronghold of the Knights Templar, it is used for demonstrations of combat during the festival, in a very low key way. The ruins are treacherous underfoot in places, and a steep climb up from the village, and this tends to keep the crowds away. If you’re looking for a breathing space, coupled with wonderful views, this is the one. Just take it slowly.
High on the walls you have views of the salt pans and, far beyond, to neighbouring Spain, across the River Guadiana. You can well imagine how all conquering it must have felt, looking down on your enemies from here.
Did you notice the pile of saIt in front of the bridge? It’s harvest time for the salt in summer, and everywhere mounds have been raked into the sun to dry. Castro Marim uses this asset uniquely in the winter. A beautiful nativity scene graces the village hall, the bed of salt crystals on which it lies looking for all the world like snow.
You can spend as much, or as little, time as you want at the Medieval Fair, and of course there are cake stalls. I’m not going to indulge you this week, but the fair runs for 4 days in late August, and I can highly recommend being there, if you can.
Time to introduce a few more walks. Many thanks to my regular contributors, and to those of you who’re just passing by. Join me any time here on Jo’s Monday walk. I’ll try to make you welcome.
I do love a good cascade, especially in Debbie’s company :
Alice takes us to a windswept beach :
A free walking tour, with Mel, that I know you’re going to love :
Lady Lee shares another gem from her tour of Japan :
And you know there’s always time for food at Jackie’s place :
I can rely on Drake for humour and good company, in some of the most beautiful settings :
But you will seldom see a more beautiful walk on here than this share from Ann-Christine :
It never ceases to amaze me, the beauty on our doorsteps. I’ve borrowed this, Lynn. Hope you don’t mind?
I end, as so often, counting the footsteps with Cathy :
That’s it for another week. Hope things are good in your part of the world. Take care till next time.