Castro Marim Medieval Fair

Jo’s Monday walk : Frolics at the Fair

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.

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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.

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I do love a good cascade, especially in Debbie’s company :

A lakeside locomotion in Chisinau

Alice takes us to a windswept beach :

Georgia’s Peach of a Beach

A free walking tour, with Mel, that I know you’re going to love :

A Winter Wander in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney

Lady Lee shares another gem from her tour of Japan :

Sensó-ji and Meiji Jingu

And you know there’s always time for food at Jackie’s place :

Street Food

I can rely on Drake for humour and good company, in some of the most beautiful settings :

Old but still with attitude

But you will seldom see a more beautiful walk on here than this share from Ann-Christine :

Thursday Thoughts – Centre of the Earth

It never ceases to amaze me, the beauty on our doorsteps.  I’ve borrowed this, Lynn.  Hope you don’t mind?

Local Walks: Tofoni at Larrabee

I end, as so often, counting the footsteps with Cathy :

(Camino day 35) Rabanal del Camino to El Acebo & ruminations (week 5)

That’s it for another week.  Hope things are good in your part of the world.  Take care till next time.

Castro Marim Medieval Fair (2)

Looking down from the fortress walls in Castro Marim

Looking down from the fortress walls, in Castro Marim

In yesterday’s post I left you looking out from these walls to the border with Spain.  Beneath the castle, tickets were going on sale for the Castro Marim Medieval Fair.  8 euros bought you an earthenware cup (to fill with your tipple of choice), a cardboard crown (one size fits all- or almost!) and entry to the castle.  The streets were starting to fill up, and it seemed a good time to browse the stalls, before the entertainment began.

Click on any photo to view the gallery 

Any fair maidens aboout?

Any fair maiden needing a headdress?

A skirling of pipes and the thunder of drums had me glancing over my shoulder.  Look out- the excitement is just about to begin!

Here they come!

Here they come!

Such focus!

Such focus!

Just time to immerse myself in Arabia before the next group!  Exotic teas, cakes, sweets, nuts and magic lanterns.  A cornucopia of delights!

A little more music!

A little more music!

The stalls are full of enticements and exotica, and the hand-crafted furniture is enough to make a maiden swoon into a finely carved seat.

But for all the razzle, these are my favourites

But despite all that dazzles, the lady in blue is my favourite

At this point it becomes impossible to focus on shopping.  The parade has arrived- an amazement of  stilt walkers, tumblers, weird and wonderful costumes and masks, and the most hypnotic and enigmatic of magicians.  I am enthralled.

But this guy stole the show for me

This guy stole the show for me

There was just something about him!

His skills defied the camera!

Food stalls tempt and wonderful aromas waft, but dusk is about to descend and the time has come to mount the steps to the castle. Yet more entertainment is planned for the evening.  What else can there be?

The scene from the church steps

The scene from the church steps

I won’t discourage you by showing the number of steps and the cobbles, shiny with age.  But take it slowly, wear sensible shoes, and the excitement and momentum will carry you there.  Once through the ancient gates, a Medieval world appears before your very eyes.

There's always a Fool!

There’s always a Fool!

The scene is set

The scene is set

And the sinking sun adds to the spectacle

And the sinking sun adds to the spectacle

Up on the castle walls, I look down on the church

Up on the castle walls, I look down on the church

And then back at the setting sun

Then back at the setting splendour

The air is thick with the scent and smoke of barbecuing meat.  More and more people throng into the castle.  Small faces look up at me, aglow with the lamplight and the excitement, clutching tightly to a parents hand.  Shadows flicker on the walls.

Beyond the wall the moon gently glows over the salt pans

Beyond the wall the moon gently glows over the salt pans

There is courtly dancing, a banquet to eat (but the queue for tickets is long!) and later the promise of medieval combat and jousting, but it’s time for me to slip away, sated with the day.  Down in the streets the party is in full throttle and people continue to arrive.  I am seduced by the notion of sangria of figs.  Just one small indulgence before I go.

And the dance goes on!

And the dance goes on!

This is the second part of a post that I have linked to the Capturing History Challenge and I hope that you’ll take a look.  I couldn’t help but smile, though, when I saw that the Daily Post challenge this week is entitled Happy Place, a place to escape to and ‘recharge your groove’.  Most of you who know me are well aware that the Algarve is my happy place.  For 51 weeks of the year the village of Castro Marim is an oasis of peace and calm. Perhaps you can use your imagination and make these people disappear.

Apologies to my Six Word Saturday friends.  I won’t be taking part tomorrow.  I hope you can join me on Monday for a walk instead.

Castro Marim Medieval Fair 2015 (1)

The castle at Castro Marim

The castelo at Castro Marim

Seldom have I seen such a sleepy little place so transformed, and yet you have only to look at these fortifications to know that Castro Marim has a turbulent past.  Situated at the cut and thrust of the Portuguese border with Spain, the Medieval Fair brings back to life the mighty fortress of São Sebastião.  In the 14th century the castle was a stronghold of the Knights Templar, but it fell into disuse when additional fortifications were built on the hill opposite, in the 17th century.  The fortress is seldom open to the public so I was delighted to find it playing a major role in the festival.

If you’re interested in the history of Castro Marim the link will tell you more.  For myself, I’m going to take a quiet stroll, before the crowds descend.

The church is looking wonderfully festive

The church is looking wonderfully festive

You can click on any of the galleries below to see the photos in more detail.

These steps won't be empty for long!

These steps won’t be empty for long!

Time to ascend the steps to the fortress

Time to ascend to the fortress, above the village rooftops

You can see it was built on solid ground!

You can see it was built on solid ground!

The view across to distant Spain

The view across to the castle, and in the distance, Spain

It was a sultry day and not hard to get into the mood.  From within the fortress came grunts and clangs, the ‘masters’ putting the youth through their paces.  A smattering of people looked on, choosing a favourite.

Who will come off best?

Who will come off best?

I was astounded by the thickness of the walls

I was astounded by the thickness of the walls

The bridge to Spain is just visible

The bridge across the River Guadiana to Spain is just visible, behind the castle

I’m ready to saunter back down into the streets, where the parade is about to start.  Before I do, I’d like to link this post to Ed Mooney’s Capturing History Challenge, which I’ve been meaning to join for a week or two.  He’ll explain how it works to you, and I’ll be back tomorrow with the parade and a look inside the castle.  Join me then?