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:: The Edge of the World

Friday was the last day we'd have a car in Portugal, so we decided to make the most of it and do some exploring in the Algarve. We got off to a late start since we were still recovering from Thursday's adventure, but we were excited to be going to places that would be difficult to get to without our 30,000 Euro liability on wheels. Our first stop was the nearby town of Silves (see our pictures).

Silves is an old town that has an old Moorish castle on the top of a hill. From what we've read, that's a big deal because the Crusaders basically bulldozed everything that looked Moorish when they re-took Portugal. After a siege that went on for months, the Moors negotiated a surrender with the crusaders after their water supply started to give out. Unfortunately, word of this peaceful surrender didn't filter down the ranks, and the crusader army went in and slaughtered the Moors. What a surprise.

Upon arrival, Amy and I parked the 30k liability and made our way into town. During our trek uphill towards the castle, we stumbled into this nice little courtyard that had a cute little cafe. We stopped in to get some pastries and coffee, and were met by a shopkeeper lady that had a sour look on her face for us. Somehow we pieced together an order that she pieced together for us. Before leaving the shop, I put our tray down on a table so I could get a better grip on things. It must have looked like we were going to eat inside, because the lady began to scold us in Portuguese (good naturedly). We figured she had to be saying something along the lines of "eh, what are you, a bunch of idiots? Can't you see what a nice freakin' day is outside? Go outside and eat, it's a lovely freakin' day out, don't waste it in here." Heh, it was the kind of voice a cranky, grandmother would use and it made us smirk to ourselves.

Energized by the sugar and caffeine, we renewed our assault on the town's hill and took the castle. We had it a lot easier than the crusaders- we bribed our way in through the front gate, passing a couple of Euros to a guy who gave us a small ticket stub. Inside the walls there wasn't much to report on- it was basically just a small field with a lot of healthy weeds. We walked along the castle walls and looked at the grounds, which were being dug through in a new archaeology effort. Still, the place was kind of interesting to walk around. Plus, there was a nice little snack-a-teria next door (Cafe di Inglish, ho ho), that had nice little sandwiches for the both of us (mmm.. thinly sliced Portuguese salami).

Having seen a decent amount of Silves, we hopped back into the car and started driving west again. This time instead of stopping at Lagos, we pushed on to the edge of the world, which happens to reside in a small town called Sagres our pictures). Sagres is basically the South-Western most point of Portugal. Back in the exploring and conquest days, this is the last part of Europe you'd probably see before you fell off the pancake. In a way, Sagres really did feel like it was the end of the world- it reminded me of those desolate outposts you see in Antarctica that feel like they're a million miles away from civilization. It was something else.

There wasn't much to the town itself. In fact we drove right through it and found ourselves staring right at a big white fort at the end of the road. We got out and had a look, egged on by Rick Steves's ramblings about how there was some ancient structure there that people suspected was a wind compass. As we stepped out of the car, we realized why people would assume that anything on the peninsula would have something to do with the wind- the wind was so strong that it was difficult to walk straight. We paid the admission and went in to the fort to see what was up. Hurrumph. The wind compass turned out to be a bunch of small rocks arranged in a circle with radial lines. Yahoo. Besides the fort walls and the compass, the only other thing out there was a lighthouse at the end of a very long walk. Sure, the view from the cliffs was pretty, but it was freakin' cold and there wasn't much payoff for all the walking we had to do. I guess being able to say that you've been to the edge of the known world makes up for the harsh walk.

We fought the wind and made our way back to the car. Along the way we noticed that there were several people fishing off the cliffs, which is just crazy if you ask me. We figure that once you catch a fish, the trick is hauling it up to the top of the cliff before the numerous sea gulls pick it off your line. Anyways, there was another lighthouse the next cliff over, so we got back in the car and drove over that way. We got there just as people were starting to close up shop and head home. Sadly, this meant we could not enjoy a hot dog from the place that advertises "Last sausage stand before America".

Amy was feeling cold from the wind and yesterday's diving, so we decided to call it a day and head home for the warmth of our hotel room. On the way back, we saw modern windmills along the coast that were giant (and that's saying something, since Livermore is just a couple of miles away from the world's largest wind farm). The drive back from the edge of the world was otherwise uneventful (thankfully), and we settled in for the night after an overpriced meal at our hotel.

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