Initiation Wells

The unique architecture of the Quinta de Regaleira combines a wealth of Gothic, Egyptian, Moorish and Renaissance features, however one of its most fascinating features is located beneath the ground – a pair of wells spiralling deep within the earth.

The pair of wells, known as the ‘Initiation Wells’ or ‘Inverted Towers’, consist of ‘winding stair’ architecture, which carries symbolic meanings possibly including the idea of death and rebirth.

It is these wells that piqued my curiosity so many months ago and so our Portuguese trip took root!

The smaller well, called the “Unfinished Well,” contains a set of straight staircases, connecting the ring-shaped floors to one another.

It is believed that the spacing of the landings, as well as the number of steps in between were dictated by Masonic principles. However other sources believe they relate to Tarot mysticism.

The wells were never used, nor intended for water collection. Instead, these mysterious underground towers were used for secretive initiation rites.

 

 


The second Initiation Well is completed and is an atmospheric place that can be reached by underground tunnels or on foot through the estate.

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The completed well contains nine platforms, which are said to be reminiscent of the Divine Comedy by Dante and the nine circles of Hell, the nine sections of Purgatory and the nine skies which constitute Paradise.

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At the bottom of the well there is a compass over a Knights Templar cross, which is said to have been the estate owner Monteiro’s herald and a sign of his Rosicrucianism.

The Rosicrucians were a community of mystics who studied and practiced the metaphysical laws governing the universe.

The completed well is 27 metres deep and you can enter from the bottom via a subterranean tunnel and work your way up into the light.

Alternatively you can locate it from above and wind your way down into the ever increasing darkness…

Whichever way you approach them, the initiation wells are incredible feats of architecture that still have the power to enthrall and bewitch.

Regardless of the truth behind their origins the Initiation Wells will enchant and puzzle even the most jaded of travellers.

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Fairytale in vivid colour

Here’s lots more colourful pictures taken at the magical Pena Palace in Sintra.

From exotic bird of paradise plants to Moorish turrets and a child’s paintbox palette, the palace is a tourists dream.

All set against a perfect blue sky we couldn’t have picked a better day to immerse ourselves in the crazy world of the Pena Summer Palace.

Below you can see an ornately carve window that shows  a newt, symbolizing the allegory of creation of the world.

The palace is located high on a hill with a one way traffic system and relatively small amounts of parking, making it a bit difficult to get to if you have mobility issues.

However once inside the estate gates a shuttle bus will ferry you further up the hill to the actual castle although there is still a bit of a walk at the top.

Below you can see the clock tower and details from a tiled window.

Apparently Palacio Pena translated into English means the Feather Place, a whimsical, apt name for such a flamboyant display.

As you wander the palace walls you have wonderful views across the countryside and you can also glimpse one of the other castles – the Moorish Castle, a magnificent ruin that we’ll visit later.

I’ll finish on yet more magical colours. Next up we check out the interior and also wander the wider palace grounds.

Magical Megalochori

Megalochori is our next stop and it’s another picturesque village. Its existence is recorded all the way back to the 17th century.

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Home to historical mansions, old traditional houses and wine canavas it is a colourful, traditional little place. Apparently it has a history of merchants exporting the Vinsanto wine that the island still produces.

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One striking feature of the historical homes and mansions are the high walls, inner courtyards and solid wooden door entrances, built for privacy and for safety against marauding pirates.

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In the center of the village, there is a pretty little traditional square with taverns, restaurants and trees providing welcome shade and relaxation.

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The square is the heart and soul of Megalochori, a gathering place for the locals to play a game of cards or ‘tavli’ (backgammon).

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Spiraling out in all directions is a maze of winding cobbled streets and smooth edged pathways, just waiting to be discovered.

Next up we take a peek inside one of the traditional cave houses in the village and enjoy a riot of colour.

That iconic snap

Onwards with our whistle stop tour of gorgeous little Oia (pronounced EE ah).

The town reached the peak of prosperity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Its prosperity was based on its merchant fleet, which traded in the Eastern Mediterranean.

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The two-story captains’ houses built on the highest part of the village are a reminder of the village’s former affluence and many have been converted into very swanky hotels and apartments.

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The town has a myriad of white washed blue domed churches and quaint, traditional Cycladic houses and cave houses that are carved into the rock face on top of the cliffs.

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In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the town was a mariners town. The town’s fleet floated across the seas to build its prosperous trade with far flung countries.

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All around are the iconic blue cupolas of the many churches. Nestled next to the colour punch of hot pink bougainvillea it creates a mouthwatering scene.

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Part of the town was destroyed by a huge earthquake in the 1950s. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake on 9 July 1956 caused huge amounts of damage. 

The earthquake was followed by many towns folk leaving and in 1977 Oia had only 306 inhabitants.

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But finally, after traversing the winding back streets, I eventually come across the iconic view that I have been wanting to capture for years!

The blue cupola, the deep dark blue of the sea – here eventually was the quintessential image of Santorini that I had been hankering after for as long as I have perused travel brochures.

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I am one extremely happy little bunny! But of course I can’t just take one picture – oh no! Not me.

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Looking a little shiny and sweaty here, and the sunglasses hide the almost horrifically maniacal delight that I am currently experiencing.

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Neil meanwhile has been steadily bronzing throughout the first three days of the holiday, to the point where he appears to have been dunked in wood stain – particularly effective when placed against a white wall ..

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Final shot of the beautiful domes. So wonderful that I wanted to pick them up and take them home. Luckily you can pick up a tiny replica to take back in your handluggage.

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More clifftop views

So, thanks to some posting error on my part, the first part of our clifftop walk appears to have gone live before it should have! (Growl) You can check out cliff top walk part one here.

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In a nutshell we set out to walk between Fira and Oia along the cliff top over looking the Caldera. As usual I was too hot and too grumpy to actually complete said task .. .

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However we did get to explore the stunning, archetypal Greek settlements along the way.

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Getting a brief taste of luxury amongst the exquisitely restored cave houses that nestle into the cliff face.

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The glare of the sun off the whitewashed walls was quite overpowering at times and the narrow alley ways become a focus for all of the day’s heat.

Thankfully, soon enough we reached the empty, undeveloped coastline. Behind the man, to the far far left of the photo is Oia, our overly optimistic final destination!! Needless to say, Oia was not reached this day!!

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As we headed out of the final village and onto the more open coastline we encountered one of the islands most iconic animals! The donkey!

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The next note worthy event is the glamorous wedding that we’d come to Santorini for. Cliff top views, helicopter arrivals – beautiful bride!

Pictures to follow (of course!)

Colours of Greece

Mooching around the back streets of Santorini’s capital city Fira we encounter endless splashes of colour, from tea towels to pottery.

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The turquoise of this door frame contrasts deliciously with the salmon pink of the begonias. Meanwhile Neil adopts his usual role as human photo prop and delicate ceramic bells jingle beguilingly from a shady doorway.

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Here’s the simple yet imposing facade of Fira Cathedral. Inside a ferocious little woman ruthlessly patrols, throwing out tourists who breach the no shorts, no photos, no noise rules.

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Back on the street modern art jostles with the usual tourist souvenirs and we’re treated to some stunning views.

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Here’s the vertiginous view down to the harbour. it’s a fair old trek down but thankfully you can always grab the cable car back up.

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Doors to nowhere offer dizzying views over the serene Caldera and windows with a dash of colour beg to be snapped.

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Simple colours and lines form the uniquely Greek architecture while pom pom slippers and drift wood art work tempts the wallet.

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Next up we attempt the cliff top walk between Fira and Oia. Prepare for some of the most envy inducing views ever!!

Cliff top views

One of the best ways to appreciate the stunning views over the caldera and to experience some of the exquisite (and expensive) cave house hotels is to walk the clifftop between Fira and Oia.

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It will apparently take you three hours to cover the 9 km distance from Fira to Oia. However, we didn’t make it all the way! It was a HOT day and I was grumpy . . .

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However we did get mid way to the pretty little village of Imerovigli. Here’s some of the lovely sights along the way.

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From blinding white walls and staircases to brightly coloured potted plants and gorgeous little doors, I was in my element.

You also get stunning views down to the sea – although I am not entirely sure that this boat is water proof!

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More of the iconic blue domes can be found on route, while an artist’s residence offers an alternative to the traditional white.

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Lovely juicy colours make my mouth water!!

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As we head along the narrow cliff top path it winds pasts churches, windmills, through tiny settlements and past truely stunning boutique hotels too.

P1050043Traditonal caves houses, built into the cliff face, provide ideal places for discerning travellers to rest and relax.

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But you have to have very deep pockets to stay in most of them! So naturally we just posed outside some of them and pretended to be part of the glitterati!

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I love the colour combinations that are found in Greece. The snow white walls contrast gloriously with the traditional blue paintwork and the beautiful pink of the Bougainvillea.

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Here you can see the terraces of cave houses and swimming pools  that cling to the cliff face and Neil takes a break while I snap myself into a photo frenzy.

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More pictures of our little stroll to come!! . .

Altes

On route to our next photogenic village we stop off briefly to take a closer look at one of the many traditional water wheels that are still dotted around the region.

They are protected monuments so if you buy land with one on it, it has to stay there forever!!

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They still function as well as ever, even if they’ve been left to rust for decades.

Next on the photo tour we head to a pretty little village called Altes.

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It’s a typical, Algarve village of whitewashed houses with lattice work, handcrafted chimneys and narrow, cobbled streets nestling in the foothills of the Serra do Caldeirão.

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There are so many pretty windows that I became virtually delirious with snappy delight!

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Dotted about the whitewashed alley ways are delightful terracotta pots full of fleshy succulents and geraniums.

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Some of which I have absolutely no idea of what they’re called!

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Sunlight bounces off the blindingly white buildings, contrasting with the solid blue of the sky.

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Here’s a few more colourful snaps of plants and paintwork.

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Plus a local feline stares me down as I capture them in my view finder.

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At the eastern end of Alte, past the school, are the springs (fontes) for which Alte is well known. The area around Fonte Pequena (little spring) is very pretty with a bridge across the stream, the start of a series of waterfalls and a picnic site.

There’s also a paved garden area dedicated to Alte’s famous poet, Cândido Guerreiro..there are tiled plaques on the wall with some of the poet’s works on.

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As usual there are lots of pretty tiles to be found on the local houses.

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While sunshine bathes some of the local flora in glorious light and colour.

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Rhodes town

Now dear readers, you all know that we don’t usually do package holidays and yet that is what we found ourselves on in Rhodes.

However, never fear, we still managed to break away and do our own thing for a few days. Although we were based in Pefkos we decided to spend a few days in Rhodes town itself.

So we booked into the lovely little October Down Town Rooms just a few minutes walks from the harbour and beach and about ten minutes from the fantastic old town.

The old town is surrounded by impressive battlements and that just adds to the Disneyesque feel to the whole place.

425913_10151067206352353_1732343798_nThe Old Town of Rhodes is the oldest inhabited medieval town in Europe. Inside it feels like a stage set, complete with cobbled streets, detailed tiling and FANTASTIC pom pom slippers!!

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Here’s a few more of the stalls tempting tourists with a variety of religious artifacts, replica Greecian temples and other wooden do dars.

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One of my favourite ever things is these super cute ice cream animals!!!

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Lemon ducks, chocolate orange mice and strawberry fishes!!

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Once inside the walls you are met with a bewildering array of possible wandering options. There are roughly 200 streets or lanes that simply have no name and you WILL get lost!

Here’s a view of the fantastic  Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes. It is one of the few examples of Gothic architecture in Greece. The site was previously a citadel of the Knights Hospitaller that functioned as a palace, headquarters and fortress.

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The palace was built in the early 14th century by the Knights of Rhodes, who controlled Rhodes and some other Greek islands from 1309 to 1522, to house the Grand Master of the Order.

And here’s the rosy exterior of the Suleiman Mosque.

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Here’s a few more colourful sights from the maze of back streets in the old town. I am loving the yellow and blue combo.Wonder if I can persuade the other half to have it at home . . .

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So many delightful peely paint photo opps here! So I’ll dedicate a few obsessive posts purely to paint piccies later on . . . (I do spoil you all!)

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One of the other main sights of the old town is the Street of the Knights – one of the best preserved medieval relics in the world.

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The 600m  long, cobble – paved street was constructed over an ancient pathway that led in a straight line from the Acropolis of Rhodes to the port.

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All in all Rhodes Old Town is a fantabulous place to while away a few hours just getting lost in back allies, sampling icecreams and enjoying a chilled beer!!!

More Mostar markets!

Before we headed back to Croatia, we had time to mooch around some more of the picturesque little stalls that line the main cobbled street of Mostar.

From colourful slippers to beaten copper work, tiny traditionally attired dolls to artwork, there’s almost too much to take in.

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Colourful wooden instruments make interesting (and custom friendly) souvenirs!

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Copper wear, sumptuous fabrics and cute little tea sets are also displayed to attract the magpie eyes of the tourist.

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The plethora of textiles make me salivate slightly . . .so many cushion covers that could be made from them.

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Everywhere you look there’s a riot of colour, pattern and texture to delight the snap happy and trinket gatherer! (Both of which I happen to be)

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We also stuck our heads inside the courtyard of a traditional Moorish home, but, as we’d no cash for the entrance fee, we didn’t venture further!

Here’s some carpets instead . . .

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Finally a few  more bridge snaps. (I really need to find a blog template that arranges pictures better!!!!!)

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Here’s me attempting to strike a pose . . weirdly I look like I have one HUGE hand and one freakishly tiny one.

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