BEST DAY EVER – BELMONTE & MONSANTO

Belmonte was home to a group of crypto Jews, some of whom still reside there today. There are a number of other museums and a castle and for 10 Euro you can see them all.

Our day started with the long drive from Coimbra eastward. We passed through mountains and valleys mainly staying on the main roads. I loved seeing the fog settling into the valleys where you could see the treetops coming through.

The hillsides were dotted with enclaves of houses

We drove through a mountain!!!!

and the flatlands were devoted in a large part to farming – olives, oranges and cherries. And many of the hillsides were terraced.

We drove up steep roads and through the main town of Belmonte to reach the highest parking spot, and still, you had climbing to do to reach the tower.

Here in Belmonte, as in so many towns across Portugal the remnants of the Christmas Eve bonfires still smoldered.

I was surprised to find the upper levels of the tower lined with these window seats where you could see out , I suppose it makes sense if you want to see whats coming

There was a room or two with clothing from the period but it was mostly just being in an old castle and on a hill. For a florida girl anything higher than ten feet above sea level and older than fifty years is unique

In the newer part of town, lower down, where we went during the 12:30 – 2pm lunch break when all the sights are closed, we saw another one of these chinese bazaars. I think this is the third or fourth I have seen so I had to go in. It’s like a miniature starter sized cheap target. They have a bit of everything

But the main reason for coming to this town is the Jewish museum and the history of the Jews who settled here as they fled the inquisition and hid their Jewish practices behind a veil of Catholicism- fabulous, even if you know something of the crypto Jews there was just enough to see.

An oil lamp and a grandma saying the blessing.

There was a gallery of books and other writings

From wikipedia – The community in the municipality of Belmonte, Cova da Beira subregion, Portugal, goes back to the 12th century and they were only discovered in 1917 by a Polish Jewish mining engineer named Samuel Schwarz.

For me the highlight was the list of the remnants of the community and where they are now

At lunch we met an interesting couple and talked a bit about the dying small towns and some history

We had ordered a sausage plate (which was fabulous) and they answered our questions about one of the sausages

According to this gentleman the priests would walk the town looking for pork casing sausages hanging in homes, knowing Jews would not eat pork. So this sausage was made of chicken and it is still served here today.

As is dessert…

This town has an amazing history with the Jews and appeared to have had great sympathy and tolerance

Since we had our ten Euro museum pass it was onto what was a highly recommended museum of the wheel- Can you imagine, here in the hills of the Portugese town of 7500 people they have a museum of the wheel. Well, they don’t, it turned out to be the museum of oil. Which was perfect. One room showing the entire oiling process, buy some kosher oil and be on our way. Ten minutes, enough!!

With all the wonder it is hard to believe that the last stop of the day before heading home was the best EVER but it was. Way out in the mountains of nowhere was Monsanto. A town built into, on, and in the Rocky Mountain top.

There was the house of the execurtioner

A cemetery

and yes, houses built from and into the rocks, or should I say boulders.

The town is still inhabited and we saw a few for sale signs. Very tempting!!

And some other photos from the day

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