Travel Stories: From Monastic Ruins to the Edge of Continental Europe

In March 2015, Vera and me visited the Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais close to Lisbon. It was a gorgeous hike from some beautiful ruins to the most western point of the European mainland, Cabo da Roca.

I spent 8 months doing my Erasmus programme in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. Together with Vera, we tried sometimes to flee from the city and throw ourselves into some small adventures out in the nature. It was the second time we were brought to the huge and beautiful Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais located 25km to the west from Lisbon.

During our first visit here we discovered the beautiful city of Sintra and made a hike from there up to one of the most popular sightseeings in the area, the Palácio Nacional da Pena, a fairytale-like and colorful castle on the top of a mountain. This time we wanted to experience something different – off the typical tourist spots.

So equipped with cameras, snacks and drinks and a soundbox we started moving out early in the morning from home. For a fair and cheap price we took a 45 minutes ride with the train from Lisbon to Sintra. There we jumped into a cab and took off to a mystical place in the middle of the Natural Park, an abandoned monastery by the Franciscan Order – the Convento dos Capuchos.

religious illumination

A really mystical and spiritual place to be. The monastery was founded in 1560 and parts of the architecture are carved out of stone. Somehow this place gives a strong feeling of a symbiosis with the nature around. We are astonished by the imaginations and ideas of how the monks might have spent their minimalistic life up here, in the middle of this impressive almost jungle-like nature.

monastery building

jungle portrait

natural stairs

After we explored the whole place and the inside of the buildings, we moved up the hill. Through stairs carved out of stone and overgrown with moss and roots of the trees around, we reached a glade – a sort of spiritual garden of the monks. An unbelievable feeling of calmness, timelessness and naturalism is floating through us – almost meditative! This really is a place to take some rest far from the city and be off the fast moving modern world.
If you climb up one of these big round stones you’ll have a more than beautiful panoramic view over the wide plane of the environment – a dreamlike view!

Puh…such a highlight needs time to be thought over. So we took some rest and recharged with a few snacks and music because we still had a way ahead of us – the 10km hike towards the most western point of Continental Europe.

bell and flowers

4 hours hike on really comfortable trails through the jungle of Sintra and finally we reached our destination – Cabo da Roca – the most western point of the European mainland. On the way we have seen such impressive nature, which I would not be able to forget for the rest of my life. But the highlight came up with the arrival at the border of the forest. In front of us: the wide horizon where the blue sky mixes with the blue Atlantic Ocean into one color. Unbelievable!

cabo da roca

Arriving at the final destination it is a really interesting and undescribable moment standing at the edge of the continent. Onwards these cliffs lies the wide ocean, on the other side is the American continent. We really felt ourselves like we arrived at the edge of the world. Combined with the visit at the ruins of the monastery it all felt quite mystical.

hiker cabo da roca

hiker portrait

We were exploring the cliffs and the coast further and found a nice rock spur. There we relaxed for a while, had again some food and listened to music, just enjoying together the beautiful view on the ocean.

coastline cabo da roca

The way back home lead us to the beacon of Cabo da Roca. From there we took a bus to Cascais, a really beautiful city in a sandy bay. Definitely worth a visit, the same as the bus ride! By train we drove along the coastline back to Lisbon. It was a calm and nice ride which allows you to let the impressions of the day floating through your mind and body. Dreamlike!
For all those who love to hike, to be in the nature and like to experience something off the typical sight-seeings, tourist trails and -spots, I heartily recommend such a tour!

The photos were shot with a Zenit 11 camera and Helios-44-2 lens (f2/58mm) on Kodak-Max 400 and Fujicolor C200.


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