Serra da Sintra – a magical place in the heart of Portugal. So near to Lisbon and to the Portuguese Riviera, but so infamous at the same time. Well the castle is definitely well-known. And the most-western point of continental Europe – Cabo da Roca – is pretty well known as well, but not the mountain itself. It is a small mountain, but one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. I think I can stay there for hours, days, months, for ever. From the top of the mountain you can see Lisbon and some of the most famous places on the Portuguese Riviera – Estoril, Cascais and the magnificent beach of Guincho, called to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Guincho … well, it’s beautiful, it’s even somehow unreal. It’s windy, very windy and it’s almost always windy. And there are enormous waves. Sometimes 3 meters high! There is a very strong and cold current. And the water is never more than 17 degrees Celsius, even if the air temperature is 40. It’s actually a very dangerous place to swim. I managed some times to go till my knee. And I can swim quite well. So it’s not actually the place I would like to go in order to tan and swim. It’s a place for surfers. But I can’t surf. For me it’s a place to hang around and look around and to discover new things about the Portuguese people. At Guincho you’ll find almost only natives, except some experienced surfers. It’s one of the most favourite places of the natives, because they really love this extreme rawness of the ocean. Many of them don’t really like to go to the Mediterranean or some other inner seas, because they are like a plate, like a swimming pool. No big waves, no extreme currents, nothing really interesting. What a point of view! Well. I’ve seen at Black Sea quite strong currents and waves as well, but maybe there are right – it’s not like the ocean.
The most amazing thing at Guincho are the small kids, some of them 4-5 years old going with their small surfs in the cold waves and staying there for hours. I can’t really imagine how it can be possible, but they are used. Born in the ocean, the great Atlantic ocean. It’s a part of the heart of every Portuguese. You can’t understand these people if you don’t understand their relation with the Atlantic. But this is a part of another post.
Let’s go back to Serra da Sintra. On the top you can observe how the weather changes in real time. Actually you are in the weather because there are not only clouds above, but also beneath you and next to you. I was thinking that if I stretch my hand and I’ll touch them 🙂 But the most exciting thing is that you see how the clouds approach from north-west, come through you and … disappear. The same with the wind. On the top and on the northern part of the mountain it can be raining, it can be 10 degrees cold, but in Cascais it will be still 30 degrees and sunny! And this mountain is only 500 metres high. Such a great mountain. Separating the ocean from the land, separating the north of Portugal from the south, separating the cold weather from the warm weather, separating the rain from the sun, separating the magical “rainforests” in the north from the “desert” of the south, but at the same time unifying all those contrasts in an exceptional natural beauty. A magical place where you start to feel nothing else but an admiration. And love. And gratitude to God, that he created the Heaven and put this piece of it on the earth – Serra da Sintra.
Serra da Sintra is somehow representing and unifying whole Portugal, its people and culture, it’s history and future. The world can be so great if we people manage to unify all the differences and extremes among us as the nature does in Serra da Sintra! No matter how different people are, we can always unify in all our contrasts and diversity. If we do this, we can produce a similar beauty in our hearts and fill us with love and gratitude. Then we can start to create and will make the whole earth a piece of the paradise.
I was telling you about Serra da Sintra in order to better understand our next host in a small city on the east part of the mountain. Yes, a small city, but we had big problems to find it. We used our printed google map and took the exit from the highway. Somehow strange – everything looks as on the plan, but not exactly like it. Some of the street weren’t the same. At first we thought that the map is not precise enough or that we missed the right exit from the highway. But it was the right one. We entered a small city looking like a slum. Is this the place we are going to stay this night? There were only black people everywhere. Not a single white person. And everyone stared at us as we are aliens. We started to feel really scared. And we got lost in this city. We never got lost in our trips, even in the biggest Italian cities and even without map. But this time we got lost. We even couldn’t really find the way back. But we found it and tried again. The same … we got lost again and this time we had no clue. It must be the right city, but no of the streets are as they should be, as on the map. And all those black people staring at us the whole time. At some point we decided to ask – we were in the slum, we were the only white people there, we were a little afraid, but we got lost and we had no other chance than to ask. We asked some people and finally found someone speaking English. He told us, that we are in the wrong city. It turned out that there was an error in the numbers of the highway exits on google maps … and turned out that we don’t have to be afraid in the slum. All the people were totally friendly and helped us. So, how can we assume that if we are in a slum, it’s dark and we are the only stranger, it will be dangerous? It wasn’t. People are people everywhere. Even in this slum. And they are always ready to help you and understand you.
We finally found the house of our host in the next city. It turned out that we are again not alone. She made a mistake and told us and an old French family to come at the same time. But everything was good, because they had an inflating mattress with them. So there was place for everyone. And there was a dinner for everyone. And some nice wines. It turned out, that our host speaks perfect English and French. Both as a native speaker. And that with 60! There was a teenager in the house as well. We assumed that he is her grandson, but he was her child. Her fifth and youngest child. And it turned out that she is a single mom for many years, but she managed to educate all of them. She has several different businesses, but still finds time for the kids and even to plant the enormous garden full of vegetables, trees and exotic flowers and other plants. And she has time to have guests from CS. A lot of guests! Amazing how the strong will, passion and love of people can make them do thinks which appear to be impossible.
We had a really long conversations after the dinner. About Portugal, about the ocean and who to get out of it if there is a strong current 😉 and many more …but I’ll tell you only how to get out of the current. It’s so strong, that if it get’s you, you can’t go out easy. You can try as hard as you want to swim towards the coast, but there is not purpose in doing it. You can’t manage it at this place. It’s stronger than you. You have to relax, stay calm and save your energy. By at most 15 degrees! Easy to say. Hard to do. And you have to be patient and to feel how strong the current is and how far you are from the coast. And at some point, when you are near the coast and the current is not so strong, you have to start swimming towards the coast as fast as you can. You have to give everything in order to get out of it. Because it’s your only change. I think it’s pretty the same in the modern life. It seems so nice and beautiful, it gives you everything you want, exactly as the ocean and then if it manages to get you, you can’t go out of it. It’s like a whirlpool, like a strong ocean current. People often start a battle against this modern life in order to liberate themselves, but they can’t do it. It’s to hard. And at some point they give up and we all know what it happens. But there are people, who are wise enough, calm and patient, who don’t lose their believe that they will survive. They don’t go against this modern life, but love it and use it to become stronger. Such people use their intuition to recognise the right moment to act in order to get out of the strong current of the masses and to survive, to change their life, to create and to be happy. You can’t change anything if you go against things. You have to love them, no matter how bad they are. To learn to find their nice features and to use them. And you’ll survive in the modern life. Exactly as in the ocean.