The ancient capital of Moorish Algarve, Barbara Athanassiadis
A dive in the Great Age of exploration is certainly a dive in the oceans which in the 15th century were unknown and cartography incomplete. Part 2
The next day, still anchored in the quiet waters of the river, a few meters from the ocean and the majestic, wild coast of Algarve, it was as if Portugal didn’t want to leave us. We went up to a hilly area where from afar we saw a white town stretching inland. It was Silves, built by the Romans, then loved by the Moors who made it the capital of their Kingdom. Α red fort dominated the houses surrounded by a plain with orange groves. Silves has retained its discreet charm and a walk through the cobbled streets showed me how the West blended with the East: a mosque became a church, a minaret a bell tower and white houses with patios, a delight to the eyes.
Τhere is no doubt that the Portuguese seafarers had come into contact with the Muslims in the early 15th century. The city of Ceuta on the Mediterranean coast of Morocco, with its bustling bazaars, where caravans arrived crossing the Sahara, was captured by them in 1415. Certainly, they saw warehouses full with sacks of spices brought from the Indies; certainly, they plundered the homes of the wealthy merchants; and most certainly, they came up with the idea that in order to reach the riches of the East, they would have to bypass the Muslim horizontal axe that crosses North Africa and sail south on its western coast. So, with the thought that Ceuta marked the beginning of the Portuguese expansion, I was so excited to see it from the peaks of Serra Monchique where we arrived following a serpentine road through chestnut, pine and eucalyptus trees - a feast of flora, indeed. Alas! too much excitement for nothing.
The Atlantic offered us its panoramic view, but there was no sign of Ceuta, not even the coast of Morocco. On the map, they seemed so close! In reality, the ocean looked endless.
However, since old times Portuguese fishermen sailed far in the Atlantic, and most probably they would have seen some land on the other side of the ocean, but they didn’t know what they were seeing. Their task was to fish, not to explore. So, tons of sardines were brought to the Portuguese coastal towns which, traditionally, were cooked in many ways. We had the chance to taste them upon our arrival in Portimâo because in the old town, next to the port, there are picturesque, little fish restaurants. Their cuisine is such a delight to the palate accompanied by the excellent wines of the fertile soil of Algarve.
Back on the yacht, around 6.00 p.m., HARMONY V set off. In a few minutes, she entered the ocean heading east. While we were sailing, I gave a lecture, entitled: The Great Age of Exploration, Portuguese and Spaniards. The theme was related to our cruise and, after a day of such a wonderful experience, my voice came out with brio!
After dinner, we went to sleep, while we were sailing in the deep night surrounded by swarms of seagulls drawn by the lights of the yacht. The ocean was a little shaky, all it took to lull us into a light swing. When I opened my eyes the next morning, we were sailing quietly. I realized that we had entered the Guadalquivir river leaving behind the spectacular cliffs of southern Portugal. Having around us the fertile plains of Andalusia, we were sailing towards exotic Seville.
by Barbara Athanassiadis, a travel writer
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Ιn the Footsteps of the Old Explorers, Barbara Athanassiadis
A dive in the Great Age of exploration is certainly a dive in the oceans which in the 15th century were unknown and cartography incomplete. Part 3