Serpa Mystery

One of the pins in our map had always been the town of Serpa in Portugal and we took a slight detour to spend a couple of nights there.  It has a “Municipal” campsite, one run by the local authority that is cheap, close to the town centre and shops, has a swimming pool attached and gives discount to over 65’s.

Waking up in the morning in Serpa was certainly a pleasure, we were beginning to climb down from the mountainous regions and the air was warmer even though we were approaching the shortest day.


Serpa is an ancient city dating back to before the Moors who ruled this area about a thousand years ago. Narrow alleyways, strange chimneys, tiled roofs  and domed houses jostle with modern apartments alongside the castle.


The entrance to the castle is through an arch roofed over by an enormous slab of displaced masonry caught by its neighbour as it fell  during an attempt at invading the city.


The castle wall is accessible to the brave (or foolhardy)


and provides a commanding view over the city and surrounding countryside.


When we visited the castle it was thronged with winter visitors as you can see from this picture.


Looking down from this lofty height we could see a lonely workman wrestling with a leaky roof.


He has some way to go though:


Nestling within the sheltering walls of the castle is this olive tree said (by local authorities in these things) to date from the time of Jesus – so nearly 2017 years old.  Not having a handy chainsaw, I had to take their word for it.


Here is the mystery alluded to above – The original castle walls were overtopped by about 7 metres of additional stonework arches carrying an aqueduct.


This was said to provide fresh water to a manor house built in to the castle walls but either end of the aqueduct is about 30 metres above ground.  Above the end shown above there are the remains of a pump consisting of a vertical shaft, geared wheels and chains.


Online guide books talk of a type of device called a “noria” but these were powered by moving water and there is NO moving water hereabouts on the top of a hill. There is, however, a circular chamber at the bottom of the shaft about wide enough for a donkey to walk in a never-ending circle powering the pump taking water from a well.

On the subject of crowds, busy streets and densely packed turrets, there was often no one else around no matter what time of day we nosed about.  This picture was taken at 8:15 one evening and shows the typically deserted street.  Makes you wonder why they bothered to decorate them.


Off then to Lagos.  Just to show you what Sheila meant about me “snapping” things on the go; we passed this man at about 50mph (80kph) and I whipped my trusty Nikon from its holster by the gearstick, zoomed, focussed, framed and exposed in a millisecond or two.


Well worth the effort.

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