There can be few settings better suited to a Medieval Fair than Obidos- a charismatic walled town, suspended in Central Portugal in a seeming time warp. Given to his bride Isabel as a wedding present by King Dinis in 1282, this is one very special small town.
Porta da Vila
Passing under the Porta da Vila, the main gate, your eye is drawn upwards to a balcony nestled beneath an arch full of azulejos. These characteristic blue and white tiles are seen everywhere in Portugal, though rarely to better effect.
I had great expectations for my visit but was quite unprepared for what transpired. I was enchanted and completely drawn into the atmosphere of the place. It came as no surprise that maidens with floral crowns wandered the streets, nor that tabards and hose adorned a majority of males.
Banners overhead knitted the narrow streets together. Tiny shops beckoned and beguiled.
By the castle walls a booth had been erected. The realisation dawned that I had walked into a Medieval Fair! 7 euros could buy admission to an evening of entertainment, inside the Castelo, from 5pm till midnight. According to the programme, there was a parade at 6pm. Much jingling of horses and good natured banter preceded it.
Finally a disdainful looking knight on horseback wheeled around, summoning his minions. A flare of trumpets and the steady beat of drums and they were off. The hunting dogs looked regal. A juggler and jester entertained. Threading through the narrow streets they circled the town, pausing frequently to engage with their audience.
Around the castle, barbecues and food stalls smoked and sizzled. The lights came up as day faded into warm evening. The castle stood tall behind the courtyard.
Courtly dancers took to the stage, bowing and dipping to medieval strains. There was Falconry and Jousting. Periodically the drummers leapt in to heighten the atmosphere with their furious thrumming. But unquestionably the star of the show was our jester friend, “the fool”, with an hour or more of silliness and audience involvement. A Portuguese Tommy Cooper, he transcended language, holding the crowd in the palm of his hand. My sides were aching at his antics. Midnight came all too soon.
A sweet treat- Ginja d’Obidos Still absorbing sights and sound, it was time to return to the hotel. I planned on a chocolate treat to round off the evening. At intervals along Rua Direita, small counters were set up. On each, delicate, diminutive cups of chocolate awaited the cherry brandy liqueur known as Ginja d’Obidos. First you drink the liqueur, then you eat the chocolate cup. Inspiration!
Casa de Relogio
I stayed at the Casa de Relogio, just outside of the town walls, and was made warmly welcome by the owner. Our hire car was parked on a postage stamp of space outside our bedroom window. (Rua de Graca, Obidos 2510-999)The towns architecture is quirky and interesting. On a fine day you can walk around the ancient walls, peering down or off to the horizon.
I can highly recommend the restaurant O Conquistador. The warm bread and cheese to start was exceptional and I loved my lombo do porco no forno with rice, peas and wonderful roast chestnuts. The javali (wild boar) also got the thumbs up, and the scrumptious house red was served in earthenware mugs. (Rua Josefa d’Obidos tel. 262 959 528)
The Medieval Fair takes place in July. Another highlight of the town’s year is the Chocolate Festival in March. Both children and adults can take part in culinary adventures with chocolate, feast upon chocolate and cakes, and wonder at the remarkable display of chocolate sculptures.
Whenever you choose to visit, I think you’ll find that Obidos has a magic all it’s own.