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Portugal Travel Blog

My Travel Notes: Back to Past - Marialva

My Travel Notes: Back to Past - Marialva

April 14, 2014

Discover the medieval village of Marialva, one of the 12 historic villages of Portugal. Explore this Portuguese heritage and meet friendly people!

Marialva is one of the twelve historic villages of Portugal. Located on the top of a mountain, Marialva is a place of History, Nature, silence and tranquility.

Discover this beautiful land and its friendly people and travel now through the deepest countryside of Portugal. Follow us on this tour through these Portuguese historic villages.

Touching the untouchable soul

Portugal has a lot of treasures. And one of the most precious and religiously protected treasure is its History marked through Portuguese lands. And we can witness this essence in twelve small villages, almost lost in the middle of this country.

The medieval village of Marialva, one of the twelve historic villages of Portugal

Despite these captivating twelve lands are suffering with the rural flight trend, there are people that want to preserve this culture. The hosts give them soul and tourists give them life. And our tour through the historic villages of Portugal begins with the beautiful and "three-dimensional" village of Marialva.

Marialva: a village with thousands of stories to tell

The sun was born. It is too early but we can detect people in Marialva. One, two, three elderly people, walking slowly through the narrow streets of the village. Leisurely. Unhurried. Here we feel that the time has stopped. Paint the moment.

They are wearing black, these seniors. And the lady wears a headscarf. Also black. When she feels our approach, she puts her hand over the eyes. The sun is shining and it doesn’t bother her. The wrinkles on her skin denounce years and years of experience. But the skin looks as soft as the skin of a child. A sunburnt skin.

She observes and simply smile. Sympathetically. She is comfortable with the tourist’s routines through the village. We are just that, indeed: foreigners that came and go. Never stand. And here the silence and loneliness reign. She keeps smiling. She doesn’t talk to us. She expects our first contact. She doesn’t want to bother us, I think. But she is ready for a conversation, an explanation. Her smile doesn’t lie.

And our conversation begins and I felt that we were completely welcomed.

The History behind the History

When we arrive at the village of Marialva, it seems that we are looking at three different dimensions, three small and distinct worlds. Marialva is located just a few minutes from Mêda, district of Guarda. Here, we experience a sense of total isolation and we feel that we are backing to the past: we are on top of a hill (about 580 meters) and the medieval environment embraces us.

The castel, the walls and other ruins of the "Citadel"

On the first step, we quickly realize that Marialva was a strategic land centuries ago. The ruins of its castle are immaculately preserved. After the invasion of the Romans and the Arabs, Marialva became a Portuguese territory, by the hand of King D. Afonso Henriques (first king of Portugal). It was considered a foundational village and its castle had a defensive function, due to the proximity to the border of Spain.

Jews were its main inhabitants, who had granted special rights and privileges. Walking through Marialva we can clearly observe traces elements that Jewish people left behind, as the construction of some houses.

However, other villages were being founded around Marialva and, therefore, this village lost its great power, beginning its decline and desertification. We are walking through the ruins of the "Citadel", inside the castle walls. We see the Square and its pillory, the building of the former City Council, the Tower of Homage and the Chapel of Mercy.

The houses of Marialva, with stone walls and strongly resistant

The "Vila" is another “environment” of Marialva. People built their houses outside the walls and created another little world. Here the houses have stone walls, strongly resistant. The stone streets are very simple and preserve their natural draw. We can’t see straight roads or flat grounds: the soil was the principal responsible for the establishment of boundaries and inclination. The houses are lined and organized, they aren’t huge and their walls have the texture of the stiffness of the stone. They are beautiful. All streets are tiny, poorly lit at night and all of them lead us to the ancient walls of the castle. In Marialva no one gets lost.

The other “environment” discovered in Marialva named "Devesa" and lies on the top of the hill, where the citadel is located. Stop there and enjoy the beauty of this village's highest point. Silently. And try to register this scenario in your memory.

The narrow streets and the friendly people of Marialva

Marialva is rich in traditional fairs, festivals and celebrations. It is a Region of hunting, fishing, wine and good gastronomy. It is green and natural. It is the History of Portugal and the History of its people. Friendly people, people that know the best way to welcome foreigners. They are simple, without pomposity clothes or traces of makeup. They are truly genuine…

Marialva is the plateau of legends, rituals, rurality and the centuries of History. Marialva is that little medieval paradise that will always make us smile. Marialva is a small village almost deserted but with so many stories to tell.