An Afternoon in Évora, a Tiny Majestic City
Dating back more than five millennia, Évora should be on everyone´s to-visit list as they cruise through Portugal. Admitted that until now it was not on top of my list and it took me over two years to choose it as a weekend destination, but Évora surprised me in the most pleasant of ways. In hindsight we should not have waited as long as we did to visit but I am really glad that we at least chose a sunny autumn day to do it. (The sunny part proved less positive as I had to wear my Moschino sunglasses which I ended up losing somewhere around Diana´s temple. But oh well.)
Once you arrive to downtown Évora, I suggest you head straight to the information office and get yourself a map of the city as you´ll be walking all around it´s center. Next, head to Aqui Há Pão and get yourself a glass of wine and a nice piece of cake. Enjoy them whilst studying the map and admiring the Igreja de São Francisco across the street. Now this next step is not for the faint hearted, but you absolutely have to get yourself together and visit the (in)famous bone chapel next. Take cash as they don´t accept card. The tickets costs some 4€ for both the chapel and the cathedral´s museum. Built in the 16th century as a consequence of too many cemeteries piling up around the city, Évora´s Bone Chapel was designed by a monk as an encouragement for the city´s mostly wealthy population to meditate on the transience of material things in the face of an unavoidable death. If you weren´t deep enough to figure that out by yourself, rest assured that the message above the door will throw it in your face: “Nós ossos que aqui estamos, pelos vossos esperamos,” or: “We bones that are here, are waiting for yours.” Told you it ain´t for the faint hearted. Let that sink in as you climb the cathedral´s steps up to its rooftop and admire the view over the city.
Take a left turn and continue your stroll through the Jardim Publico de Évora whilst admiring the Palacio de Dom Manuel along with the free roaming peacocks. Stop for another glass of wine if you will and take advantage of a nice walk in nature to forget about the bones of the 5000 bodies you just saw. Follow your map and have a nice and thorough walk as you make your way back to the center and then up a narrow street before reaching the Sé Cathedral. Stop by some souvenir shops if you want and take out some more cash as the entrance fee to the cathedral can only be paid in cash also. I strongly recommend you pay the fee so you can also visit the building and take some spectacular pictures as you walk on the outer walls of the cathedral. I didn´t have cash with me and decided to wait till 5pm as of which hour the entrance is free of charge. I was however lucky to witness a beautiful instrumental concert at 5pm on the clock. The cathedral is simple but oh so effective in making you feel serene and at peace with everything. If you´re there in the afternoon, a dim light will fall on the walls and you might just believe in magic again.
Next and last stop on the list of things you can do in one afternoon in Évora: the Roman temple. Built in the first century A.D. , Diana´s temple as it is often referred to, it was destroyed during the 5th century but this is not where its story ends. During the Middle Ages ruins of the temple were incorporated into a tower of the Évora Castle which was then turned into a butcher shop and remained so until 1836. Now "just" a bunch of roman columns stretching high into the blue sky, the temple is part of the UNESCO World Heritage and makes for some bad-ass background for your pics. Feel free to grab yet another glass of wine and sit at the café in the park opposite the temple (please also look for my red sunnies while you´re there). Enjoy the afternoon sun and let it all sink in. It´s a lot to take in, as Évora is a compilation of one majestic building after another, all charged with symbolism and history.
Évora is all this and more. To me it´s a magical city that gave me closure and hope as I tried to honour what would have been my grandma´s 84th birthday. It´s a city where wine tastes sweeter and the autumn wind makes you feel warmer inside. It´s a place of letting go of material things. Be they the idea that we are immortal or the idea of Moschino sunglasses will last forever. Évora might be three times smaller than my own home town but oh boy, does it have a big impact on you.