The Serra do Bussaco
Serra do Bussaco
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Quinta da Abelenda is in an excellent central location that allows you to visit the Serra do Bussaco, while also allowing you to visit the many other attractions in the region.
It is a half hour drive from Quinta da Abelenda to the Serra do Bussaco and is also easy to reach by train from Quinta da Abelenda.
History of the Bussaco Forest
This unique forest was first settled by Benedictine monks in the 6th Century. Later, it was administered by priests from Coimbra Cathedral, and a Papal edict of 1622 declared that women entering the forest would be excommunicated.
The Discalced Carmelites, an order of barefooted monks, took over in 1628. They built a monastery and surrounded the 250-acre (105-hectare) forest with a wall.
Over the centuries, the monks and the government foresters who succeeded them have planted nearly 400 Portuguese varieties of trees, shrubs, and flowers while importing some 300 species from as far away as Mexico, Chile, and Japan and from many other places all over the world.
In 1810, 66,000 French troops attacked the Duke of Wellington and his army of British and Portuguese soldiers during the unsuccessful Napoleonic invasion of Portugal. The forest survived, and so did the monastery - although it fell into government hands in 1834, when monasteries were abolished throughout Portugal.
The Pallace of Bussaco
Later in the 19th Century, the Portuguese royal family commissioned an Italian operatic scene painter and architect to build a summer palace and hunting lodge in the Buçaco Forest.
The building was completed in 1907, shortly before the assassination of the king and crown prince. The king's Swiss chef obtained government permission to turn the palace into a hotel in 1910, and guests have been wallowing in pseudo-Manueline architecture and Edwardian comforts ever since.
It became one of Portugal's greatest houses and one of the most fascinating and historic hotels of the world, with a continuing tradition of the ultimate in luxury.
The restaurant, offers classic French and Portuguese cuisine and has a must on its exclusive Buçaco wines, mis en bouteille au chateau, are a must. In all a remarkable experience not to be missed in Portugal and for a very reasonable price.
Walks and things to see in the Serra do Bussaco
Besides the Palace Hotel and the famous restaurant, the Bussaco Forest offers a variety of monuments and walks. High points include:
From a mountain spring, water bounces downhill over 144 steps in a cool, shaded forest setting. Follow the lakeside path to the Fern Alley. This will lead you past the Grottoes Gate via groves of cypresses and other exotic trees. At one point, you can head uphill to a scenic overlook at the Coimbra Gate before heading back to the hotel through the Cedar Alley.
As you follow the stations of the cross up the hillside, you'll pass a series of large shrines containing life-size terracotta figures of Christ, his disciples, and other characters in the Crucifixion story. The hike terminates in the Cruz Alta, or High Cross, which offers views of the forested mountains and the Palace Hotel.
. Most of the monastery was torn down during the construction of the royal summer palace, but a few portions remain--among them, a chapel (with innumerable photos of the religious faithful hoping for miracles) and several of the old monks' cells, which are lined with cork for insulation against the winter cold.
Museum of the Peninsular War
This small museum commemorates the Battle of Buçaco and other key battles during Napoleon's attempts to conquer Iberia and destroy the Portuguese alliance with Great Britain, which dates back to 1373.