Traveloid by Through Cascais, Portugal

Venture forth with me and see what I see
as we explore the imaginary

We are in the land of Vasco da Gama, a first official connection by the sea between Europe and Asia to the Portuguese establishing a colonial empire in Asia. Vasco da Gama represented a composite mixture of exploratory leadership, politically astute and ruthless, a potent combination that brought him fame in that Age of Discovery and beyond. Portuguese marked themselves on the map of geography and history as an empire and started colonizing. It was the monopoly of spices that gave special power to Portugal shortly after among many other goods, as they established control over the trade.

Adamastor (untamed) a mythological figure (clearly influenced by the ancient Greek myth related to Poseidon) a symbol of force of nature, in control of the sea, storm and wind according to legend made the sea calm and allowed Vasco da Gama to pass by the Cape of Good Hope and on to India. It was not running away or trying to avoid the phantom’s wrath but simply facing down the fear and asking him “Who are you?” that disarmed Adamastor’s powers and transformed not only an otherwise notorious reputation but also the name of what was previously known by Portuguese sailors as Cape of Storms to the Cape of Good Hope.

Now that we touched upon the drive that made the exploring more powerful than the power of the sea, we should explore the substance that creates many stories around it and his name is Lusus. The son of Bacchus (Dionysus) admiring wine, spontaneous behavior and celebrating life. A myth with a very complex formation of the name and it’s origin signifies how important those values are for Portuguese people, and not without reason.

There is a sense of relaxation and spontaneity, both of which are in scarcity in our society, due to pursuit for “success” and “happiness” as if the two were ever related. One may be a stimulus to the other, but never a full conditioning and then even the definition of success alone should be under a question mark. Should we look into the past and reassess our values so that we don’t get devoured by our own ambitions and strip the places we live in of that vital atmosphere, the invisible cloak that every city or village has. To that end let’s explore:

Cascais (mountain of shells) goes back to the late Paleolithic period, with many settlements established and due to the configuration of it’s terrain and many natural grottoes, they were used as burial sites. It was a place of transformation and people had to focus on the immaterial, sacred and divine from the earliest of the times. The angel of death (in any sense of that word) is sometimes very powerfully invoking in us the ability to dive deep into the subconscious mind and explore what we can’t understand. It is usually those things that we can’t understand that inspire the imagination and creates a whole new world, almost self sufficient and independent of outside events.

As for outside events here, Cascais has witnessed many empires passing through including Romans, Muslim settlers, and starting from the 12 century Cascais started to slowly emerge from obscurity to prosperity,…. and as it often goes the prosperity often requires protection and more complex forms of hierarchy and this happened as Portugal started becoming a colonial force, and an empire. Cascais began as a fishing village in the shadow of Sintra, a city to the north but later it became the holiday residency of royalty which sealed the significance of the place in the hierarchical distribution of powers.


Cascais, Portugal
Date Autumn 2017
Exploring Vasco da Gama, Portugal, history, asia, geography, cape of good hope, india, cascais, village, azylejo, boca da inferno, Jorge O’Neill, Moorish
Connecting Adamastor, Poseidon, Lucus, Paula Rego, Old lore, Oriental culture, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, Mountain of shells, Bacchus, Dionysus, Age of Discovery

Charlie and Earling explored Cascais much more than any other place in Portugal, it is a place where cobbled stone opens a totally different dimension. A famous painter Maria Helena Vieira da Silva comes to mind with the intermingled multidimensional world, fully expressed through infinite number of rectangles, just like the cobbled stones in so many cities of Portugal.

Charlie: I think it is one of the most frequent themes in the paintings of the 20th century, the language of rectangular form. Perhaps architecture, that shell of human habitation and safety, brought forward the artificial form of rectangle but then Suprematism sealed it as a purely human invention.

Earling: It is almost like a human against the nature to the extent of subduing the nature with sharp objects but at the same time imitating it through the prism of rectangular mosaics. Maria Helena Vieira da Silva speaks through the language of spatial illusion evoking the sense of time passage. Almost like a world of architecture that melts before our eyes in search for absolute truth and the core that keeps it together.

Charlie: There are many visual mosaics that furnished the insides and outsides of human habitation throughout Portugal, that go by the name of Azulejo tiles, at first invented for a purely functional purpose (to maintain the temperature) but then fictionally to imprint greater meaning into architecture and make people see deeper into the reality of represented universe through patterns, clearly an influence from Oriental cultures.

Earling: Now that we explored some of the more universal aspects of cobbled stones, mosaics and historical overview, I want to lead you to Boca da Inferno (Hell’s mouth) one of the most significant natural sites in Cascais. Possibly the source of many stories furnished with vivid imagination, especially at the time when natural grottoes on the Cascais coast were used for ritual burials during the Palaeolithic times, Boca Da Inferno currently speaks the story of a castle in which a wizard lived who wanted to marry the most beautiful woman whom he managed to capture, being the sorcerer. However things did not go well, he became consumed with his jealousy and decided to lock her away and have her guarded by his most loyal man, who was never allowed to see her. Eventually as the only company to both of them was a pure loneliness, the sight of the ocean, sun/moon marking the passage of time, the guard finally decided to actually see the lady. The fire of curiosity kept burning, and wondering what kind of creature deserved the fate of solitude that caused him to share it. Eventually they saw each other and as they already shared the same lifestyle, their destiny was one step closer to merging, which they did and then trying to escape on a white horse. The wizard, of course, saw that and summoned all the powers which opened the depth of ocean and the rocks which swallowed them. The storm were calmed but the resulting dramatic rock formation stands the changes of time and reminds us of the powers of water and imaginary magic.

Charlie: It is an interesting story, typical of romantic Earthlings, you got so attached to romantic period that be it architecture or legends, there always has to be a damsel in distress and an evil wizard or a witch.

Earling: A topic that I want to touch on is one that has a contemporary social aspect and that is the works of art of Paula Rego, who wanted to uncover the invisible, suppressed worlds particular to women, as members of family, as members of society that judges them based on their looks, based on their behavior and restricts their freedom. As the story above, there is a great solitude that many women felt surrounded by society and family members that want to tame them.

Charlie: Society’s pendulum has always alternated between the matriarchal and patriarchal and I believe revealing the suppressed especially through the narration of old stories integral to many individuals, would bring the society one step closer to the equalization before it tipped over towards the other side of the spectrum.

Earling: I want to conclude this traveloid journey with another notable person Jorge O’Neill who commissioned some of the most famous Cascais buildings at the turn of the beginning of the 20th century. He was a descendant of one of the principal Irish Royal Families whose members were living in Portugal since the 18th century. Jorge O’Neill, a wealthy man in tobacco industry and a close friend of King Carlos I of Portugal commissioned buildings which were among the most luxurious in Cascais. Now they are mostly museums, and the architectural style which he demanded was to focus on an unique blend of styles and disregard of European rules. Casa Santa Maria is one of the finest examples, designed by Raul Lino, and influenced by the Moorish style of construction evident in many substantial buildings in Portugal.

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