May 18, 2013
I’ll never forget the exact moment. Noon, July 5, 2000.
My first solo adventure. Central Europe. Slovakia. From Košice to Spiš. I was driving north through the countryside.
And then, there it was! To my right, on a hilltop brooding over the landscape. Enormous. Imposing. Inspiring. The nine hundred year old ruins. Spišský hrad. Spiš Castle.
Out loud I spoke, “This is why I travel. This is what I came to Europe to see!” *
I had visited ancient European castles before: the Norman Canterbury Castle in Kent, England; the communal island of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France; the grand Moorish Alhambra in Andalusia, Spain.
But in Spiš, climbing, trudging, tramping, and sometimes gingerly making my way along the uneven rocky paths and among the ancient stones, the crumbling fortifications made a lasting impression.
Over the years, I admit I usually didn’t go looking for castles. Somehow, I just found them.
And when I find them, as here in Óbidos, I trudge along the walls. I climb as high as my ancient knees will allow. This is why I travel. To be inspired.
The name "Óbidos" probably derives from the Latin term oppidum, meaning "citadel", or "fortified city". Roman occupation of the area was confirmed by archaeological excavations, revealing the existence of a Roman city civitas near the hilltop on which the village and castle were established.
This Roman settlement is most certainly the mysterious Eburobrittium, cited by Pliny the Elder as situated between Collipo (near present-day Leiria) and Olisipo (Lisbon). Archeological surveys determined the remains of a forum, bathsand other Roman structures near the settlement.
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