WP_20150814_16_59_40_ProOur trip north to Coimbra in Portugal meant that apart from looking into that ancient capital, we could stop off at a few places to and from it. I’ve already shared my experiences of the roman capital, Conimbriga, which we toured on our way back to Lisbon. But we also had time to visit the equally interesting town of Tomar, further south in the area of the Beiras.

After finding our way through the crowded streets to a convenient car park, we made the ascent to the ancient Convento Cristo- one more World Heritage Site, closely associated with the Knights Templar (of crusade fame, or is it infamy?) as well as the Jesuits who also made this place their HQ a few hundred years later. This was an impressive place, rugged and without much greenery apart from an impressive box parterre in one of the cloisters. Outside, its massive castle-like hulk looms over the town.

After our visit we headed back down for an afternoon tea and cake (as usual) and watched children chasing pigeons in the town square. We had a few minutes to spare before we needed to leave so we hunted down what the guide book described as a very interesting Synagogue. It turned out to be a delightful find- and also free to enter!

We were greeted by a young, chatty lady who was delighted to speak to us in English about this medieval place- the oldest in Portugal. She spoke of horrific tales of persecution her forbears suffered here- including two jews burned alive a few hundred years ago. She herself and an older volunteer also shared more recent tales of having to keep their religion secret; once more for fear of persecution. But today the synagogue is one of the area’s most attractive places to visit, all run on good will, donations and loans, including an impressive piece of religious furniture from London. They were keen for us to sign their visitors book and we could see that many more people, of many different nationalities, had visited that day.

WP_20150814_17_49_35_ProThey were obviously proud of their heritage and we were privileged to share it with them.