For our last stop of our September 2021 circuit of northern and central Portugal we dipped back into one of our favorite regions: Alentejo.
About as far east from home in Portugal, on a similar latitude, right on the Spanish border sits Elvas. We’ve been to some walled cities before, many of them, but this one sure is walled. While some of the walls date back to the 10th century, the fortifications are one of the best examples of star-shaped Dutch fortifications designed in the 16th century by a Flemish engineer Cosmander. The Fort da Nossa Senhora da Graça is still an active military base and was completed in 1792 to be one of the most impregnable forts in the world. The town and this fort along with the Fort da Santa Luzia on the adjacent hill outside of town and other smaller hillside forts were built to defend Portugal’s rugged border with Spain and the town was fed by the impressive Amoreira Aqueduct which was built to withstand long sieges.
On the campus of the Nossa Senhora Fort sits the Museu Militar (military museum) which was perhaps the most interesting museum of its type I’ve ever visited. The cost is €3 and you can view an evolution of harnesses used by the cavalry, military coaches and vehicles through the years, the artillery, examples of medical advancements and equipment from World War I and communications equipment, techniques and advancements through the years.
Pictured below, clockwise from upper left:
* Portable kitchen WWI era.
* Gas mask WWI.
* Map of telephone lines late 19th century.
* Military transport vehicle (1948).
* Entry to museum.
* Cavalry poster.
* Example of the thickness of the walls.
* Military motorcycles.
* Page from medical manual on amputations 1853.
* Emergency medical kit WWI.
* Pictures of the military band through the years.
We wandered around the town’s winding streets, through its massively thick gates (through which you drive, horns literally a-blazing to warn off cars from entering from the other direction), through the town’s beautifully tiled main square: the Praça da República and ate one of our best dinners of the trip at Acontece.
Thankfully, I can report that there was no invasion from the east and the border was secure.