This is probably one of my all time favorite photos, taken on the Rua Direita in Obidos, Portugal, during my visit in 2011. The photo has remained relatively untouched, other than I’ve added a soft vignette border. There isn’t anything particularly spectacular about it, but I love the contrast of blues and white, specked with hints of flowers the residents planted along this path.
Established by the Romans sometime in the 5th century, Óbidos is one of the oldest cities in Europe. Following the Romans, came the Moors, then the Christians, and finally the first King of Portugal took it back from all of them in 1148, during his conquest of the Estremadura region. His son gave the title to the Queen in 1210 and the town has been known as Óbidos: Vila das Rainhas (the Town of Queens) ever since. Carrying this noble title, the citizens living within the town centre have made a commitment to the constant upkeep needed for the buildings and walls, that are centuries old. There have been a handful of occasions when the town went through a reconstruction phase: additions to the castle in the 14th century by King Dinis; the Church of Santa Maria (the patron saint of Óbidos) was built in the 15th century so that the King and Queen could marry (they were 9 and 10 at the time….creepy); renovations after an earthquake in 1755 (resulting in the loss of much of the Arab and Medieval architectural influence from the the buildings, walls and churches); and finally, the nearby Battle of Roliça, fought during the Peninsular War in the early 1800s.
Óbidos has fared pretty well over the years, and is one of the few towns left in Europe where the ancient buildings and city walls remain in tact. As I rounded the corner of my walk through the village, something about these stairs gave me pause. The wind stopped and the chatter from my fellow pedestrians grew quiet. In that moment, I could hear the whispers of history, winding down the stairs to fill me with hope. The ancients spoke softly that day, to remind me, “the most beautiful things can grow from ruin.”