Image is Everything
About how in Portugal there seems to be a lack of interest in the environment in general and the rehabilitation of buildings in particular, I’ve written before. So, it may seem redundant to do it again, but apart from publishing images that illustrate this lack, I see writing as a way to raise awareness. And – wishful thinking – maybe even change.
A while back I visited the Quinta Real de Caxias, with its marvellous Jardins da Cascata da Quinta Real de Caxias a few times. The gardens are nice and make for a quiet place to think – or to stop doing that – and to make pictures. The oranges hanging from their trees look wonderful but are bitter as hell, which is due to the region. At least so I’ve been told.
The palace and gardens date back to the first half of the eighteenth century and were constructed in various phases that reached their conclusion in the beginning of the nineteenth century. It is easy to see that from that moment on it went downhill as with many of the palaces in Portugal. Maybe because there are so many, it is as if every next king or marquis decided to build something new instead of investing in what was already there. Obviously, this leads to inhabitable ruins and unattended gardens.
Everything is Image
After first declaring it Imóvel de Interesse Público in 1953, it was only in 2016 that the state decided to grant the buildings and the grounds to private investors with a commitment to rehabilitation, preservation and conservation. Slowly but surely the results are starting to show. It appears to me though that some of these investors are taking the easy way out by fixing a part of a building and then run their one-man business from one or two rooms. How else can it be explained that there is a security person telling us it is not allowed to enter a building that is accessible from all sides through broken windows, has flyers from previously held excursions lying around while the ceilings are coming down? Could that be that same lack of interest?
Nothing is Everything
For people who care about culture and art, it is hard to imagine that a country allows its heritage to be in such a state. The country has palaces and gardens that are being taken care of, but from what I’ve seen so far, one has to go the Sintra area to enjoy those. And pay to visit them. Sad to say that average prices suggest tourists and relatively wealthy expats as target audiences. For instance: how can a Portuguese family on a minimum wage of less than six-hundred euros a month visit the Moorish Castle when a family ticket costs €26,00?
Obviously fixing a country’s heritage costs money. And a lot of it. On the other hand; when taken care of properly instead of letting it rot, crumble and fall apart, my guess is that in the long run it is much less expensive.
But then again, I could be wrong.