At the very edge of the municipality of Marvão, a few hundred meters away from Spain, lies a place unknown to tourists: Monte Velho. You can only get there by walking, biking, horseback riding or with a good off-road car. There, between peaceful cows and sheep camouflaged on the landscape, the visitor will discover these characteristic Visigoth graves. Those graves are carved in rocks, on a rectangular shape. Sometimes they have also the shape of a head and shoulders. Along the route, you can find a passage to Spain that only locals know, away from all the official roads. A land so remote that it was once used to keep a terrible secret, only recently revealed…
The route we suggest here goes from Beirã (Portugal) to the very border of Spain. It crosses the now-abandoned railway, and it follows a straight path to Monte Velho, our first stop.
Marvão is very famous because of its medieval castle. Lately, Ammaia, the Roman city, has received more attention from the tourists due to its recent discoveries. But what most people don’t know is what happened between the abandonment of the first and the foundation of the latter. Where did the people live? Well, many of the current villages were founded back then; however, only one has kept its medieval essence- Monte Velho (“old mount,” in Portuguese). It is on the left side of the path that leaves from Beirã. You have to open the gate, go inside and walk between cows. By the way, the golden rule in the countryside is to always close the gate behind you. You do not want cows on the road!
From the gate, follow the little track and keep in mind that there are no signs for the village. A few stones are left from the ancient houses, but there is something that time could not destroy: the Visigoth's graves, carved in the pure granite rock. These are easily spotted. Their style and shape bring to mind Jesus’ "sepulcher" -the Germans that invaded the Iberian Peninsula after the Romans were already Christians. There are 16 graves, built for the most important people. These are actually very common in the Marvão and Valencia de Alcántara area. If you hike in the area, you will probably come across one or two. Some still keep the heavy stone lid that used to cover them. All of them have been opened. Apparently, people were very curious to see what was inside! Walk around them, see the big rocks in strange shapes, and when you have finished, go back to the route. Next stop: Spain.
“La Raya” (literally, the line) is the locals’ name for the border between Spain and Portugal. A simple square stone, with a “P” for Portugal on one side, and an “E” for España on the other, will indicate it. No customs whatsoever here!
Back to our route, the trekker has to follow the main trail and then open a gate. You will find a river, the Sever. Cross it (it is only a few inches high on this spot), and you will find yourself already in Spain. You can have a picnic there, by the river. The place calls for it!
Despite the beauty of this rural spot, it also hides a terrible secret. Nearby this area, a mass grave was found inside a mine. It was used to bury 48 republicans, executed during the Spanish Civil war. Being so far away from everything, the area was the perfect place to hide it. It was only discovered due to the particular interest of a lady from the village, who lost her father (the mayor of Valencia de Alcántara) during this period and had been looking for him ever since.
This trail sums up the essence of this land: life has always been difficult here! There were always many wars every few years. Nevertheless, the hiker will quickly forget about this because of the fantastic landscape: you are, after all, in the International Park of Taejo. You will see cork trees, holm oaks, and many birds, such as storks, eagles, and vultures. Also, in spring, you can see more than 13 kinds of flowers per square meter! Spring is the best season to visit the region. The temperature is mild, and everything is green. Ask the local guides if you need anything, they will be happy to help. Enjoy!
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