Evora – World Heritage Site
On our way home from Lisbon we stopped in the small town of Evora. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We wanted to stop for two reasons; to get an up close look at cork trees and to see if we could buy a raw piece of cork.
We parked within about 200 meters of the main town plaza. We walked to the plaza and saw that it was already bustling with activity. On the north end of thee plaza was St. Anthony’s Church. It was built in the mid-1500s. I went inside to take some photos. A little old man stopped me and said I had to buy a ticket to take photos, a whopping 50 centimos! I bought the ticket and took several photos.
When I came out of the church I joined Leslie and Tyler at a table in the plaza for coffee. As I noted, there was already a great deal off activity. In one, sunny corner of the plaza were gathered numerous older men. They were all talking up a storm. Not far from them was a vendor selling roasted chestnuts.
We walked along a small side street toward the cathedral. Along the way we were able to buy a piece of raw cork. It looks like it had been over a knot in the tree, so it is sort of in the shape of a shallow bowl. When we arrived at the cathedral we found it to be very impressive for a structure built in the 1100s.
Not too far from the cathedral are the ruins of the Roman temple to Diana. It is thought the town grew up around this temple. There is also a well preserved aqueduct. It is not as striking as the one in Segovia, but it was still an amazing feat of engineering. The temple was built in the 2nd century AD.
As we left the city we stopped at a grove of cork trees. It was interesting to see and touch the trees. We tried to get a piece of the bark off but we were not able to. As neatly as the trees were cut and as tough as the bark is, we surmised there must be some special tool designed for just that purpose. Where the cork bark had been removed, the tree trunk was a dark coffee brown. I don’t know if that was natural or if they painted something on the trunk to protect it after removing the bark.
A Portuguese man told us that once the bark has been harvested from a cork tree, it takes nine years for the bark to grow back to a thickness worth harvesting. The numbers painted on the trees refer to the year in which the bark was last harvested. For example, in the photos I took, one of the trees had the number 1 painted on it. That means it was harvested in 2011. It will not be ready for harvest again until 2020. He also stated they use a special knife to harvest the cork bark.
On the ground beneath the trees were numerous acorn looking seeds. That somewhat supports my theory that the trees look very similar to oak trees.
We got back in the car and found ourselves back at home in four short hours!