Camino Portuguese – Day 6 – Day off with knights, the pope, Terry Gilliam and two saints

Thomar Castle was once a home for Knights Templar.

Day off the Camino

Relax. Make new friends.
Relax. Make new friends.

The night before I had a chance to chat with my new friends from New Jersey and they were going to Fatima and the Knights Templar castle—basically taking a day off from walking.

I had planned to walk to Alvaiazere for the day, but was quickly convinced that I should visit Fatima in anticipation of the Pope’s arrival in the upcoming weeks. How often will I be in Portugal. Why not take the time to get to know the history and culture of the area.

They were originally going to take a bus, but with the three of us, it made it easier for us to grab a cab.

Pilgrims and new friends

A German pilgrim friend called out hello as we left the hostel.
A German pilgrim friend called out hello as we left the hostel.

The cool thing about walking the camino is that you make friends fairly quick and frequently. Although, there are less people walking the camino on the Portuguese than Frances, there are still plenty of people to talk with and relate too.

It’s funny how a few hundred miles, lack of sleep, sore feet and other things will help create a bond with each other.

The Germans I met on the second day were also staying at my hostel. And when I left to go to the taxi to Fatima, I was called out by her. I heard my name and was wondering who was calling me. I looked up and saw her. So funny. Such a small world.

Taxi to Fatima

Fatima Cathedral behind some bushes on the Fatima campus.
Fatima Cathedral behind some bushes on the Fatima campus.

The hostel gave me a list the night before of taxi drivers to call about arranging a ride. I called the first one. His name was Bruno and he didn’t speak much English but he showed up early and made the drive to Fatima pleasant.

Several people I’ve met along the camino were walking to Fatima. I guess it’s a pilgrimage that many people go on in Portugal. Before the camino, I had no idea what Fatima was, or even that it existed.

But I was excited to go see what all the fuss was about. My friends Tom and Nancy were devout Catholics and knew exactly what Fatima represents.

The pope is coming

Fatima Cathedral with the Pope's speaking building pictured above.
Fatima Cathedral with the Pope’s speaking building pictured above.

The pope is coming to speak and declare saint hood for two children that saw the Virgin Mary 100 years ago.

The preparations have already begun. You can see barriers starting to line up in front of the speaking podium. You can tell there is lots of construction going on in the area trying to get everything done in time.

There’s only a few weeks until he arrives, so I can imagine the place is a flutter. Our taxi driver said that they are expecting two million people to attend. I quickly checked hotel rooms in the area and found prices for single bedrooms at normal hotels for $2500 a night.

That’s crazy expensive, where a room would normally be $50 a night. I’ve never seen the pope, but Nancy told me a story about how she saw him once. She got tickets to get good seats with a friend.

They were so late that when they arrived, they could only stand, but her friend knew the protocol and they ended up sitting fairly close to the pope speaking. Timing and luck are very important and then know how. With the right know how you don’t need much luck. But timing, timing is always important.

Three kids, two saints and the Virgin Mary

The two children being sainted in Fatima on May 13, 2017.
The two children being sainted in Fatima on May 13, 2017.

Almost 100 years ago, three kids around eight years old saw Mary, the mother of Jesus. She told them that war is a punishment for sin and warned that God would further castigate the world for its disobedience to His Will by means of war, hunger and the persecution of the Church, the Holy Father and the Catholic Faithful.

Mary prophesied that Russia would be God’s chosen “instrument of chastisement,” spreading the “errors” of atheism and materialism across the earth, fomenting wars, annihilating nations and persecuting the Faithful everywhere.

So the kids were obviously not believed by the town folk. The mayor took the children apart and told each of them that they killed and boiled the others. And that if they told the truth that they didn’t see Mary, they would let them live.

The children said that they could not lie and that they should be killed.

What makes these kids different, is that two of them died fairly recent after making the predictions and only of them survived. The two that are being sainted by the pope in their hometown are the ones that died.

The last one won’t be sainted until they investigate her life more thoroughly, as she became a nun and wrote some things during her time with the church.

This sainthood marks the first time unmartyred children are become saints. Before now, it was thought that children didn’t have the capacity to be that good. It’s also the continuation of a new tradition of announcing the sainthoods in the country and location the saint lived. Traditionally the sainthoods were done back in Rome.

Candles for dad, mom and family

Candles lit for loved ones at Fatima Cathedral square.
Candles lit for loved ones at Fatima Cathedral square.

Imagine hundreds of people lighting candles for their loved ones.

Well in the middle of the square in front of the Fatima Cathedral, there are. It’s amazing to see all of the candles.

Just up the way they sold candles. People had handfuls. I grabbed a couple to light for family, friends and loved ones.

It was amazing seeing all of the candles together. It was so hot that it melted the candles fairly quickly.

It looked like they were recycling the candles into new candles and sculptures.

Knights templar castle

Barrocks at the Knights Templar Castle in Thomar, Portugal.
Barrocks at the Knights Templar Castle in Thomar, Portugal.

Overlooking Thomar is one fantastic castle used by the Knights Templar long ago.

It has a huge footprint with hundreds of barracks, chapels, gardens and more. Everything is so big but then the rooms are also so small. I couldn’t imagine being stationed here as a knight and living is such tight and small corridors.

I’m so glad I took time to visit.

The building is one of the coolest structures I’ve ever seen. It’s easy to understand why there are so many tourists here.

There are busses all over the grounds leading up to the castle. It’s hot and unbearable but there is a cool breeze.

Set design for Terry Gilliam's next movie shot in the Thomar Knights Templar Castle.
Set design for Terry Gilliam’s next movie shot in the Thomar Knights Templar Castle.

On set with Terry Gilliams’s Don Quixote movie

The director of Brazil was in Thomar shooting his newest movie at the Knights Templar Castle. It was cool to see all the props and crazy things strewn around the historic building.

There was a huge sculpture with things from several centuries strewn about. I wonder how the wooden horse will play in the movie? There were a few sightings of the director and actors in the nicer hotel in the city.

Also seeing all the production notes about rooms and space management was cool. Maybe boring for most people, but inspiring for me as a filmmaker.

Taxi to the next town and stinky O Bras

Bed in O Bras hostel on the Camino Portuguese.
Bed in O Bras hostel on the Camino Portuguese.

Instead of walking from Thomar to O Bras, I took a taxi. I did this because I didn’t want to walk late at night—it’s too dangerous.

I’m here to walk but taking a cab can be fun. I made it to O Bras, the next hostel in the afternoon. I cleaned my dirty clothes and took a break. I rested. It felt wonderful. Sleep is really underrated.

The hostel had a ton of trees in its entry. The place stunk and reminded me of staying at grandma’s house—except not your grandmother. The place you have no memories or feeling for filled with lots of doilies and knick knacks. It was bad, but it’s only for a night. Here’s to another day on the Camino Portugues.