My train journey to Beja took me through the Alentejo region, which had recently been subject to fierce fires that swept across the entire region. The Algarve and the Alentejo regions are miles upon miles of desolate, arid, dry mud fields, broken up by cork oaks and olive groves. The fact that much of Portugal suffers from a water shortage does not help. Two of the main rivers that supply much of Portugal’s water run from Spain, and the Spanish take much of the water before it reaches Portugal. The train journey took me through some of the starkest land I have ever seen, quite unlike anything else in Europe.
Beja, however, is a little oasis amongst this, with a sprinkling of old tourist attractions, all closed on the two days I spent there! Even so, a wander round the old walled town was a delight and the contrast of the very blue sky and whitewashed walls against the pastel coloured buildings and azulejos (colourful ceramic tiles) was quite striking. At night the town, lit only by dim street lamps, took on a blue hue, giving it a rather surreal feel.
Wine lovers should note that almost any wine from the Alentejo region is well worth a sample. At 1 euro a bottle I was rather spoilt (and drunk).