Saturday, 15 June 2019

Birthday trip to the top of the world

Surprise trip on Manfred's secret route to Guadalupe taking in spectacular views and the lovely little castle tower at Cabañas del Castillo where we have stopped for a picnic with the vultures many times. This time we continued on the route over the mountain magically ending up in Guadalupe for lunch at the Parador, a beautifully preserved convent with a lovely patio, everything delicious.

Day hasn't finished yet and look who dropped in to say hello.....


Wednesday, 24 April 2019

How to warm up whilst at La Habiba on a wet spring evening

La Habiba is our little retreat at the finca, it's a special place in seclusion surrounded by wild woods, rocks and water, at the moment nightingales are singing night and day with the eagle owl joining in at dusk. It is charming and comfortable but primarily designed as a summer house with outside kitchen. We have had a few days of mis weather so have put together a fire bowl to cheer us up, certainly romantic looking at the rain from the porch with the bowl glowing away. 

Monday, 22 April 2019

From Finca al-manzil to Montanchez via Garganta de Molinos

One of our favourite hikes, about 12 kms, takes about 3 hours over very varied terrain, a steep climb up the garganta but then fairly level through chestnut woods into Montanchez and then downhill back to the finca.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

The streets of Évora

A quick trip to Évora the capital of Alentejo in Portugal, on a beautiful day, just walking around some old haunts. 
The Roman temple of Diana still looks impressive, the Praça do Giraldo is still a bit austere but the small streets and travessas are a delight, lots of cafés and restaurants with delicious typical food and wine of the region, a very relaxed town still within the old walls. 2 hours from Finca al-manzil.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Bizarre ruins of Radium spa in Portugal

The history of Radium treatment is long and complex, the building and ruin of this incredible place sums up the success, decline and fall of a bizarre craze 100 years ago.
On a flying visit to Portugal, we came across this amazing ruin by chance.
We had no idea what the purpose of the place might be but the results of research proved to be fascinating. It wasn't easy as all information was in Portuguese but with our rusty knowledge we fathomed it out, quite a weird little piece of history tucked away in the middle of nowhere.

Originally this was called Hotel Serra da Pena or Termas de Águas Radium (Radium Water Baths)it is situated near Caria and Sortelha, Sabugal in Portugal.
Built between 1910 and 1920 in a neo Moorish/Medieval style in solid granite it was designed to accommodate 150 guests , 90 in a luxury wing and the rest in more economical rooms, all partaking of the various treatments and therapies offered by the spa, enjoying  food prepared by an international chef and the surrounding gardens  planted with thousands of shrubs and trees. All this founded on a deep dark cavity in the basement where the highly radioactive hot water bubbled up from natural Uranium deposits in the mountain and was pumped around the hotel for some weird and wonderful treatments and also its own bottling plant which sold the radium water all over Portugal.

Walking through the ruined halls and roofless spaces one struggles to imagine what went on here in the glory years of the 1920s and even up until the 1940s when nasty rumours started to spread about radium treatments. Despite 30 years of radium fever the decline was fast and complete.

In legend the spa was founded by Don Rodrigo, a Spanish count who discovered the spring whilst hunting in the area and whose daughter was cured from a dreadful skin condition after drinking and bathing in the "miraculous" spring waters. In gratitude he ordered the construction of a spa.
But the first recorded information on the thermal baths is from 1910, when knowledge of radioactivity first started. Radium, discovered by Pierre and Marie Curie in 1898, is a chemical element belonging to the alkaline earth metal family. At that time it was promoted as being beneficial to health, the presence of radium in water was especially considered an important factor in its therapeutic application. It also coincided with the start of Uranium mining by the French company  Société d'uranie et Radio in Portugal.
In nature, radium is found in uranium. Radium is not necessary for living organisms and adverse health effects are likely when it is incorporated into biochemical processes because of its radioactivity and chemical reactivity. Currently, other than its use in nuclear medicine, radium has no commercial application but starting in the early years of the 20th century there was a veritable radium craze. Radioactivity was promised as a solution to all physical, psychic, industrial, medical and cosmetic ills. In the face of such great promises, people went crazy for radioactive elements, from face creams to children's toys.

 It was used as a radioactive source for radio luminescent devices such as glow in the dark watch dials, cosmetics and food and drink products but mainly in radioactive quackery for its supposed curative powers.
Due to the high demand for products with radioactivity, water bottling and water therapy centres began to vie in demonstrating which of their waters were the most radioactive. Radioactive water was used to treat the problems of rheumatism, gout, arterial hypertension, oedema, circulatory insufficiency, hypertension, kidneys, and gastrointestinal disorders.
 The most popular treatments were radioactive sludge applied to the joints for curing arthritis and joint problems, radioactive electric pads, baths, ingestion of water and the new Silla Studa.  The Studa chair was introduced to the spa by the Radium Water Company Ltd. Since the 19th century, enemas were a highly recommended treatment by various therapists. Colonic irrigation treatments were not only performed in clinics, but also in spas. One of its defenders was the famous Dr. Kellogg  of cereal fame who used colon hydrotherapy in the well-known spa of Battle Creek.
The radium chair used 35 litres of mineral water for a total disinfection of the colon.
Spas began marketing bottled water, in 1927 at the Lyon Congress  judged that the water from this spa was one of the most radioactive waters in the world.

."Radium water gives health, vigor and strength"

As further evidence of the radioactivity fever here is an official map printed by the Portuguese government in the first half of the last century, used in some schools. What is striking is that the map includes a chart in which the curative effects of radioactive waters from different  pplaces are includes a chart in which the curative effects of radioactive waters from different places are explained.

These glory days were soon to pass. At the beginning the authorities only gave advice not to use the radium spas but not to prohibit.  Soon the media interest increased.
Announcement in the Modern Mecanix de Janeiro magazine in 1933.

The American Medical Association reports the probable uselessness and even more probable danger of the ingestion of radioactive waters or the use of other remedies that supposedly contain radio. There is no evidence that this water is beneficial.

The spa began to decline and by 1944 there were only 44 guests, it suspended activities in 1945. In 1951 the English owned ,Compañía Portuguesa de Radio  would buy the concession of hotel and mining but it went bankrupt and from 1954 to 1955 the directors gutted the site of anything saleable including all metallic elements for sale in Lisbon.  Mining activities ceased in 1961.
The thermal complex was auctioned in Lisbon and bought by a family whose identity is unknown. Later it was bought by Ramiro Lopes with the intention of turning it into a luxury hotel, a project that failed. In the year 2000 it was sold to his brother Antonio Lopes in order to become a hotel and a golf course, and again the project was abandoned.
In the meantime the ruin crumbles a little more each year, maybe soon it will collapse and all that will be left is a trickle of water from deep in the mountain, possibly glowing a little in the dark.


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