The End of the Ancient World

Staring at the End of the Ancient World

Sit on the point and gaze across the "Sea of Darkness," where monsters roam. Long before [Prince] Henry [the Navigator]'s time, Romans considered it the edge of the world, dubbing it Promontorium Sacrum -- Sacred ("Sagres") Promontory. Pilgrims who came to visit this awe-inducing place were prohibited from spending the night there -- it was for the gods alone.

In Portugal's seafaring lore, capes, promontories, and land's ends are metaphors for the edge of the old, and the start of the unknown voyage. Sagres is the greatest of these.

I'm biased now when it comes to European travel guides and I don't care how uncool it might be. Way back before I'd ever crossed the Atlantic for the first time in 2000, Rick Steves' nerdy PBS TV show used to entertain me during dinner prep in Utah, and fueled a lot of dreams. I've dabbled with a variety of competitors over the last decade, but I realized sometime last Fall that my life really was simplified when I see what he has to say before cross-referencing. He keeps me from wasting time while planning priorities, where Lonely Planet would overwhelm me on first read. I still supplement with other sources, but I always buy his books.

When I got to his section on the tiny beach town of Sagres and Prince Henry's School of the Navigators (responsible for training Magellan, Vasco da Gama, Columbus, Bartolomeu Dias, and others), I knew I was going to have to go there but didn't read the whole chapter before committing to a 2-night hotel nearby. It was a delightful surprise to read the above passage the night before we visited the School and nearby Land's End in the distance. That passage felt so fitting for this final vacation hurrah, meant to punctuate the end of our time in Europe, the end of all the plans I've ever made to this point.

P.S. I'll make this public for a few days, but will probably be keeping most posts friends-only for awhile to come. Log in to read more!


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April 2013


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