In search of the Seven Cities

I’m still not quite convinced that the Caldeira de Sete Cidades is entirely real. The idea of a Crater of Seven Cities, with a Blue Lake and a Green Lake, sounds distinctly like something from a fantasy novel or a very old map. It’s certainly a rather fanciful name for a crater containing what appears to be only one village, also called Sete Cidades (on the left of the picture).

In actual fact it appears to be real, but it is definitely named after a myth, and does indeed appear on many old maps. Confused yet? The seven cities were supposedly founded on the island of Antillia, discovered in the eighth century by an archbishop, six bishops and their followers fleeing the Moorish invasion of Spain, and featured on charts of the Atlantic for over a hundred years.

Many expeditions were sent in search of it, from Portugal, Spain and England – the latter chiefly from Bristol mariners seeking a base for fishing the Grand Banks. Though the rumour that Antillian sand was pure gold may also have had some appeal..

It’s unclear what any physical basis for the legend might have been, especially as the island was understood to be to the west of the Azores, Canaries and Madeira archipelago. There are theories that it refers to some part of the New World – and indeed the name was probably subsequently applied to the Antilles islands in the eastern Caribbean – known before Columbus’ voyage..

While intriguing, the name Sete Cidades does distract slightly from the main attraction of the crater – the Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde, which are definitely remarkable. They aren’t actually entirely separate lakes – the dividing line is a culverted bridge, but the difference in colour is noticeable.

The greener lake is shallower and closely surrounded by trees, which apparently accounts for the difference, though a few years ago eutrophication problems turned both lakes a similar colour due to algal blooms.

It had been quite a climb up from the village to the crater rim where those pictures were taken from, though it mostly went through very nice and shady woodland.

Definitely well worth it though, as well as the pictures you’ve already seen you could see down to the coast the other way.

The path along the crater rim let me keep seeing both sides for quite a while..when a car hadn’t just gone past that is.

One of the more remarkable sights was this herd of cows. Not only are they the backbone (and many tastier parts) of much of Sao Miguel’s economy, these one’s also appear to have installed a solar panel to power their television.

Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten one for lunch..

The walk was very well marked with red and yellow paint as well as the directions in my book, though I did get concerned at this point..

I decided to continue along the road and was soon rewarded by seeing the Lagoa Azul at closer quarters

and then closer still. I was briefly charged by this rag-tag mob of ducks, but I looked at them and thought about crispy deep-frying and they ran away.

The beach didn’t look like it was going to start a gold rush..

and there didn’t seem to be seven churches, let alone seven villages – not that this one didn’t look rather fine.

So, I didn’t solve any mysteries, but I did have a very nice day of walking, especially as it was cloudy for walking uphill in the morning and then sunny at the top.

Later that evening back in Ponta Delgada, I got to see rather more of a fado performance than I had in Madeira. I could’ve sworn they were the same group, but I guess the requirement to drape yourself in a black cloak does make mistakes possible. There was a brief hiatus when they were joined by some more performers at the end and someone had to scurry around to find another cloak.

Ponta Delgada is an impressive site in the evening as well..

This picture gives a bit of a hint as to the next subject. The marquee in the foreground shows bread made in all the different parishes on Sao Miguel in a competition which forms part of the Holy Spirit Festival (Divino Espirito Santo).

This is a huge event in the Azores, and areas of Brazil and New England where Azorean emigrants are common, though it’s also common for them to return to the islands for some of the festival.

It probably deserves it’s own post, especially as it’s getting late.

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