People are strange… #IX

It happened on a trip to Portugal with two wine writer colleagues. In pitch black night we arrived on top of a hill at the hotel for a late tasting and to stay overnight. The surroundings of that age old castle-like building had an eery atmosphere. So we went inside quite hastily and were greeted by a relatively young factotum with odd manners.

He guided us to the reception and said: „My colleague will check you in.“ He vanished behind a partition made of dark wood and a frosted glass panel and immediately came out again to greet us officially. We had to show our passports and with a stiff smile were handed the room keys. Walking to our rooms on worn carpets alongside huge tile pictures showing the history of the country in blue and white, in turns with dark tropical wood, oriental patterns, we were discussing if there were twins at the reception or if this guy had a split personality. We weren’t sure …
My room was enormous, but the window tiny and when I opened it there was a moaning sound in the bathroom … It took me a while until I gathered myself and picked up courage to check that out. There was a small wooden board covering an opening in the wall making a strange sound in the draft. In front of it was a table. I was standing there, thinking for a while. Then I moved the table and cautiously opened the little door, looking inside … there were pipes. water? heating? Hard to say, but I couldn’t make up my mind, if it was more safe to lock the dramatic chain at the door for the night – or better having a fast escape route, just in case…

The next morning breakfast was served by James out of „Dinner for One“. The dining hall hat a gorgeous view into a gigantic garden with exotic trees, bushes and a lot of rain. I was exited and sat in a window seat, for exactly two minutes. Then i moved in fear for my arm would fall of in the draft. James showed a demonic grin.

Our young factotum offered a guided tour  to the wine cellar. Unbelievable what we saw. That was pre-war history, pre World War I of course! There was a severe smell and a elderly lady sat on a stool, stirring a big pot of red paraffin with a spattel. In a wooden porter she had freshly corked bottles and on each one she put in the ever same movement one drop of paraffin. The faktotum asked her something in their language, which to me is amazing since every word seems to have at least one „sh“ in it. She then showed us how she perfected the labeling. The bottles already had a label but without the vintage, due to a weird bureaucratic fact… So the lady in the cellar had a white piece of paper in front of her with the current vintage numbers on it and: with a metal pole making a big noise she punches out the numbers in more or less roundish, thumbnail big pieces and glues it on to the label of each and every bottle.

Needless to say, the walls were decorated by old pay slips over 40 cents… and a menu – with corresponding wines of course – enjoyed by Elisabeth II sometime in the fifties. After coming out of the cellar we took a leave. Thick fog had build up and we left the amazing establishment again without sneaking a peek of the surroundings. We did not talk for a while …

Many thanks to Peer, who remembers the name of the place:  Palace Hotel Bussaco

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