Walking the old tracks in a peaceful quietness, I couldn’t help but conjure up imagery of the history of this spot. The sun shining bright, the azulejo tile murals on the station walls, the main station house with its big green doors wide open to the lounge and restaurant. Not too long ago there used to be a bustling community here, but now it’s all but forgotten. That is, until Eduardo and his wife, Lina came along.
The Estação Marvão-Beira located in the tiny border town of Beira in northern Alentejo is a guesthouse that used to be a train station.
Eduardo Salvador, one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, used to work in advertising in Lisboa. You can immediately see his creative genius nature, with his wild hair and loving spirit. His wife, Lina Paz (who I sadly didn’t get to meet) used to work in film and television. She was originally from the northern Alentejo region, in the Serra de São Mamede mountain range on the Portuguese-Spanish border, and when she and Eduardo decided that they didn’t want to raise their family amongst the hustle and bustle of city life, they retreated back to her home region and ventured into their dream life.
The now sleepy little town of Beira used to be a hub of activity in the old days. Eduardo told us that the trains were running into this station up until about 5 or 6 years ago when they just stopped from lack of necessity. During the Portuguese and Spanish dictatorship era, importation was tightly controlled, and many goods simply weren’t allowed in either country. The Portuguese have always had great coffee, being brought in from their colonies abroad (mostly Brazil), and the Spanish wanted it. Throughout this mountain range are various smuggling routes that were used to get the sought after goods across the border.
The Marvão-Beira train station was often the first stop for many non-smuggling cross-border travelers, and held an important customs house on-site. Activity thrived here during those times. I was told that the vast majority of the town’s people were employed by the railway company and when it stopped being productive, the economy just came screeching to a halt. Nowadays, the trains don’t run that deep into the Portuguese interior anymore. The furthest you can get by rail close to this region is either Castelo Branco (about 1.5 hr drive to the north), or Evora (almost 2 hr drive south). The station went into disuse and would’ve been just sitting there, and likely fallen into complete disrepair like many other old and unused buildings in Portugal.
Eduardo and Lina saw an opportunity to make their dreams come true and took a lease out from the government on this 19th-century architectural heritage site. They renovated and revived it, making it liveable for modern day travelers, while keeping the historical features as close as possible to the original. You really do feel like you’re stepping back in time when you stay here. It’s the small details here that make it so special. Eduardo and Lina are very proud of the history of the station and the entire region, and do as much as possible to share that with their guests.
Each morning, we’d go into the small, old kitchen (cutest kitchen ever), and there would be a great spread laid out for us for breakfast (included with your stay). You’d eat with whatever other guests are present, which made it easy to meet new people from around the world. Eduardo would come in to say hello and we’d always get caught up chatting forever about this or that, him telling us about various aspects of the area, things to do, see, the history of it, etc. Aside from majestic mountain views close by, the area is also great for olive oil production and you can grab a 5L jug for the highest quality green gold for only about €25. That’s totally insane to me, considering how much we pay at home for the shit stuff, but hey, welcome to Portugal.
Also, close by is the medieval hilltop town of Marvão, which the region is named after, and the ancient ruined city of Ammaia, a once important Roman city.
The tourism craze hasn’t quite hit this area yet, and although it could be better for business, it’s also quite nice to hold on to the peacefulness of the setting. It’s not often you can just go out and have a historical train station to yourself, sit on the tracks, and imagine the glory days of a long gone era.
Train Spot Guesthouse