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The Bacalhôa Buddha Eden Peace Park near Bombarral

On a discovery tour of the largest Asian garden in Europe

In 1989, Joe Berardo, a businessman omnipresent in Portugal, acquired – through one of his companies – the Quinta dos Loridos near Bombarral, almost 75 kilometres north of Lisbon, where he set up a winery, as he had done in the Quinta da Bacalhôa in Azeitão. During his lifetime so far, he has not only made it from a fruit seller to a billionaire, but has also made a name for himself as an art collector. The Museu Colecção Berardo in Belem shows his high-quality collector’s items, which are also regularly exhibited in the world’s most famous museums.

Paralysing heat,
cicada singing,
and somewhere an elephant trumpets off in the distance.
Nearby, the overtone-rich song of a sitar twangs,
and behind the hill you can hear a howler monkey,
and perhaps a marimba
and also a hint of a rhythmic choral song.

When the Taliban blew up the Buddha statues of Bamiyan in Afghanistan in March 2001, Joe Berardo decided to create a peace garden in his Quinta dos Loridos as a protest against this, and he commissioned numerous Buddha statues from China. These are exhibited in the large area around a lake and small rivers, which was recently expanded with further sculptures relating to other religions and a few plastic works by contemporary artists such as Joana Vasconcelos, Alexander Calder, Fernando Botero, Tony Cragg, Lynn Chadwick and Allen Jones.

As we got a first view of the large area and the many statues through the huge entrance gate, we were overwhelmed. A terracotta army looked over from a slope, and beside it a huge Buddha was lying above a big staircase. Further towering buddhas towered over trees and hills. Artificial islands were created in the lake, around which countless statues were lined up. 

We first sat down in the small train that took us through the park – not a bad start to get a first overview. Then we walked to the big reclining Buddha, and together with our enthusiastic children, we explored the whole slope, discovered pretty watercourses with koi fish and spotted a gallery of figures down by the lake. Right next to it were statues of horses and riders, temple guards, and elephant deities. 

Recently, countless crocodiles, giraffes, elephants, water buffaloes, rhinos, hippos, warriors, robots, giant unicorns and humans built from metal rods, spiders reminiscent of Aragog from Harry Potter, marble pagodas and a gigantic hand sculpture have also been added.

All of these sculptures can be found in various gardens, such as the Garden of Modern Art, the Bamboo Labyrinth, the Garden of African Cultures, the Peace Lakes, and the Pagoda Lake. 

In the Quinta, you can also find a restaurant (but this is apparently not very highly recommended) and a wine shop where you can buy the Bacalhôa wines for a reasonable price.

Joe Berardo has been under heavy criticism since 2019, as he owes almost a billion euros to two major Portuguese banks, which was awarded to him without the usual auditing procedures. The losses of one bank prompted Portugal to endow the bank with 4 billion dollars of taxpayers’ money. In addition, Berardo’s companies received tax breaks of over 48 million Euros between 2015 and 2017. Currently, Portugal has begun to confiscate parts of Berardo’s assets, and it is also looking into the possibility of stripping him of his high state medals of merit.

The Bacalhôa Buddha Eden Peace Park is definitely worth a visit. You can go there with your children on a relaxed discovery tour and the numerous, vastly different sculptures invite you to not only search, marvel and climb, but also talk extensively about our large home planet and its diverse cultures.

Opening hours:
9.00 to 6.00 pm
(Entrance gate and restaurant close at 5.30)

Approach:
From Lisbon, drive north on the A8 in your own car, then take the N8 to Cadaval at exit 12. After 3 kilometres, you will pass directly by the Quinta dos Loridos.

GPS: 39.275786, -9.140002

When you’re there:
You can walk comfortably on foot and also take a pram with you almost everywhere.

Entrance fees:
Up to 12 years old –
free entrance

From the age of 13 –
5 Euro for visiting the park,
4 Euro for the journey on the train


Website:
https://www.bacalhoa.pt/enoturismo/bacalhoa-buddha-eden/

Visitor schedule:
https://www.bacalhoa.pt/enoturismo/bacalhoa-buddha-eden/mapa

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/BacalhoaBuddhaEden

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