What do you get when you mix statues of Buddha, replicas of the Xian terracotta warriors, an Asian pagoda, stone carvings from Africa, contemporary art, and a wine estate? There is only one answer: Buddha Eden, a sculpture park in the grounds of the Quinta dos Lobidos winery in Bombarral (13 km south of Óbidos). The estate is owned by a wealthy art collector, José Berardo, who was so shocked and upset by the destruction of the 6th-century Afghan Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban in 2001 that he decided to create a garden dedicated to peace in the gently rolling 35-hectare grounds of the Quinta dos Lobidos estate. The first statues to be erected in the garden in 2007 were various Buddhas made of granite and marble in China, including a large reclining Buddha and a 21-metre standing Giant Buddha.
The view of the grounds from the entrance gives you an idea of the scale of the place – there is even a tourist train to take you around if you prefer not to walk – and as you look across at the hill opposite where the Buddhas live they look deceptively small.
The gardens are beautifully landscaped into zones, but the unifying theme throughout is the unity of the physical and the spiritual. The Zen-like oriental garden has Asian statues, tree-lined paths, a lake with koi carp and a pagoda.
The African sculpture garden is in tribute to the Zimbabwean Shona people, who believe that each stone carving is determined by a life spirit in the stone.
Even the Xian terracotta warriors, painted an incongruous vibrant blue, seem at home here.
In contrast to the traditional sculptures in the oriental and African gardens, the modern and contemporary sculpture garden houses Berardo’s collection of sculptures by current international sculptors. Pieces include ‘Néctar’ by Joana Vasconcelos (2006), which comprises two enormous candlesticks made from green wine bottles; ‘Temple’ by Allen Jones (1997); the geometric steel ‘Ace of Diamonds’ by Lynn Chadwick (2003); the glass construction ‘Stairway’ by Danny Lane (2005); ‘Alien’ by David Breuer-Weil (2012) which shows a naked man doing a headstand, cheekily placed opposite the Buddhas; furniture made from recycled bits of machinery; and, the pièce de résistance, ‘Looking Back’ by Zadok Ben-David (2005), which shows a giant man looking back at a smaller man, and when you get up close you realise that the giant man is made up of thousands of unique miniature men. It is quite remarkable.
Finally, let’s not forget the wine. There are small reminders throughout that this is also the Bacalhôa wine estate, from Joana Vasconcelos’ wine bottle-inspired ‘Néctar’ sculpture to the tiled panels telling the history of wine along one of the paths. On the other side of the road there are vineyards for as far as the eye can see, and at the entrance to the estate there is a shop selling bottles of Bacalhôa-label wine, such as Quinta da Bacalhôa, Quinta dos Loridos, Quinta do Carmo, JP, Tinto da Ânfora and Aliança, produced at wine estates all over Portugal. Wine tastings are advertised on the Bacalhôa publicity literature, but there were no signs of wine tastings in the shop on the day that we visited and I understand that any tastings have to be booked in advance. Nevertheless, there were bottles of wine on sale for only €2 and a very decent glass of wine in the café only cost €1! So, taking advantage of this, we raised a glass to wine, art and peace.
Bacalhôa Buddha Eden, Quinta dos Loridos, Carvalhal Bombarral
Open daily 9am-6pm (except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day)
Entrance: €4 (under-12s free); Tourist train: €3
Wine tastings need to be booked in advance.
Getting there: It is not easily accessible by public transport (the railway station at Bombarral is quite a long way from Buddha Eden). A taxi from Óbidos costs €20 one way (as of 2017).