Buddha Eden Garden
Larger than life!
While on a road trip visiting Óbidos, Portugal and the surrounding areas, Paul and I decided to visit the Buddha Eden Garden, where practically everything there is larger than life.
Categorized as “wine tourism” the garden is located on the Quinta dos Loridos wine estate, about a 15-minute drive from Óbidos in Bombarral. The Quinta is part of the Bacalhôa Group, a wine conglomerate represented in 7 of the most important Portuguese wine regions including Alentejo, Setúbal Peninsula, Bairrada, Beiras, Dão, and Douro. Their overall theme is “Art, Wine and Passion.”
is was no object.
The Buddha Eden Garden concept, which opened in stages starting in 2006, is the brainchild of José (Joe) Manuel Rodrigues Berardo, a Portuguese businessman, investor, and art collector. In 2010 it was estimated that Berardo had a net worth of €598 million making him one of Portugal’s wealthiest people. His businesses included tobacco, hotels, telecommunications, banking, and wine.
During the Portuguese financial crisis (2010-2014) the Portuguese Republic finances and banking system collapsed and Berardo was accused of being involved in questionable bank loans and other legal wrongdoings. This resulted in the seizure of his bank accounts and company assets. His legal issues continue to the present day.
Despite his business problems, Berardo is still considered to be one of the top art collectors in Portugal. His interest in art started at an early age with stamp and postcard collecting and progressed to modern and contemporary art including Chinese porcelain and art deco. An art museum in his name located in Belem, houses an extensive collection of modern art from famous artists such as Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Max Ernst, and Joan Miró. Special exhibits such as The Last Folio, are often featured at this museum.
Destruction by the Taliban.
When the Taliban ordered the destruction in Afghanistan of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, wiping out centuries of Gandharan art, Berardo was so incensed by this decree that he soon began replicating the statues that were destroyed and had hundreds of statues recreated to be displayed in Portugal on land next to Quinta dos Loridos. Over 6,000 tons of granite and marble were used to construct these statues.
Garden of peace and tranquility.
The garden encompasses over 35 hectares (86 acres) of land and is Europe’s largest Asian garden and the continent’s largest collection of Buddha statues. The intention of the garden is to be a place of meditation, tranquility and peacefulness and has no correlation to any specific religious beliefs. Here a visitor will see small and giant Buddhas, terracotta warriors, man-made lakes, pagodas, a koi fishpond, cork trees, metal art, and lush vegetation and exotic plants – all strategically placed throughout the property.
Perhaps the most impressive and popular area is the Staircase of the Golden Buddhas. Located in the center of the garden, not far from the pagoda-like entrance, is a tribute to the Buddhas of Bamiyan that were destroyed by the Taliban. A staircase leads to the central figure of the display – the Reclining Buddha, symbolizing the end of a Buddha’s life on earth. Scattered around this iconic symbol are 8 other Buddhas all in gold, granite and marble.
Other parts of the garden include a Japanese-style lake with dragon sculptures rising out of the water as well as 600 hand-painted terracotta soldiers – copies of the terracotta army that was buried in China over 2,000 years ago and rediscovered by Chinese farmers in the 1970’s.
A Contemporary Art Garden with work from many international artists changes periodically and displays art in a natural setting. The African Sculpture Garden displays over 200 pieces of art by different African countries. Throughout the garden, there are peaceful spots for quiet contemplation or inspiration.
A little bit touristy.
Sure. It’s a little bit touristy. But it’s also fascinating to see some of these larger-than-life Buddhas up close. If you’re into art, this is a great place to see some interesting works. If you’re just interested in striking a pose next to a giant laughing Buddha, there will be plenty of photo ops here.
And if you’re not up to walking along all 86 acres of the garden, there’s a little train that will drop off and pick up at different spots along the way (for an extra fee).
If you visit:
Free parking lot at the door to the garden.
There is admission charged to tour the gardens. For an extra charge, you can take a train that picks up and drops passengers off at various points in the garden. Check the website for current admission prices and hours.
Picnics are not allowed in the garden. A restaurant and snack bar are on the premises.
A wine shop selling Bacalhôa wines is on the premises at the entrance to the garden.
Well-behaved dogs on a leash with identification tags are allowed. No other types of pets are allowed.
Wheelchairs and strollers are allowed in the garden. No other vehicles are allowed.
Allow 3 hours to see the entire garden if you’re walking.
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Until next time…