18.12.2017 - 21.12.2017 16 °C
Lisbon is situated on seven hills beside the Tagus River. It has been inhabited by Neolithic people, Celts, Phonoecians, Visigoths, Greeks, Romans, Moors..... Only Athens, in Europe, is older.
Lisbon is definitely older than Rome and London but there are arguments that Plovdiv, Bulgaria, for example, pre dates both Athens and Lisbon! So what, Lisbon is very old.
There is an enduring legend that Ulysses founded Lisbon and named it 'Enchanting Port', Ollissipo. He loved the location on the Tagus River estuary. It flows west to the Atlantic and provides my favourite interpretation of the word Lisboa: safe harbour.
The metropolitan area has a population of over 3 million people. One third of Portugal's population live in or around the capital city.
It is bustling with tourists the past few years. With the bombings in Paris and Turkey the British, Dutch and Germans have flocked to the warmer weather in Portugal.
I was in Lisbon in December 4 years ago and I do not recall so many tourists. The other thing I notice are the cranes. They are everywhere. I was told by someone at my hotel that the workers are Portuguese but the owners are foreign. 'We don't own our country anymore.' Yes, we can empathize.
It is 16 degrees C the day we arrive, December 18. Lisbon has the mildest winter of any Western European city.
We are staying at Marino Boutique Hotel just one block uphill from the wide and relatively flat vistas of Ave Liberdade, the 37th most expensive street in the world. We are an easy walk from Rossio Square.
A buffet breakfast is included in our rate. The breakfast room is a pretty , enclosed roof terrace with balcony options. The hotel has a lift but it only goes to the 4 th floor. The terrace is on the fifth.
Our room is clean and bright, with a balcony, not too shabby for about fifty-seven Canadian dollars per night including a good breakfast.
We book hop on and off tickets on the yellow bus line for Dec 19 and 20. At twenty Euros each the ticket includes access to the trams, the aero-bus, city buses, funiculars and two elevators for two full days.
Our first route takes us to Belum Tower.
Torre Belum opened in 1521 as a defensive fortress.
A busker is playing violin, street sellers are flogging scarves, necklaces and selfie sticks, tourists are posing to get the river and tower in the background. We are not allowed into the tower. It is closed on Mondays.
We enjoy Belum Tarts, pastéis de nata, (custard and cinnamon baked in flaky pastry) and cafe au lait on a patio by the river. It will reach 17 C today.
It is easy to while away an hour in this setting.
Hopping back on the bus we get to the end of the line. Everybody must get off the bus. Five minutes later the bus rolls forward about twenty feet and you can get back on.
There is a cemetery by the stop. Instead of headstones there are little houses. It seems we are in a village of the dead.
On this pleasant blue sky day the cemetery is calm and peaceful. We sit on a bench on a quiet, leafy street and enjoy the sunshine.
Cemitério dos Prazeres is on the routes of both Trams 25 and 28.
We rode the yellow hop on and off bus to a more modern side of the city where there are the requisite shopping centres and high rise apartments. Some buildings have stunning modern architecture.
The Oriente Train Station, pictured below, was designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, who, coincidentally, designed the Peace Bridge in Calgary:
Lisbon has a suspension bridge, the 25 Abril Bridge, that resembles the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco:
Near the Bridge on the east side of the Tagus River is a statue modeled after a statue in Rio de Janeiro:
There are decaying buildings here as well even on the tourist route:
Lisbon also sports world class street art:
We hopped on tram 25 to see the hilly sections, rattling and swaying up and down narrow steep streets.
It is coming into rush hour, The tram is packed you can't see a thing. I was glad to get off near Rossio to walk home.
I had a couchsurfing contact meet-up arranged to learn more about the culture. His name was Antonio and he met us at our hotel. We went for a two hour walk down Liberdade to Commercio Square and when we stopped for ice cream he gave us some sightseeing tips.
On 20 December we used our hop on bus pass to ride a funicular and elevator. The Gloria funicular is close to our hotel and takes riders to Bairro Alto. The tram going down pulls the tram going up.
Right beside the Eiffel Tower lookalike, Justa lift, I spotted a sale at a shoe store.
I bought a pair of Spanish Espedrilles and real suede leather dress shoes for four Euros and ninety cents each - about 15 C for 2 pairs of shoes.
The Santa Justa lift was designed by a student of Gustavo Eiffel. You can climb to a lookout tower on top of the elevator. The stairs are narrow and winding, whew I made it. We were really quite high up and I felt a bit dizzy.
Lisbon is a very pretty city with the river and hills. Lots of white stucco and red tiled roofs interspersed with church steeples.
It seems Roma beggars like to set themselves up on church steps. I wonder if they do better with people who are coming out or with those going in.
Right next to Justa Elevator the roof-line skeleton of Carmo Convent stands as a reminder of the 9 point earthquake which devastated the city in 1755.
Central Lisbon was rebuilt on a grid system with street-scapes modern for the time. Thus the wide main streets like Avenida Liberdade with its park-like central plazas follow the plan that was developed just a month after the catastrophe.
It was a tremendous undertaking to clear the rubble and start anew and the successful result is credited to the Marquis of Pombal whose statue dominates the square with his name.
The aqueduct survived the earthquake even though it was on a fault line, a tribute to the engineers and architects of the mid eighteenth century:
The earthquake was felt all over Europe. In addition to its massive scale it occurred on the morning of a religious holiday. Mass was underway when the quake hit and most church roofs collapsed. Thousands of worshipers perished in the packed cathedrals on All Saints Day 1755.
The candles burning in the churches started fires that were as destructive as the earthquake and tsunami. Two thirds of the city was destroyed by the fire that burned for five days.
The Royal Palace and its treasure trove of Art and historical documents burned to the ground.
Commercio Square was built where the palace once stood. Coincidentally the second last monarch of Portugal was murdered in Commercio Square.
Libraries and archives crumbled, burned or were swept into the sea. Three quarters of the city needed to be rebuilt,
The impact of the earthquake had wide reaching effects on the traumatized people of the time. The king, who was not in Lisbon
when the earthquake struck, developed claustrophobia so intense that he lived out his days in a royal court composed of tents and pavilions.
The poor area of Alfama was built on high rock so withstood the tsunami and did not have much earthquake damage.
Alfama is the oldest neighbourhood in Lisbon and displays a strong Moorish influence
The tiles decorating so many doorways and walls in Lisbon were adopted from the hundreds of years of Muslim rule. The Arabs brought Azulejo, tile making, to Portugal and Spain.
Winding narrow streets trudge up from the river. It is the place to enjoy Fado, the morose, blues-like music of Portugal. It is here you will find the Fado museum.
Fado was the music of the poor. Prostitutes, sailors and the lower class.
It became mainstream and an accepted musical form for all classes through the performances of Amalia Rodrigues. (1929 - 1999).
We did not go to Fado but had lunch at a charming restaurant with a TripAdvisor sticker on the door.
We now maneuver our way downhill to link up with Tram 28. More tourists are out and about as it is later in the day plus the tram is part of the regular transit system so locals use it as well. It is standing room only but eventually we get a seat.
Tram 28 is a vintage wooden tram and a tourist attraction itself. It screeches and sways as the warning bell rings, maneuvering sharp turns and steep hills. It has a very long route but you can hop on and off.
We decided to switch to tram 25 and it is rush hour. May I suggest this is not an optimum time for a tourist to be using city-transit. We wait 45 minutes for a tram that has room for us. It really cools off when the sun goes down.
Although Lisbon appears to be full of white buildings with red tile roofs it is a multi-coloured city, the yellow exteriors of Commercio Square come to mind.
The number of pink buildings is worth a mention.
The former Royal Palace, now the Palacio Nacional de Belum, official residence of the Prime Minister, is pink.
The first shopping mall in Lisbon, very central for tourists to access, is pink and blue.
Amoreiras Shopping Centre opened in the mid eighties and its post modernist style was controversial. Today it is a Lisbon icon:
There are Pinterest pages devoted to the pink buildings of Lisbon!
Still when I think of Lisbon, my mind's eye sees red tile roofs over white buildings, marching up and down hills against a bright blue sky: