Lisbon is a paradox. A beautiful one.
It felt like a breath of fresh air after seeing Barcelona’s statuary architecture, overly crowded streets, the myriad of tourists from all over the world hungrily making their way around Las Ramblas (street) and other major attractions.
When we arrived there (part of our post-grad Europe backpack round-trip) in the summer of 2oo7, the city seemed at first glance rather quaint and dusty. Like a woman who lost track of her age, neither young, nor old, with heavily layered and old-fashioned but nonetheless, extravagant make-up. Roughened, tired, caressed by unaccountable lovers, but still enchanting. Still standing, still smiling.
Alfama district with St George/Sao Jorge Castle in the back
Lisbon stands on seven hills as well as Rome and is, above everything all else, a port.
Capital of Portugal and most of all, its biggest commercial gate, Lisbon is responsible for over 80% of its water traffic through its quais, docs, and under the longest bridge in Europe: Vasco da Gama. Another famous bridge, over Tagus/Tejo river, is “The 25th April Bridge”. Designed and constructed by the same company that build “Golden Gate Bridge” in San Francisco, California. And let’s not forget that, as the legend points out, Lisboa was founded by Ulysses, another great nomad-traveler by the sea…
View from inside the Castle
One of the striking things in Lisbon is the light….Silky and soft, surrounding the buildings, narrow paths and streets in blinding reverberations. Transforming them in columns of light. The most predominant colors are creamy, white and bleu-ciel, integrating the new and medieval architecture in a tempered, balanced order.
King George’s statue in Praca da Figueira
And let’s not forget that, as the legend points out, Lisboa was founded by Ulysses, another great nomad-traveler by the sea…
25th April Bridge over Tagus River, from Sao Jorge Castle
Being open to explorations and influences brought back by its courageous and fiery men like Fernando Magellan and Vasco da Gama, it is almost incredible how everything blends in in the architecture of the city: Moorish, Manueline or the Roman-Gothic style, built round-and-round Alfama district, Bairro Alto and Belem. Lisbon is also the most far-away western city/point of Europe.
The old streets of the city are so narrow that no motor vehicles are allowed. People are just walking freely, up and down, with their footsteps resounding on the cobbled paths…
St. George Castle was built long before Portugal became a state and you almost feel, between its stony, thick walls, the falling of centuries. From above, the city seems written in a palm but the castle is only deluding you in thinking that it might offer a cipher for it.
One of the entrances in the Castle
Somewhere in Belem district
When you do decide to go and head for a hostel, look for a residencio/pensao; it took us a while to figure out that that is its name. Also, when you leave Lisbon, take the day-train to Paris and indulge in a very enchanting trip through the countryside, admiring the golden scenery, perfect little villas, the Eucalyptus trees and wineries all along the path…It is one of the most relaxing and mesmerizing train-rides I have ever taken! Portugal is such a beautiful country! Proud and magnificent, ancient, lively and most of all, sunny… Portugal is such a beautiful country! Proud and magnificent, ancient, lively and most of all, sunny…
Tip: after a while, the train will stop at Coimbra University City…That will provide you with enough minutes to contemplate the ancient and famous University on top of the hill, standing proudly in the Iberian sun. :)
A trees’ prayer, found inside Sao Jorge’s Castle
Abstract art on top of the Berardo Museum of Modern Art
Narrow street leading to Tagus River
Things to see, know and do in the city
- Belem Tower and cookies/pasteis
- Casa de Alemfeja – Moroccan house downtown, well preserved, that serves traditional dishes I can’t pronounce though
- Jeronimos monastery
- Praca do Comercio – first slavery market in Europe
- Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
- Rhythms of fado music
- Fernando Pessoa – poet, writer
- Alfama district
*photos taken by me. August 2007