Packing took a little longer than expected, so Mikey literally had to run through the train station in Porto and jumped onboard with 20 seconds to spare! Surprisingly though, the trip was very pleasant and we flew south at speeds in excess of 220kph/135mph – basically as fast as Mikey ran to the train.
In less than 2 1/2 hours, we arrived at the Orient Station in Lisboa. It looked pretty cool, so Mikey snapped a quick picture. Still, what he wasn’t ready for was the heat. Porto had been a pleasant 18*C (65*F) whilst the 30*C (86*F) was noticeably warmer considering some newly acquired baggage weight.
After settling in at the guesthouse (it’s an apartment where we have a room and private bathroom, but there are shared kitchen, dining, and living areas), we headed out to see the city’s 18th century aqueduct. I’m sure it was an impressive architectural feat, but this is about as close as we got before heading towards the downtown and its cooling ocean breezes.
Like many capitals, Lisboa is a city of monuments. Unfortunately, Mikey’s Portuguese history has been failing him repeatedly on this trip. He does know that this is the Praça do Marquês de Pombal and the statue is of a Marquis who was Prime Minister in the 18th century.
Also, unlike in Spain, they routinely have live organ music playing during the day.
Mikey loves apps – Kindle is one of his favorites. Still, we had to make a stop at the world’s oldest bookstore in continuous operation. Bertrand’s has been around since 1732 and is a major tourist destination.
The odd part? Look to the center right of this picture. Yes, you too can buy a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf in Portuguese with a new introduction. If this has you wondering, we sadly did not have to seek it out. Rather, it was right up front with other bestsellers.
Lisboa is definitely full of surprises. For instance, nearby we encountered this art exhibit entitled “Sardines from Outter Space.” It was basically a popup gallery with decorative sardine cutouts alongside historical quotes.
A more original statue was this Fado sculpture in the tourist district. Fado is a Portuguese style of music that is most akin to the American Blues. It formed as a melancholic exchange between fishermen and their romantic attachments left behind onshore. In fact, lyrics are often described as “saudade” or “a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return.” If you’ve never heard this genre, it is worth checking out some time.
Also present is the Lisboa Golden Gate replica known as the April 25th Bridge which commemorates the 1974 military coup known as the Carnation Revolution. In the far distance you can also see the Christ the King monument that was inspired by Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue.
One really interesting part of the Sé is the ongoing excavation below the cloisters. Like in many ancient cities, excavators have discovered layers of different civilizations built on top of each other. So, dig a little and you get Renaissance arches. Go deeper and you’ll find an Islamic market that rests on top of a Roman sewer around which are celtic and proto-Iberian artifacts predating Rome!
A more modern exhibit details the history of Portuguese navigation. This giant statue of Henry the Navigator greets visitors at the entrance. In case you’re wondering, it was Henry who got the ball rolling on European exploration. Columbus, most Spanish navigators, and even Peter the Great of Russia all directly benefited from Henry’s navigation ministry and schools.
Much of the museum was comprised of model ships. Kinda cool to see how the technology developed as seaman traveled further from home and began to cross greater distances in the open ocean. (Sadly, none were in bottles.)
Mikey thought it was pretty interesting to see cartographers’ ideas of what the world looked like over time. This particular map was from 1505 and shows just how limited the combined wisdom of the ages really was.
Finally, they had a hanger that housed the collection of Portuguese royal barges. Primarily used for river transportation or ferrying the royals to larger seagoing vessels, several required 80 oarsmen to row the king downstream. (And the archbishop only needed two guys to fan him!)
But, this time we got live music from some lady who was practicing for Sunday.
We’ll have to chat soon from Spain 🇪🇸! Hasta entonces.