Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Lisbon - Day 2

Tuesday, June 7, 2016 

After a bountiful breakfast at the hotel (including a dessert bar), we headed off on an extensive walking tour of the city.
First up - how to use the metro. Robert gave us all viagem passes good for 48 hours and took us to a stop very near our hotel. Once inside, he pointed out the beautiful tile work on the walls. When the metro was first built in the 50's, the architect's wife was an artist, Maria Keil. She convinced her husband that the walls should not be blank. She then donated her time to designing tlles for the 9 original stations.   Her designs incorporated "minimal designs with maximum impact." Used here are about 8 different tiles arranged in different patterns and subtly directing traffic with arrows.
We began our walk in the Chiado area, which has become quite commercial, and came to the square that commemorates the "Carnation Revolution." This was the peaceful end of of the 48 year dictatorship on April 25, 1974, and the beginning of democracy.  The jacaranda trees that were planted from Brazil were still in bloom today in the square. 
Then we walked through an area with several buildings representing the intricate tile work that has dominated the architectural landscape throughout the city.  The tile decoration on the facade of this house, erected in 1864 on Largo Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro, features allegorical figures of Science, Agriculture, Industry and commerce.
Nearby are other buildings using various tiles.
Then we passed through the Baixa area, taking several outdoor elevators that took us almost to the top of one of the 7 hills of Lisbon where St. George's Castle is located.  
Originally built as a Moorish fort, King Afonso Henriques transformed it into a residence for Portuguese Kings in the 1200's.  In 1511 Manuel I built a more lavish palace near the water  and the castle was used variously as a prison and arms depot.  After the 1755 earthquake, the ramparts remained in ruins until Dictator Salazar began a complete renovation, rebuilding the walls to look medieval and adding gardens and battlements.

It was fun to climb the battlements and the castle offered great views of the city.

The castle is named for St. George, a popular saint in the 14th century known for fighting bravely.
After the castle, we walked down through the Alfama area. This was the area of Lisbon that survived the 1755 earthquake that took out most of the rest of the city. Consequently, it is very old and many of the dwellings don't even have indoor plumbing. The streets are steep cobblestones and locals hang their wash outside of buildings.

For years it was the home of the fish mongers, but now it houses mostly immigrants.
We continued down the hill to the wharf area, where trolleys run up and down the river front.
We ended up at Commerce Square, with its grand government buildings and city arch.
From here we dispersed - some to return to the hotel or explore other parts. Since it was a beautiful sunny day, I decided to take a river cruise. The 1-1/2 hour trip enabled me to see the city from the water, which is spectacular with all the red roofs.
The boat took us under the April 25 Bridge with the dolphins playing on the footers,

and on to Belem before turning around. We are going there tomorrow so more about that later.
Tonight we went to Casa do Alentejo
where we had another delicious dinner and were treated to a personal performance by 2 fado singers and their guitarists.

Fado is kind of like the blues, but is sung with more emotion. I was surprised by how deep and gutteral their voices were, but at the same time very melodic.  I would almost compare the sound to opera. It was a very entertaining night.

1 comment:

  1. When we visited Lisbon it was a day trip off a cruise ship, so I have vivid memories of that huge bridge and fabulous harbor. I'm sure the great harbor made it much easier to become the seafarers of the world. Hope you will have a great trip!