Lisbon – a panty frenzy

For all the lazy-daisies that don’t like to read, there’s a podcast here: Lisbon – a panty frenzy.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is lisbon-old-city-map.jpg
Old Map of Libon, source: internet

It was AD 2004. I decided to spend New Year in Amsterdam (the only better New Year’s Eve open air parties happen in Kraków). I know, the subject addresses the south of Europe, I know. But this is where the whole thing started.

I was only in my early 20s and together with some old girlfriends we got a supply of champagne and with these in hands, headed for the Dam Square. Music played wild, people from all over the world stoned, locked and barely standing, were trying to hold on to the last bits of dignity. Some American dude took out a tiny flat metal flask of whiskey (or whisky – can’t tell at this stage), like those seen in old western movies, and offered me a sip. We then danced and sang for a while until he most likely fell and people stepped him into the cobblestones, although I hope not.

At that time though, midninght was nearing and some good looking strangers popped around to offer their best wishes. They spoke funny I thought but then everybody spoke funny at midnight on the New Year’s Eve in Amsterdam. Especially that the main drug supply is literally one street away and is biiiig.

And that’s how I met Pedro and Milton, whom I then met a few times yet in Kraków as they totally fell in love with this city and I totally can’t blame them!

So these two were from Portugal. I think that was all we managed to learn about each other that night 🙂 But we took the time to exchange the phone numbers. It was the pre-smart phone era, imagine that!

And from here to there and through a few catchups, we discussed the beauty of their mother land. I’d studied plenty about the architecture and fell in love with plateresco and azulejos a long while before that. Hence one day the time has finally come to go and visit that land of the cliffs, ocean, amazing food, the best hand made shoes and that fab architecture!

The first spot on the list was Lisbon, Pedro and Milton’s headquarters I heard so many beautiful stories about and dared to believe they were true.

The first thing you see from the aircraft window on approach to LIS (IATA code for Lisbon airport) is the Tagus River. Huuuuge, the largest on the Iberic Peninsula in fact, and cutting the city into halves. Thankfully there once lived Mr Vasco Da Gama, who as we know dropped the beliefs of the world being a turtle and the waters ending once you travel to the edge of its shell and dared to risk his own and the lives of his crew to travel around Africa to reach India. And so in his name, we now have a wonderful bridge built, as well as the shopping centre, in the Parque das Nacoes district. Vasco da Gama bridge is the longest bridge in Europe, a great ride but there is a small toll fee to be paid.

Parque das Nacoes is the newest district of Lisbon where also the most beautiful Oceanarium, I personally have ever visited so far, is located. Other than that, the cable car ride is a must.

Another famous bridge is the Bridge of the 25th of April, just by the Belem Tower on the other side of the old town. It is looked after by Jesus himself (Sanctuary of Christ the King). Yep, one that looks just like the one in Rio. It’s a San Francisco and Rio mix 🙂

The city is huge. Administrationally it is divided into bairros (quarters) and each of these is like a different world altogether. The prettiest are obviously the oldest ones and every centimeter is a great spot for a photo. See some below from around Rua Augusta (main street with Arch of Triumph leading to the port) Baixa, Alfama, Alto, Chiado.

The apartment we rented for 3 days is situated on Rua dos Funceiros hence literally in the most historical part of town. As such, walking was the best way to get around and I totally reccommend it as there is an incredible number of places one can reach on foot. If not a fan of walking, especially that Lisbon is a rather hilly city, there are the old beautiful trams to catch there. How could anyone miss a ride! But this way, you are sure to miss all these fabulously colorful shops with hand made shoes and clothes that would be so passe if worn here in Ireland. Ah the fashion mentality in sunny places is set on colors and cottons and craft. Ah ah ah….

Lisbon 12th century Cathedral – Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Mary Major

Situated on a little hill, on the way to the Sao Jorge Castelo hence you may want to visit both places in one day, although the latter requires a bit of stamina so not for the faint hearted! Well… the tram will take you there.

As for the cathedral, it is the oldest church in town, survived many earthquakes hence is now an architectural mix however do not miss out and visit inside. You will step into the underworld of this building. Literally! Layers of excavated ruins are uncovered and open for the visitors.

Apart from that, the church is majestic, feels heavy but its darkness gives out warmth and calmness. The beautifully designed in shapes and colors stained glass windows are a must to absorb.

The Castle of San Jorge – the walk up this hill may be a tough one, but the views on the way are priceless. You walk through Alfama, the oldest part of the city. Azulejos (colorful painted tiles specific to Portugal, not always blue despite of their name, azul – blue) cover everything; houses, sheds, windows, doors, pavements even, thresholds. Azulejo Madness.

Clothes hanging on the ropes outside the windows, higher, lower, in between tangled with each other and spread between the walls of various houses. Loundry seems to be a Cosa Nostra in here it looks like 🙂 Wonder if they confuse their underpants on occasion 😀

Anyways, once you leave the ascent behind you, you enter a courtyard. Kinda like a small orange tree garden. Ha! only that this garden gives you a vew on the entire city pretty much. Everything was within the sight of the kings here and no wonder that for centuries Portugal was among the richest and most powerful countries.

The curent size and shape comes from the Christian rulers however the original building had been erected here in the 12th century by the Moorish. And it is not the first or the last one of those in Portugal. The country is sprinkled with the ruins but also fully standing proofs of the Moorish power. It is thanks to them that we can now enjoy the fascinating architecture of the alcazars and decorative palaces.

The Moorish is the name given by the Christians to the Berberic tribes, later also Muslims that came from the african region of Mauretania (parts of current Algier, Morocco, Namibia) and occupied Italy, Malta, Spain, Portugal, even parts of France for some eight centuries.

Bairro Alto and Fado in Chiado for the exhausted, hungry and thirsty…

Alto means high and high it is. But the cheeky Lisbonians knew how to deal with that problem. Bairro Alto and Chiado, are situated higher than Baixa, and the two former ones are the main hosts of the city nightlife.

Once occupied by the sailors and merchants back in 15th century. If you recall Jaques Brell’s “Amsterdam” (eh my Amsterdam again :), you know how the sailors party! So if you do, you will know that walking up tired and then down drunk is not the safest of things to undertake, especially in the late hours of the night.

Here comes Elevador de Santa Justa, the only vertical elevator linking the mentioned quarters. There are others in the city: Elevador da Glória and Elevador do Lavra, but they are parallel (diagonal in fact) rope trains more so.

It was the 1980s that marked the beginning of the era of nightlife in this part of the city. You can traverse the steep cobbled streets, take a ride on the da Bica funicular, visit the magnificent Church of St. Rocha and enjoy the views from the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara garden. The area is packed with various types of bars, cafes, pubs, clubs, fado houses, restaurants, snack bars, bars with rock, latino and electro music, places for dancing and for enjoying a drink in peace. Anyone will find something for themselves. We for instance, found plenty of cool looking and extremely photogenic hydrants 🙂 but other than that, a wonderful micro bar which enchanted us for almost entire length of the night. You would literally squeeze max 10 people standing into it hence many simply drink outside, but the best thing here is the cheese… OMG it is just lying there next to a bread loalf, a roll of that soft sheep milk cheese. And so you just drink, eat and talk and that’s about it but it feels like literally nowhere else in the world.

And as for the fado… hmmm I call it portuguese jazz 🙂 Something you get to enjoy during your dinner here:

Dear Lisboa…

So long for now… but I will be back!



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