Saturday, February 13, 2010

Portugal Trip Part 4 - Lisbon

Well I know it's been quite a while since I've written anything on here, but I have had some stuff going of for most of that time, namely a 46 page paper about the Spanish Civil War and a two week trans-European train adventure. But before I can tell you about that I have to finish up my Portugal trip. When we left off I had just arrived in Lisbon, and the following two days were dedicated to exploring that city and it's immediate surroundings. The first day I had planned to head out to Belém for the morning, an area to the west of Lisbon on the shore of the river where there are a few historic buildings and a famous monument or two. Before I set off that way I noticed on my map that there was a scenic overlook really close to my hostel, so I decided to check that out first.

As in Porto, some of the streets in Lisbon are actually staircases

The view from the scenic overlook. Normally this would be a view of the river, with that statue of Jesus on a hill on the other side. Hmm, maybe now isn't a good time to go to those riverside monuments . . .

In light of the heavy fog covering the river I revised my plans and headed to the Castelo de São Jorge (Castle of St. George) that's prominently situated on top of a hill in the middle of town. It's been an important part of Lisbon since the Arabic times, when it was one of their last holdouts, and it was also a residence of the Portuguese kings. On my way up the hill I also stopped by the Cathedral of Lisbon, which as you may remember is called the Sé de Lisboa.

I saw these guys repairing the sidewalks and came to the conclusion that this is the worst job in the world. I'm sure you can think of a worse one, though, but seriously, think of the tedium.

Sé de Lisboa

Arqueological dig in the middle of the cloisters of the Cathedral. There is evidence of Arab houses and Roman sewers and roads.

Detail of the stained glass window. Which Apostle was it that had a dragon in his drink, again?

I expected the climb up to the castle to be a lot more strenuous, given the number of tourist-laden trolleys I saw passing me on the way up, but it was actually fairly easy. I spent a lot of time at the castle because there was a lot to explore, and I didn't want to leave any path untrodden. The views of the city were amazing, and I ate lunch on one of the ancient ramparts during a break from wandering.

Map of the Castelo de São Jorge; if you can't see it remember you can click it to make it larger. If you're interested, that is.

My lunchtime view. The Baixa neighborhood is in the foreground and the area where my hostel was located is on the hill behind it.

Peacock vs. Cat for a piece of pasta, an epic showdown for the ages. (winner: Peacock)

The castle inside the castle, this was the oldest part of the compound.

Precarious stairs to get up to the ramparts.

In the afternoon after leaving the castle I walked back down the hill through the Alfama neighborhood, which according to my guidebook was very scenic. It didn't do much for me, just a bunch of narrow roads that's easy to get lost in, but I guess it did have a very old-world feel. I went back in the direction of the hostel because I planned to check out the Museo du Chiado, a museum of modern art near the hostel, but this meant I would have to climb back up another hill. OR DID IT?

The Santa Justa elevator, built in 1902 by an apprentice of Gustav Eiffel to help lazy Lisboans avoid climbing this particular hill.

View of the Castelo de São Jorge from the Santa Justa elevator.

Unfortunately, the Museo du Chiado was closed that day, so I went back to the hostel to regroup and talk on skype for a little while. Later that night I took a tram out to Belém to photograph the monuments that I would be visiting the next day by night, then got some kebab at the most confusing mall in the world. There were escalators that led to the middle of stores and apparently 6 floors, although only 4 of them were accessible by said escalators. I finally escaped when I found the stairs, but it got a little hairy for a second there. Anyway, here's the Torre de Belém.

Torre de Belém, I'll tell you what this is later

My first stop the next morning was the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Hieronymites Monastery), one of the greatest examples of Manueline architecture typical of the Portuguese Age of Discovery.

It's also enormous.

Tomb of Vasco da Gama in the monastery chapel.

Hallway in the cloisters of the monastery.

The central patio of the cloisters.

The chapter house, where the monks had all their monk meetings.

Seriously, this place is huge. The closest part is actually the National Arqueology Museum, but I didn't know that until I got there so my schedule didn't include time to check it out.

Right across from the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, on the waterfront, is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, the Monument to the Discoveries. You've probably seen this before, as it's a pretty famous landmark of Lisbon, but if you're like me you didn't realize how gigantic it actually is. Hmm, this is kind of starting to be a theme.

Padrão dos Descobrimentos

Detail of the monument, notice how puny the people standing right next to it look.

And from the back it looks like a cross.

View from the top, looking east. We've seen this bridge before (hint: it was shrouded in fog)

View of the monastery and the plaza in front of it

Looking to the west, and I see my next destination: The Torre de Belém (Belém Tower)

The Torre de Belém was built to protect the harbor of Lisbon and was originally much further offshore, but then they extended the shoreline to create more land and now it's not very isolated at all.

The Torre de Belém also exemplifies the Manueline style, which is characterized by elaborate details. I can't see how this statue had much military function, but it's pretty.

The balcony of the tower.

I call this composition "The Portuguese Military: Past and Present"

Keeping watch over Lisbon.

The view from the Torre de Belém out to sea.

I was in Belém until about 3 in the afternoon, and I had to catch a train at 6:30 to go down to the Algarve region, so I spent the interval packing up my things and checking out the hostel, then exploring the area around the train station. And guess what I found over there?

Oh man, I definitely don't like casinos!

I walked into the Casino Lisboa with 20 euros telling myself I would double it at blackjack and then walk out, and that's exactly what I did. I used my new found wealth to buy some prepackaged pasta dinner and boarded the train for Lagos, feeling pretty sly. I'll try to update you guys about that pretty soon.


  1. It's good to have you back and blogging again. I know it's a lot of work, but the pictures and narrative are fun to read. Looking forward to hearing about Amsterdam, Belgium, Paris, Geneva, Monaco, etc, etc...Hopefully, you can work in a little study time, too! -- DAD

  2. I don't have a lot of new stuff to say, I just want to reitterate that:

    1. I am insanely jealous of you, you lucky asshole.

    2. Your pictures are BEAUTIFUL!

    On another note, I think the apostle wasn't actually drinking a green dragon, it's a metaphor for him drinking this:

    And tell your Dad you can study when you're dead. Or something.

    Keep up the pictures!

  3. Haha wow I had no idea that existed, that looks like a pretty evil concoction.

  4. Good to read your blog again. Your pictures are amazing. Can't wait to read about your trip. Aunt Connie