Portugal: Lisbon Pt 1

LISBON PART 1

21st to 25th May, 2015

The overnight sleeper train from Salamanca to Lisbon departed at 1-30am so you could say we had an early start today.

A quick early morning watercolour landscape from the train on the way to Lisbon.

A quick early morning watercolour landscape from the train on the way to Lisbon.

Map showing the overnight train journey from Salamanca to Lisbon.

Map showing the overnight train journey from Salamanca to Lisbon.

At Salamanca Station we met Oscar, a young Mexican lad, who was also going to Lisbon. Oscar informed us he was on an eight day holiday and he also told us that Mexicans are only entitled to five days holiday in the first year of their employment with a company and the following year, six days, until the maximum of eight days is reached. The only way to have an extended holiday is to change jobs and take extra time between jobs. Imagine the fuss workers in Australia would make with these conditions.

Unfortunately we didn’t get a photograph of Oscar or the Salamanca railway station as producing a camera within the precincts of public utilities such as railway stations in Spain is illegal.

Bev and I visited Mexico in 1973 when we had a stopover there on the way back to Australia following our grand 1972/3 tour of Europe and the Middle East. From what Oscar told us it seems Mexico hasn’t changed much since we were there. Bev and I travelled around Mexico by public transport and hitchhiking.

Bev attracting a lift in Mexico.

Bev attracting a lift in Mexico.

The approaching van in the photograph above belonged to an American couple. They had picked us up the previous day but we declined an offer to travel with them around Mexico because some Americans at the time were inclined to be rather loud. At times, being with them, especially in crowded places it became embarrassing as they called to each other constantly. Rick was always dragging behind when out walking and Rick’s wife Dee would worry about him and shout in her southern American drawl, ‘Come on Rick’ and he would shout back ’I’m comin’ Dee’. Dee was a speech therapist so she was able to project her voice pretty well. Rick was a lecturer in photography.

With reference to the above photograph, Rick and Dee stopped again and because it was hot we took up their offer to travel with them. When they stopped Rick said, ‘It’s too goddam hot out there, get in, you know we are air-conditioned’.

 Bev bought a wedding dress in Mexico and we married a few months after returning to Australia.

The bike ride to Salamanca railway station from our pension last night was in the dark and we became disorientated and missed the correct turn to the bike path that ran to the station. With the help of locals we were pointed in the right direction. There are a couple of factors to consider when riding to a bus or railway station, it doesn’t pay to cut it too fine. Time is needed in case you get lost and time should be allowed for perhaps repairing a flat tyre. After the night ride last night we decided we should do more night riding as there is less traffic and the cool air suits us admirably. Maybe we should plan a night ride when it’s full moon.

Last night we travelled in a twin berth 1st class sleeper. We don’t usually travel first class but there were no vacancies in 2nd class. Because we are seniors our fare was reduced and the price was very reasonable.

Here we are on Lisbon station ready to conquer the city.

Here we are on Lisbon station ready to conquer the city.

The sheep symbols on the train indicate that it is a ‘train hotel’. At the station there was a tourist information office and after collecting the appropriate maps we put our bikes into touring mode and headed along the shores of the Tagus River to the Praca do Comercio, the main square and the entry to the city.

Along the way, there were things to see so we took our time as we couldn’t check into our hostel until mid afternoon.

An artwork on the end of a warehouse near the foreshores.

An artwork on the end of a warehouse near the foreshores.

Some might say the painting is a jumble of nothing, however the concept of showing how complicated are the inner workings of the human body is of interest. Also it is a marvellous piece of draftsmanship.

One thing that has to be done when riding a bike in a new city is to determine if riding on footpaths is allowed. The first thing to do is watch the locals and then double check by riding on the path in front of the constabulary. If they say nothing we accept that footpath riding is ok. We rode past two policemen riding battery-powered contraptions (Segways) and they said nothing so whenever possible we will be on the footpath.

Car drivers are generally very considerate of bike riders but it’s a worry when a speeding bus or truck passes by within a metre, a little too close for comfort.

If it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for us. I think that a couple of bikes would be better options though.

If it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for us. I think that a couple of bikes would be better options though.

Portugal has been, and still is, a great seafaring nation so it stands to reason there are ships along the foreshores. One of note was the Sagres III, a Portuguese naval training ship.

The Sagres III.

The Sagres III.

Sagres III open for inspection.

Sagres III open for inspection.

The training ship Sagres was built in 1937 in Hamburg Germany. During WW2 it was damaged and captured by American forces and sold to Brazil for $1000 in 1948. In 1962 the Portugal navy purchased the ship in order to replace an older training ship, also named Sagres.

A warship anchored and a lass tuning in near the main square.

A warship anchored and a lass tuning in near the main square.

A postcard image across the bay from Lisbon town. Nuno trindade

A postcard image across the bay from Lisbon town. Nuno trindade

This is one of many post cards produced by www.casadospostais.com   I sent an email requesting the use of this image but at the time of posting Lisbon Part 1 I had not received a reply. When they do I hope it will be positive. If negative I will remove the image.

With time on our hands we decided to do the tourist thing and dwell awhile in the impressive square. Around the periphery of the square there was a proliferation of cafes and one we passed contained two amazing chairs.

A closeup look at the plastic armchairs

A closeup look at the amazing chairs

Some might wonder why I think they are so fantastic.   The amazing thing is they  are plastic. To mould chairs like this the steel moulds used would have been huge. They would have weighed tonnes.   There are ex toolmakers who read this blog and I know they will appreciate the toolmaking involved to produce these chairs. They may look great but they were not particularly comfortable, there was no give in them at all.

Wandering into the centre of Lisbon’s main square, the Price do Comercio, we were confronted by the Triumphal Arch. The arch is at the entrance to the Lisbon commercial district and was built to commemorate the rebuilding of Lisbon after the 1755 Great Earthquake.

The Triumphal Arch at the entrance to the commercial district of Lisbon

The Triumphal Arch at the entrance to the commercial district of Lisbon

On the face of the arch is the Portuguese coat of arms on which Vasco da Gama features. Vasco da Gama, one of the European explorers we all learnt about at school, was a prominent Portuguese explorer who was the first to find a sea route to India. The new route opened the way to Portuguese global imperialism. Prior to the new route being discovered Portuguese traders had to travel via the highly disputed Mediterranean or across the dangerous Arabian Peninsula.

Vasco da Gama’s voyage that changed Portugal’s fortunes.

Vasco da Gama’s voyage that changed Portugal’s fortunes.

In 1970 I visited Mombasa (shown on the map) when travelling with my friend Ian after our overland drive from Colombo to London.  We have fond memories of Mombasa and our hitchhiking experiences from Nairobi.

 Pedestal details on top of the arch.

Pedestal details on top of the arch.

The figure on the top of the Trimphal Arch handing out laurel wreaths is an allegory to Valour and the reclining figures represent the rivers Tagus and Douro. Figures representing two rivers is a stretch of the imagination, maybe it is artist’s licence. The Tagus (Tejo) lies on a geological fault line and in parts is the border between Portugal and Spain. It is the longest river on the Iberian Peninsula. The Douro River is located in the north of Portugal and it flows into the Atlantic Ocean at the town of Porto. It is the third longest river on the Iberian Peninsula after the Tagus and Ebro Rivers.

Laurel wreaths were made from the bay laurel tree (Laurus nobilis), an aromatic broadleaf evergreen. In both ancient Greek and Roman times the wearing of a laurel wreath represented victory or athletic prowess.

The common modern expression ‘resting on one’s laurels,’ refers to a reliance on past victories or long-past successes for continued fame or recognition. My mother used the term in the 1950/60s when I came home with a good school report: ‘you can’t rest on your laurels, you know’. At the backdoor of our home in Australia there is a bay laurel tree growing and Bev often nips out and gets leaves to add to soups or stews.

The Great Earthquake mentioned above destroyed Lisbon. On all Saints day 1755 the quake and the huge tsunami that followed took Lisbonites by surprise. It has since been determined that it was between 8.5 and 9.0 on the Richter scale, which categorises it as devastating. Its epicentre was in the Atlantic about 200 kilometres off Cape St Vincent. It is believed that up to 100 000 people were killed. In the city centre fissures five metres wide opened in the streets and a huge tsunami enveloped the city. The giant wave raced up the Tagus River and people along the river on horseback galloped ahead of the wave to avoid being struck down. Prior to the tsunami entering the city the sea along the foreshore receded, exposing lost cargo and shipwrecks.  No doubt many people went to witness the event which was their undoing: wrong place at the wrong time.

The foreshore in front of the main square where the lost cargo and shipwrecks lay.

The foreshore in front of the main square where the lost cargo and shipwrecks lay.

In December 2004 Bev and I experienced the effects of a tsunami wave. At the time we were on a sea kayaking expedition off the south coast of Tasmania when in the early hours of the morning a wave emanating from the Indonesian earthquake swept down the Indian Ocean and across the Great Australian Bight to the very place we were camped on the remote coast of Tasmania. The sea receded and then a wave swept up the beach. Fortunately we were camped well above the high tide mark and we suffered no ill effects. The only inconvenience was we had to stay put for three days as the sea was very unsettled and we didn’t know if a larger wave was coming. We knew the tsunami was heading down the Indian Ocean as I was tuned into the BBC on a shortwave radio. Fortunately our kayaks were tied up and they were not sucked out to sea.

To date during all our travels we have fortunately not been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but one does wonder.

Having a lobster breakfast on the beach near where we were camped when the Indonesian tsunami struck the shore of southwest Tasmania.

Having a lobster breakfast on the beach near where we were camped when the Indonesian tsunami struck the shore of southwest Tasmania.

Map showing the epicentre of the 2004 earhquake off Sumatra.

Map showing the epicentre of the 2004 earhquake off Sumatra.

It is hard to believe that the tsunami travelled thousands of kilometres from its epicentre to where we were camped on the west coast of Tasmania. The wave travelled around to the east coast to Hobart (the capital of the state of Tasmania) and lifted dinghies sitting on jetties there.

Soon after the 1755 tsunami struck Lisbon the Portuguese Army was deployed to erect gallows around the city in an attempt to deter would-be looters. Over thirty looters were publicly hanged. To reduce the chances of disease ordinary citizens were forced to gather the thousands of corpses and load them onto barges then the bodies were taken offshore and given sea burials.

A copperplate engraving showing persons being hanged after the Lisbon earthquake.  Image in the public domain, transferred from Wikipedia.

A copperplate engraving showing persons being hanged after the Lisbon earthquake. Image in the public domain, transferred from Wikipedia.

King Peter IV was the ruler of Portugal at the time of the earthquake and fortunately for him and his family they survived. On the morning of the earthquake the royal family had attended a sunrise mass and afterwards they retired to the country for a holiday. After the earthquake Pedro developed severe claustrophobia and would not enter buildings. Court was held in pavilions and tents until his death.

Another impressive monument in the Placa do Comercio is the Equestrian. It commemorates the life of King Jose I the Reformer (1714-1777).

Equestrian monument dedicated to King Jose I.

Equestrian monument dedicated to King Jose I.

The beauty of the Equestrian Monument is in the detail.  Under the horse’s eye there is even a vein.

The beauty of the Equestrian Monument is in the detail. Under the horse’s eye there is even a vein.

Leaving the main square we rode through a most impressive colonnade then out through the Triumphal Arch into the narrow lanes of suburban Lisbon.

We felt rather regal riding through this colonnade.

We felt rather regal riding through this colonnade.

We came upon another impressive monument, the Dom Pedro IV column, in a square of the same name, also called Rossio Square.  Rossio Square has been the meeting place for visitors and locals since the Middle Ages (5thto15th centuries) and the place of common revolt, bullfights, demonstrations and executions. The Pedro IV Column was rebuilt in the second half of the 18th century. Around the base of the column are four statues and they represent Wisdom, Justice, Strength and Moderation, four positive attributes Pedro IV adhered to.

Dom Pedro IV Square.

Dom Pedro IV Square.

Note that the column in the above photograph is leaning. In real life this is not the case. The reason for the lean is because the film plane of the camera was not held vertically. To avoid this problem, that’s if it is considered a problem, the camera zoom lens setting should be set to wide angle and the camera held as close to the vertical as possible.

Once into suburbia it was an uphill ride for about three kilometres to Lisbon Gambori Hostel.

A typical narrow way in Lisbon.

A typical narrow way in Lisbon.

It is easy to understand why we ride on the footpaths in Lisbon, we do not fancy having an intimate relationship with a tram or introducing ourselves to the cow-catcher on the front.

The bicycle association of Lisbon has published a list of do’s and don’ts for visiting cyclists. One of the do’s is ‘cross tram tracks at right angles’, a good suggestion when you think of the consequences if a cyclist gets a tyre stuck in a tram track groove and a tram is fast approaching.

The first tram in Lisbon came into service in 1873 and was pulled by a horse. In 1901 electric trams came to the fore and were used extensively up until 1959. Once the Lisbon underground began operating the use of trams went into decline. However there are places where the underground cannot service so a limited number of trams are still in service, much to the pleasure of nostalgic locals and visiting tourists.

One thing that immediately struck me when riding the footpaths in Lisbon was how smooth they were. They are so smooth that they can be slippery under foot even when dry. The following images show the smooth pedestrian paths.

Footpaths in Lisbon are made using marble setts (squared blocks).

Footpaths in Lisbon are made using marble setts (squared blocks).

Sett pavements like the ones above are erroneously sometimes called cobblestones; cobblestones are worn river stones. The Lisbon setts have been polished smooth as a result of trillions of shoe soles shuffling over them. The setts are small and I think small ones have been used because they are easy to take up in the event of workers wanting to gain access to pipelines under paths and  also, small setts move up and down without cracking if there is path movement caused by expanding tree roots, for example.

25 shiny footpath

It is not often one is drawn to caressing a footpath.

A raw unpolished sett measuring about 65mm x 65mm

A raw unpolished sett measuring about 65mm x 65mm.

The footpath, outside the hostel where we are staying.  Bev riding the footpath.

The footpath, outside the hostel where we are staying. Bev riding the footpath.

These setts are not as smooth as the footpath setts because they are in a low pedestrian traffic area, maybe in a hundred years they will be smooth.  The curved pattern creates an illusion that the path is raised in the middle.

These setts are not as smooth as the footpath setts because they are in a low pedestrian traffic area, maybe in a hundred years they will be smooth. The curved pattern creates an illusion that the path is raised in the middle.

After many distractions, looking at ‘things’ we made it to the Lisbon Gambori hostel. We were met at the door by Binod, a native from Nepal who has been living in Lisbon for three months. He insisted on carrying our bikes up the one floor to our lodgings saying as he went, ’In Nepal we respect old people and I am strong’.   The hostel suits us fine as we have a double bed, access to a kitchen and a balcony with tables and chairs. The view from the rear balcony is of interest as it joins the rear of adjoining apartments.

The view from the rear of the balcony.

The view from the rear of the balcony.

Some might say the view is not all that interesting but I find the juxtaposition of the fire escape stairs and the shadows thrown on the walls fascinating. Another interesting aspect was the small grassed courtyard where kids played and what appeared to be a vegetable garden.

Breakfast on the balcony.

Breakfast on the balcony.

That’s the end of another post. The next post will take you out and about Lisbon showing you the wonderful centuries-old tile-covered buildings and take you for a ride west along the foreshores.   We hope you ride along with us.   Following is an example of the beautiful tile covered buildings.

Attractive tiled façade of a Lisbon building.

Attractive tiled façade of a Lisbon building.

Beautiful glazed bas relief wall tile.

Beautiful glazed bas relief wall tile.

A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the bonds of routine and renews his life through travelling to new places and making new friends.

This is what we have done by visiting Portugal.

 

 

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About tbeartravels

It's been said that I know a little bit about a lot of things and a lot about little things. I hope I can share some of this knowledge with you as we travel.
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