Long time no hear! The Lifecorrespondent is finally back on the plane and willing to share the thoughts of her latest expedition to Lisbon.
This time I decided to go for full surprise. No travel books, pre-travel language learning, not even ideas of where to go. I gave myself the freedom to get lost. And oh, I did. Countless of times. And with no shame at all. Honestly, this might even be the best way to explore Lisbon and reveal what that city is truly about.
My first observation was that Lisbon has a power to absorb a scent of nearly every continent on the globe. It has a place for Brazil where the exotic brother of Christ the King is guarding. Namely, the monument of Jesus Christ here in Lisbon is an imitation of the one in Rio de Janeiro. Under the holy feet I close my eyes and secretly dream of taking off to Brazil. But when I open them again I might as well just think my dreams got me to San Francisco.
Right in front of me is a busy bridge looking interestingly similar to the Golden Gate Bridge which should be behind the ocean. Yet here it is. Well, that must be another clever trick of the Portuguese to make me want to go to the U.S. instead. 25th of April Bridge, a tiny bit of San Francisco, is in fact simply constructed by the same company.
Once I´ve crossed the bridge I feel the smell of even more foreigners. It´s the Arabs. They´ve had such a strong impact on Portugal that one can still perceive it today. I´m surrounded by buildings covered with spectacular patterns. Each house has its own kind of coat. The walls are covered with neatly placed tiles (Portuguese Azulejo), combining astonishing pieces of art. It feels like getting lost in an art gallery (which Lisbon has plenty!) even though I´m just on a random street. This centuries-old gift from the Arabs actually has a practical mission to fight against humidity and heat: two deadly warriors of the summertime.
All suddenly a sweet, sweet aroma comes out of a house. Irresistible. I follow my compass of senses and then we meet: me and Pastel de Nata. She, profoundly Portuguese, is a nice round-shaped pastry with egg yolk cream. I press my teeth into this soft delight and a silky cream fills my mouth. For this treat the monks should be praised who, after using egg whites for starching their clothes, didn´t want to through away the yolks. Amen, this tastes good.
After a delicious bite I step on a tram that looks old enough to be the father of all trams. Taking a ride with it has become an amusing sightseeing for foreigners but also serves the needs of the true inhabitants of Lisbon. Famous line number 28 takes me close to Alfama– Lisbon old town. It´s time to take out my compass again as something exceptionally beautiful reaches my ears. On narrow stone path under yellow lights I keep on searching the source of the sound. Finally, I see three musicians: a man holding a Portuguese guitar, another one playing the classical one and a woman standing next to them with an emotional expression on her face and passion pressing out from her soul. They´re playing fado– Portuguese music genre. It´s gloomy but alluring and even without understanding a word it all makes sense.
(Image: evening vibes with a glass of Portuguese port wine in Alfama)
With the sound of fado in my head I think back of the pleasurable time in Lisbon that is just about to end. Funnily, my stay here started with the beginning of the Year of the Rooster (2017 in Chinese culture), a creature that at the same time is the Portuguese symbol of luck. Hopefully, that means the fulfillment of all of those daydreams I had here. Lisbon is an expert of creating them and gives one inspiration for future travels. Perhaps that is the magical power of this place- to inspire people to set off for a journey. That would explain the Portuguese origin of one of the biggest explorers of all times- Vasco da Gama. Yes, Lisbon indeed is the city that gives you the urge to travel.