City on Seven Hills

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Unlike any other port we have visited on this cruise, something quite distinct greeted us as we sailed up the Tago River into Lisbon. Approaching the impressive hanging bridge. almost identical to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge spanning across the wide waterway, my ears picked up a monotonous hum that intensified as we drew closer. I thought a giant mosquito was buzzing in my ear as we sailed under the red steel structure, cars, buses, trucks and trains zooming above our heads, the obvious cause of this roaring welcome concerto. Sprawling mansions, basilica domes, church steeples and a sea of red roofed, white washed houses beckoned as we hurried off the ship and into one of the red double decker buses outside the port gate. From the open deck the view of Portugal’s capital city, built on seven hills like Rome, evoked feelings of a Van Gough painting. Dreamy and luminous; hued in a golden glow. Crossing the impressive Square of Commerce, at least double the size of Vienna’s Heldenplatz I reckoned, we got off in the Alfama district, one of Lisbon’s oldest and charming areas. This district became the home of Arab Muslims after Catholic King Alfonso I ended the Moors reign and established Lisbon as his capital city, heralding a period of growing power and influence through the 15th and 16th century. Today, the Alfama district is considered the safest in town, boasting restaurants, bars and a vibrant nightlife scene. It is also the birthplace of FADO, Lisbon’s traditional musical genre. After snapping pictures of the yellow vintage tram thundering past, we strolled through narrow cobblestone streets, admiring Moorish-style buildings, their bright colors and iron balconies alluring. As we sipped coffee at the panoramic café skirting the Colina Del Castillo, the St. George’s castle hill, we soaked up a spectacular view of the city’s contrasts brimming with multicultural architecture and history. Dating back to ancient times, Portugal was a Phoenician colony until 205 BC before the Romans made it part of their empire. After the Visigoths took control, the Moors conquered the land which set the foundation of Lischbuna, the present day Lisbon. From the ancient we entered the modern as we cruised down tree lined boulevards, their luxurious shops and French cafés evoking feelings of the Paris Champs Elysee. Driving past the presidential palace, contemporary buildings and glass towers, I was quite shocked to learn that a big earthquake in 1755 almost destroyed the entire city, causing the death of more than 40,000 people. Today, nothing of that disaster is evident in this city of commerce and culture, the host of the 1998 World Exhibition and home to Oceandrio, the largest aquarium in Europe and the second biggest in the world. With so much history and places to explore, I vowed to myself to come back soon. As we stood on our balcony we said goodbye to Lisbon as we sailed past the Belem tower, a blend of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Moorish influences, marking Vasco Da Gama historic journey to the Indies.

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3 responses »

  1. What a lovely Lisbon piece. I have so many of the same photos in my collection (or nearly as good). I started off with you in Sri Lanka but saw Portugal in your categories and was compelled to take a peak. Lovely work. Many thanks for following me. Sounds like a nice life you have.

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