Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Portugal Day 1: Getting Lost and Finding Things

Olá Portugal! I arrived in Lisbon around noon yesterday after getting up way to early, feeling very Indiana Jones-ish while flying on a prop plane, then a proper plane for the second leg of my travels but seemingly the world's worst seat - did you know that the last row doesn't have any windows, so you can't see anything and you have no idea when the plane actuall lands?! - and a slight delay. 

Those who already read my travelogues from Vienna last year will already know that the first day in a new city for me is about discovering said city without much actual sightseeing. I like to get "lost". Not in a I-don't-know-where-I-am kind of way but I like to just wander around, take the road next to where all the tourists are, get a feel for the place I visit, the people, and so on. If time allows, I only start with the touristy stuff on the second day.
Naturally I started discovering Lisbon in the area I am staying at, the Bairro Alto. Here the Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara offers some great views over the other well-known areas of the Portuguese capital. Unfortunately, the weather was a bit grey after I arrived - yes, I do seem I take the bad weather with me everywhere I go - but luckily it cleared up soon after.
The lovely views include a great sneak peek at the Castelo de São Jorge, which I will make sure to discover a little more closely on one of the coming days.
At the Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara, there was also a bit of a street festival going on. Not sure what it was about but I assume it had to do with the feast day of São Antonio, the patron saint of Lisbon, celebrated on June 12.
One of the sights I did visit and also saw from the interior was the Igreja de São Roque. The Baroque Jesuit church was built between 1506 and 1619 - and at the time considered the most expensive chapel in all of Europe.
Visiting the church, there's no questioning why it was considered the most expensive church in Europe. There is a lot of gold! And a quite dark ceiling painting with a seemingly botched perspective, I think.
Luckily, there also was something more light for my ceiling-loving heart. The church features a number of chapels with differing decorations though gold is to be found everywhere.
The Chapel of Saint John the Baptist is the richest and most beautiful of them all. Fun fact: It was commissioned by King Joao V and built in Rome between 1742 and 1747. Its first mass was celebrated by Pope Benedict XIV - then it was disassembled, put on three ships and brought to Lisbon. Quite a journey for a chapel!
And then my urge to stop at every second building to take a picture started. Seriously, I'm already in love with the azulejos, the traditional Portuguese tiles. They are everywhere! On the exterior of buildings, the interior of buildings, on walls, on floors, on ceilings.
I will spare you with approximately 3,000 pictures of azulejos I took but maybe I will do an extra post on my favourite ones after I return home from Portugal? Let me know, if you would be interested. So instead of tiles, we will continue with the Câmara Municipal de Lisboa or town hall...
...and the Praça do Comércio. One of the most famous squares of Lisbon, it was built after the 1755 earthquake, which was followed by a tsunami and fires, that destroyed much of the city. It is still commonly known as the Terreiro do Paço (palace yard) as the area used to be occupied by the Ribeira Palace.
In the middle of the Praça do Comércio there is a a statue of King José I of Portugal. Interestingly, the aforementioned earthquake made him suffer from an extreme form of claustrophopia and he was never again comfortable living in closed rooms. Thus, he set up an extensive complex of tents in the hills nearby.
Apart from the statue, the Arco da Rua Augusta dominates the square. It was built to commemorate the city's reconstruction after the 1755 earthquake and  is adorned with statues of various historical figures including Vasco da Gama, who found the ocean route to India from Europe.
And a quick life lession: Always remember to look up in life - even under triumphal arcs cause they don't tend to be just pretty from the front, back and top.
Though I find the back of this one, leading into the Rua Augusta, particularly pretty. It also offers another great glimpse at the Praça do Comércio.
And then it was time for another church, the Igreja de São Nicolau. I can't tell you much about it apart from the fact that, I assume, it is a Baroque one and that it has a stunning ceiling, which represents the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.
After a few more buildings with azulejos came another one of the famous squares of Lisbon, the Praça de Dom Pedro IV, more commonly known as Rossio. King Pedro IV is also the one who is standing on the column - well, not him personally but you get what I mean - though the most famous feature of the Rossio is probably the wave-patterned stone paving. And by the way, cobblestones laid in interesting ornaments are to be found all over Lisbon, not just the famous places!
Then just having about five hours of sleep the previous night caught up on me and I needed a break. After an hour or two though I thought that this couldn't have been all for my first day in Lisbon - and so I snuck another view from the Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara, but I was on the wrong side to see the sun set.


Originally located on seven hills - today it's probably a few more - Lisbon is never short of good viewpoints though. And off I was to the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte for sunset, the best spot to do so I've been told.
And it did not disappoint! From right: the Castelo de São Jorge, the Christo Rei, a statue inspired by Rio's Christ de Redeemer, and the Ponte 25 de Abril. It's name commemorates the Carnation Revolution that overthrew the regime of the Estado Novo and Dictator Salazar.
A better view of the Castelo de São Jorge - I can already tell you that the next post will contain maaany, maaany pictures of the castle as I visited today!
Do you remember that I told you azulejos are everywhere? Here's another example! All the different miradouros (viewpoints) have plans made of tiles showing the most important sights to be seen below.
Talking so much about sunsets, here's the actual one though the sun sets a bit to the west of all the sights so there's not much I can tell you about any of the buildings seen in the pictures (not that there is much to make out in the picture above).
The Miradouro da Senhora do Monte is located in front of a little church of Nossa Senhora do Monte. On an old wall next to the church, some tiles remember what Portugal is: A country of discoverers and emigrants: Boa viagem. Lisboa espera por ti - Good voyage. Lisbon awaits you.
Then I had to get back to the other hill I'm staying on. As I was a little bit lazy, I decided to take the Elevador de Santa Justa. Of Neo-Gothic style, the elevator was constructed between 1900 and 1902 to connect the lower streets of Baixa was the higher Largo do Como.
In addition to being a pretty thing itself, it also offered great views over Lisbon at night. Behind, once again, the Castelo de São Jorge as well as the Igreja de Graça to its left, I believe. And with that, I leave you for today - have a good night (or morning, or afternoon, or evening depending on where you are)!

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