Sunday, September 14, 2008

May 18th, 2008 - Lisbon, one of several

This is a tricky place to visit since there are four or five "Lisbons", each with a distinct character, architecture and personality. Situated on the north bank of the river Targus, about ten miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, Lisbon is the westernmost European Capital that, including suburbia, is home to around 2 million Portugese. The major campsite for Lisbon is a about ten miles away from the gawking areas and thus a bus ride into town was required.
The oldest part of town is built on a hill around the Moorish
Castelo Soa Jorge and is known as Alfama. In 1755 a monster earthquake flattened large areas of the city, and Alfama, that had previously been the "in" place to live, was quickly deserted by the "haves" and left to the fishermen, hookers and small shopkeepers - the "have nots". Enough of Alfama survived however, to perpetuate a Casbah ambience based on its Moorish roots. The castle has been reduced to a walled park. We trolled around Alfama quite extensively. To the west of Alfama is a small valley that runs several miles north into the hills and to the west of that is another hill. The earthquake devastated most structures in the low lying area and the Marquês de Pombal decreed an earthquake proof reconstruction of wide boulevards and a rigid grid like layout. This area is known as Baixa and Avenida and, apart from a large square half a mile inland and an impressive area by the waterfront, is pretty ho-hum. One ostentatious oddity is an elevator that transports its riders from the Baixa level up to the hill on the west side. Now there's a novel way to use up surplus revenues.
The western hill is home to "another Lisbon", this one comprising the areas of Bairro Alto and Estrella both of which were likewise reconstructed in a grid pattern following the earthquake. Finally, on the river five miles or so to the west of original Lisbon, is yet another "Lisbon", this one known as Belem. As maritime trade grew over the centuries, the original port area around Alfama and Baixa proved inadequate and the facilities were gradually relocated to Belem, taking with them many merchants and other wealthy families to build a grand upscale community. To see more sights around the area, click here.

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