Friday, June 29, 2012

Lisbon, Portugal - May 15, 2012

Lisbon, Europe's westernmost major city, is the capital of Portugal and the greater Lisbon area is home to nearly 3 million people - more than 25% of the entire population of the country. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, predating other European capitals including London, Paris and Rome by hundreds of years. From the 5th century CE, after the Romans had faded away, the area was controlled by a series of Germanic tribes until it was captured by the Moors in the eighth century. In 1147, the Crusaders under Afonso Henriques reconquered the city since then it has been the de facto political, economic, and cultural centre of Portugal. Most of the important Portuguese expeditions during the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries left from Lisbon. The 16th century was Lisbon's zenith, the European hub of commerce between Africa, India, the Far East and, later, Brazil, Lisbon acquired great riches exploiting the trade in spices, slaves, sugar and textiles and it was during this period that the two World Heritage Sites, the Belem Tower and the Jerónimos Monastery were built. Late in the 16th century, Portugal fell into the hands of the Spanish where it remained for sixty years until a coup restored its independence in 1640. Lisbon has been prone to earthquakes and suffered almost 20 significant temblors from the 14th to 17th centuries. The "Big One" in 1755 damaged 85% of the structures and killed 30 to 40,000 people - 15% to 20% of the city's population. Subsequent to this catastrophe the city was rebuilt slightly to the west on a flat area along the lines of modern urban design with rectangular street layout and two large open space squares. The old town did survive and today is known as Alfama.
We had visited Lisbon several years ago and took a brief tour of items that were in maintenance at that time and also reprised parts of Alfama, the most interesting part of the city. The visit around the town is detailed here and the journey up the river Targus on our arrival is here.

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