Lisbon: Cobblestone and Exploration

May I just tell you – this ship is cold. I mean, you know something’s wrong when you walk outside and it’s warmer than inside. And it’s almost empty, no such urge for AC! We need to do something about it.
Meanwhile, Lisbon is gorgeous.


Day 1
Started the day before yesterday in a Museum of Fado. We walked around and then just sat there listening to their fado collection for about an hour.
“The melodies of fado resonate with the beating of your heart. They make your body vanish, leaving only the soft, touching melancholy that gets straight into your chest, making it hard to breathe. There’s a machine in the fado museum, one artist – one song. They are so sad, these songs, and so out-of-this-worldly beautiful. They won’t let you go.
This sadness is your sadness; this pain is your pain. It shouldn’t be; it shouldn’t be you, it shouldn’t be in you. Yet it is. I just wish I knew the language and could sing along.
This music, it makes you dream. Crave for the beautiful visions of never-to-be, dangerous, tempting visions. I can’t leave my seat, I keep going from one song to another, and then to another. Silence almost hurts. I wonder how it must feel after a live fado concert, when the fairytale is over, and Neverland suddenly slips away.
I have to know now.” – from the diary
We didn’t make it to any of the fado places (and there were many) that day, unfortunately. We walked around Alfama, the old part of the city; me, Kathy and Stephanie. Getting into this church on the top of the hill with a wheelchair, and then going down the hill… Old city of Lisbon is definitely not meant for wheelchairs, or anything on the wheels, or anyone who finds it difficult to climb. It was quite a challenge, but we made it. On our way to the church we had an amazing lunch with melons and ham and paella, and mango shakes followed by delicious ice-cream from a nearby cafe. It was a good lunch. Little pleasures in life. If you don’t treat yourself every once in a while, it’s so easy to get sad in this world.
In the evening we rode a bus to that other district that was supposed to have lights and pastries – we did find the yummy local pastries, followed by some porto, but alas, there were no lights. Now the way back to the ship was much trickier: we got on the wrong bus, had to go back, the driver told us to get off at the wrong stop, we had to catch a tram (and get a wheelchair onto this narrow yellow Lisbon tram), and then walk and walk and walk. So in the end everyone was too exhausted to look for the fado places, and ended up at a snack bar at the ship’s piano lounge. But – at least home.
***
Day 2, the yesterday, I went off on my own. Started with the Saturday flea market, which was big and messy and boring, just like that one in Vienna last year. Yeah yeah, nothing like Portobello! Or that awesome vintage store in Dublin. I like vintage markets, for no reason at all. These little items that have history. Clothes that no one makes anymore, of fabrics and styles and patterns long-forgotten. Dusty books smelling of wet paper and time. Tarnished pieces of jewelry with stones lost and chains torn. I walk among them, touch them, breathe them in. I belong somewhere among them, in the cabinet of curiosities.
The market spread behind an old monastery, so in I went, discovering the dungeon where the monks used to stock rainwater, and the well into the dungeon, and beautifully painted blue-on-white tile ornaments, and a bunch of observation decks. The highest was by the bell-tower, and I could see the coast, and the Golden Gate bridge’s sister, and that brother statue of Christ from Rio. And our MV Explorer in the middle of the sparkling waters. It’s a very graceful ship, white top, blue bottom, just like Portuguese tiles, and moderately sized, unlike these huge ugly cruise liners.
The view on the old city was breathtaking, but it was also clear that the monastery wasn’t the highest viewpoint. There was a castle on the top of the hill seen in the distance, and I decided to go there. My footsteps echoed in the monastery’s corridors, and I tried to sing a simple tune to see how it works. Turned out that no matter what you sing, the acoustics would make it sound deep, spiritual, and generally awesome.
Finding the castle that seemed so close turned out to be a challenge. The streets of this city followed no logic. There would be dead ends and ups and downs and rough slippery cobblestone, and crazy trams rushing along the narrow streets. At last I got to the bottom of the hill, but the passage was blocked. The guard was explaining some guy how to get to the entrance, and when he finished, he told me to join the guy.
The guy turned out to be from Moscow, in Lisbon for an IT event. We ended up exploring the castle and going down to a fair at one of the squares for lunch. Met Kathy on our way, got a bunch of meat plates and some white wine, and then the rain started. I mean, it’a been pouring both days – five minutes of rain, an hour of sun – but that one was no rain, ’twas a freaking waterfall. We sneaky Russians arranged the sun umbrellas in the way that they shielded us from the rain (as the only seats available were open-air ones), but then the rain got an angle. The moisture filled the air; we had our hair covered in tiny drops, like spider webs; we could see the rain surrounding us, it was physical, we were breathing it in. The owners of the food stands kept pulling their roofs with sticks and brooms, sending the streams of water down to the ground. We were laughing at being soaked and sitting there in the middle of the rain, and eating ham and cheese and drinking wine. At last, when there wasn’t a dry spot on any of us, the rain stopped.
We said goodbye to Kathy who was heading back to the ship and made our way to this Gubenkian museum to see the impressionists. There turned out to be very few, but an awesome exhibition of Rene Lalique’s art nouveau jewelry made up for it all.
We returned to the historic center and kept walking. Saw a ridiculous tram line of 300-400 meters down the hill, 3.60 euros per ride. And there was a line to get on! Well.
Lisbon was interesting, very interesting, and much bigger than it seemed at first glance. And the humidity was just divine (I know, crazy me). I missed that kind of Europe, Spain and Mallorca, where I’ve been what – 10 and 5 years ago? I missed the palm trees and the cobblestone, and these Catholic churches of the south. And the food for sure!
Okay. Time for bed. Arriving to Cadiz tomorrow morning. I ended up staying on the ship because I felt exhausted – and slept till 12 today. The ship is relaxed and quiet, most of the people are overlanding, and it’s good to have some quiet time.
The skies are starry again this night.

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