After a short week in Lisbon, we can make a few observations:
First of all, it’s obvious that we are now in a Latin country, with all the positive and negative connotations that such a blanket statement implies. The most attractive thing to us so far is that, while the city has made some concessions to tourism, tourist traps do not dominate; the city is still a city for its own people, with all the messiness that such a situation implies. The buildings are often in various states of dilapidation, but are still often inhabited; one will be beautifully restored next to a completely derelict-looking building. There is a sense of a bit of romantic decay everywhere, a distinctly different aesthetic than in Vienna or other Northern European cities. Perhaps we sense this now because we have an apartment in the Bairro Alto, the old working class part of town. There are no supermarkets here, just tiny little shops for meat, fruit, vegetables, tea, pastries, coffee, and anything else you might need, but not much variety, and lots of the so-called ”necessities” missing. But these shopkeepers are part of the community, and are the eyes of the street, too. There is no recycling bin, or even a garbage bin. We take the garbage bag out every night and leave it by the side of the house, and someone comes and picks it up every morning! The streetcar runs right up our little narrow street; it comes pretty often, but is never really on time, and sometimes you have to wait 20 or 30 minutes, and then 3 of them will come all at once.
The pace of life is definitely Latin–very casual, nothing rushed. Lots of noises in the neighborhood: dogs barking, music of all sorts coming out of the windows, boisterous singing on the street when the bars close, conversations overheard through the wall in the next apartment, the people above moving furniture around. But people do seem to be respectful of others after 10 at night or so, and people are friendly to each other. In this neighborhood, not everyone speaks English, and they will go to great lengths to correct one’s feeble attempts at speaking Portuguese–it may look a bit like Spanish, but it is pronounced completely differently!
And my God, is Lisbon hilly! I am happy to say that while my legs and knees ache a lot, I have been able to make some pretty steep climbs, but I wouldn’t want to be an old person with limited mobility here. But every turn reveals something new, some glorious architectural wonder, or poetic moment.
Just some of my thoughts about Lisbon at this point in our stay.