09 April 2009


Arrived in the Portuguese capital from Porto and unlike my time there, Lisbon has been less about contemporary architecture and more about its historic places.

The area of the city called Alfama has so far been my favourite; this humble neighbourhood was once the most desirable quarter and heart of Moorish Lisbon. However, except for the kasbah-like layout and a fortified castle at its top there isn’t much left of that period of its history. A panel of azulejos depicting the Christians attacking the Moors at the Castelo de Sao Jorge to recapture Alfama and Lisbon. A walk around the maze of winding streets reveals some amazingly picturesque corners and panoramic views of the surrounding city and its waters.

In complete contrast to the tight and winding streets of Alfama is the other important part of the city – Baixa.
This area of gridded streets was created as an entirely new centre by Sebastiao Jose De Carvalho e Melo (who was later given the title – ‘Marques de Pombal’) after the 1755 earthquake devastated more than half of Lisbon. Statue of Marques de Pombal along Avenida da Liberdade
Praca do Comercio as seen thru the triumphal arch
Till date this event plays a crucial part in the psyche of the city; it is still possible to see reminders of that fateful day.
A panel of azulejos depicting pre-earthquake Praca do Comercio.
Take a ride up the famous Elevator de Santa Justa (above photo) to see the most prominent ruin of the earthquake – Igreja do Carmo (above the elevator in the photo below)
The aerial photo below clearly show Pombal’s innovative grid system superimposed on to the city’s landscape (Baixa roughly outlined).

The part of Lisbon that’s probably most important as far as the History of the world is concerned is surely – Belem. It is from here that all the great discoverers of Portugal set off thus propelling the country into its golden age with colonies across the globe.
Here I visited the famous Mosteiro dos Jeronimos which was financed by ‘pepper money’ after Vasco da Gama’s return from his historic voyage to India. It is in here that they made a tomb (above photo) for the great navigator in the 19th century.
Today the monument to the discoveries stands at the very spot from where he set-off;
The monument of the discoveries - lead by Henry the navigator, followed by Afonso V (patron of the first explorers) and Vasco da Gama.
Since I was born in Calicut (the city in India where he landed on his first trip) I felt a strange sense of connection to this place.
The other important sight here is Torre de Belem, this tower was built as a fortress in the middle of the Tagus River and marked the starting point of many a great voyages. Due to land reclamation over the years the tower is now hardly 50 meters away from the bank.

1 comment:

Lisbon Apartments said...

You really captured the essence of this city, both with your photos and the corresponding comments.

Alfama truly is the heart and soul of Lisbon, I can get lost in its maze of winding streets and small alleys for hours, but love every minute of it!

Did you see any Fado while you were there? Or go to any good restaurants in Alfama that you can recommend to your readers? There are so many!

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