Monday, August 10, 2009

Estoril - Day 2

April 12, 2008 - Saturday

We slept in this morning and had a very late (0900 hours) breakfast at the huge buffet of this hotel: fruit, sausages, pancakes, crêpes, juices, breads, eggs, each in twelve different variations.
At 1030 hours we were picked up by our tourguide, a Hamburg lady who's been living in Portugal for 46 years.
We got in the little blue bus that would take us around the city. My first impression was confirmed as we got to see more of it. Lisbon is the sloppiest city I've ever seen.
I was reminded of Russia and Stettin as we drove around. For one, the Lisbon drivers have no sense of order whatsoever. They're not crazy, like in Los Angeles, just sloppy. The whole place is sloppy. They park wherever they want to. If there's space left for one car to get through, they'll deposit their vehicle behind other cars, along narrow cobbled streets, in the smack dab middle of an open space or on the edge of exits from main roads and highways. Who cares?
There's precisely one section of the city that's respectable, and that's the new Oriente section. It's modern, built on a water theme, pretty clean and fancy with lots of concrete and glass and color. But the rest...
We drove through most of the city and only stopped and got out of the bus at a few spots. So most of my photos were taken through a window while moving. Keep that in mind when you check them out.
As I was saying, about the rest of the city. It's not greatness fallen into disrepair, like in Russia. It's not beauty abused by a self-righteous victor like Stettin. It's just plain poverty.
Lisbon was almost completely destroyed in the huge earthquake in the 18th century. The only building to survive was the Cathedral of the Virgin of Bethlehem. (There's a section of Lisbon called Belém, from Bethlehem, right along the river.) We made that cathedral our last stop and got to go into it. It's built on the water and seafaring theme, with carved ropes around arches and as pillars and blue tones in the windows.
When Lisbon was levelled, it was rebuilt in the style of the times, the Jugendstil. I don't know the translation. Houses with tile facades and some stone carvings, but most of the rich artwork of the city was gone.
Now, the city is composed of cobbled streets and tall, dirty buildings in various stages of disrepair. Everything, and I mean everything is cracked and broken. Our guide said that the rents haven't gone up since 1910, when the monarchy was replaced by a "republic." Of course that means that house owners have no money for the upkeep of the buildings. If the buildings are built by foreigners, they don't pay for anything at all. They wait until the building collapses on itself so they can put a new construction on the site.
We visited the Castle of St. George first thing, after making our way through the crazy traffic and bumpy one-way streets. It's nothing but a ruin now. They've put some restaurants in there, but that's about it. It overlooks the river and the city, though, and is a nice spot to visit.
Now this is written a bit out of order, but you can check out the photos. Those tell a clearer story anyway.

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