Portugal had won the European Soccer Cup the day before we arrived in Lisbon, so there were lots of happy people everywhere! Statues and monuments were draped with flags and scarves in the national colors. It was festive and fun!
Our hotel was an interesting place named Hotel Casa de Saõ Mamede. We were given an old skeleton key to unlock our room 101. For extra security, there was a chain slide-bolt inside the room. It is a small, old (1758), and charming hotel with a rather long history of Saint Mamede posted on a plaque. In brief: he was a very young shepard back in the year 275, who liked to preach to the wild animals. He had a lion that followed him around, and pictures of Saint Mamede always show him with a lion at his side. According to the plaque, “He was imprisoned, thrown to wild animals, cast into a furnace (from which he came out unharmed) and disemboweled with a trident for not denying his faith.” After reading that, Mike and I weren’t sure if we’d be able to sleep, but the bed was exceedingly comfortable and we slept like logs every night.
Lisbon is beautifully situated at the mouth of the Tagus River, the longest river (645 miles) on the Iberian Peninsula. There is always a sea breeze. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the city was the wealthy center of a vast empire that financed the explorations of Vasco da Gama, among many others. Two UNESCO World Heritage Sites demonstrate the prosperity of that time: the Jerónimos Monastery and the Tower of Belém. These magnificent structures survived the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. In combination with fires and a tsunami, this earthquake almost totally destroyed Lisbon. Seismologists today estimate the Lisbon earthquake had a magnitude of 8.5 - 9.0 (moment magnitude scale). Portugal established a lasting democracy in 1976 and joined the EU in 1986. These days, Lisbon is thriving as a European city of finance, commerce, art and tourism. We ate lots of fish varieties during our stay, and enjoyed listening to fado, the mournful, longing folk music of Portugal.
Mike and I were able to see Lisbon from several viewpoints: the top of a sightseeing bus, a boat on the Tagus River, and on foot (our favorite way to see a city). Our long walks left us with vivid memories of Lisbon’s architecture, hills and lovely sidewalks. Portuguese pavement is a mosaic-like stone craft that requires art, skill, and long, arduous work to create. One day, we hiked along these sidewalks up through Lisbon’s oldest barrio, Alfama, to an 11th century castle. Great views of Lisbon. On the way back, we grew tired and popped into Lisbon Cathedral to rest. The church organist happened to be practicing and we stayed to hear Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring echo through the vaults. The construction on this cathedral began in 1147. It was rebuilt and modified several times after surviving many earthquakes. During the earthquake of 1755, the roof collapsed on hundreds of people packed inside to celebrate the feast of All Saints. This was not the most beautiful cathedral we ever visited, but Mike and I will always remember it because of the lovely music we heard there.