Lisbon: 12 things you did not know yet
Lisbon is a paradise that more and more tourists can find. Tucked away in a remote corner of southern Europe, the Portuguese capital offers everything you're looking for in the summer: sun, terraces, culture and nice people. Ten things you did not know about this pearl on the Atlantic.
Portugal is twice the size of the Netherlands but has 7 million fewer inhabitants. Lisbon is actually the only noteworthy city in the country; the rest of the population lives in small villages across the Atlantic Ocean, on the vast plains or in the mountains in the Portuguese interior.
Most local people speak fluent Portuguese (the native language) but also Spanish, since Portugal was conquered by Spanish conquistadores. However, we never had issues communicating in English while visiting the place.
The country was a democracy only relatively late, after a left-wing coup in 1974. Especially the membership of the EU in 1986 helped the country to climb out of the deep economic valley.
Lisbon is very similar to San Francisco in terms of form. The Portuguese capital is also founded on a bay (with a bridge that connects the two halves) and is built on hills that make every walk a good workout for the leg muscles. Another thing: also, in Lisbon old tourist trams runs though out the city.
According to some traditions, Lisbon would have been founded by the Greek hero Odysseus on his long journey home. But the fact is that the Phoenicians and the Romans here had a trading post that really flourished when the Muslims invaded here in the eighth century after Christ.
On 1 November 1755 the city was hit by a disastrous earthquake with a magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale, killing many tens of thousands of people. The three earthquakes, which are still in the list of most devastating in human history, hit deep gaps in the city center and destroyed virtually all existing buildings that were world-famous at that time, including twenty churches where many believers at that time celebrated All Saints Day.
The infamous quake had major consequences for science and philosophy. The catastrophe led to modern seismology’s first scientific research into earthquakes and the disaster greatly influenced the Enlightenment thinkers, who found it very strange that God struck such a devout, Catholic country like Portugal with such a devastating punishment (Voltaire and Kant, for example, devoted a lot of thinking to the earthquake).
Lisbon has a very active artist scene. For example, local artists have developed the Garbage project: they recycle old packaging into cases, bags, notebooks or backpacks to actively bring sustainability to the attention of the local connoisseurs. Residents of the city are encouraged to hand in their still usable waste, in exchange for vouchers for recycled products.
Many tourist 'attractions' are closed on Mondays, so with the few highlights that are open, it can get busy at the end of the morning. One of the things that is open on Monday is the old Moorish fort that was converted into a royal palace after the reconquest of the city in 1147. In the mid-twentieth century dictator Salazar decided to thoroughly restore the neglected complex in memory of the old glory days of Portugal.
A very important square in Lisbon is the gigantic Praca do Comercio on the Tagus River, where the Royal Palace used to be at the time of the monarchy. The princes could thus receive guests with the appropriate grandeur - the large white marble stairs are now a gimmick for tourists who step off the ferry. The palace itself is no longer there, due to the great earthquake of 1755.
The Ponte 25 de Abril is a suspension bridge connecting the city of Lisbon, capital of Portugal, to the municipality of Almada on the left (south) bank of the Tagus river. It was inaugurated on August 6, 1966, and a train platform was added in 1999. Because it is a suspension bridge and has similar coloring, it is often compared to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, US. It was built by the American Bridge Company which constructed the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge, but not the Golden Gate. At both ends of the bridge you have the possibility to have a nice panoramic view of the city and the bridge from either the Santuario de Cristo Re from a glass elevator.
The Santuario de Cristo Rei was inspired by the Christ the Redeemer statue of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, after the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon visited that monument. The project was inaugurated on 17 May 1959. The giant statue was erected to express gratitude because the Portuguese were spared during World War II.