Lisbon is light, frivolous and… happy. In the summer, it is intoxicating, in the winter I would imagine serendipitous. It’s a happening spot, fun and flirty yet encapsulated by the charm of its history. For a city built on seven hills it is as theatrical as it is modern yet the history is not lost on you as you make your way from one district to another, be it on foot or the famous 28 tram. An open theatre to watch the football, because Ronaldo, or on a train to one of its neighbours, for its famous pastry. Lisbon is a city that attracts curiosity, an open mind and a sense of romance in its longing for the past.
The locals are welcoming and willing to share their city as long as you agree that Ronaldo is the greatest player in the world, even greater than Messi HA! and by extension their national football team the best in the world- this is all up for debate when you leave town. Therefore, in a sense, football is a religion so don’t be aghast to see many public spaces where you can watch matches and mingle with the locals. Whatever you do, do not judge any local by José Mourinho; there is a reason he is called the special one but you cannot quite understand that until you have visited Portugal and met its more reserved people. Still, I like Jose; a topic for another day, or not.
The Portuguese are a reticent people who remember their past; all parts of it, and acknowledge it amidst a steady wave of the present as is very much evident. A prestigious national football team, a history of explorers like Vasco Da Gama, buried in the Jeronimos monastery, its maritime history shrouded in more seedier times of its colonial past. The ostentatious Igreja de Sao Roque with what is said to have the most expensive chapel in the world; the facade couldn’t be more in contrast with the inside that tells a story of opulence which in juxtaposition with the humble teachings of the Catholic Church leaves room for some discomfort, at the very least.
Portugal is like a world waiting to be discovered even though it has already been discovered, it is a country caught in the middle where Lisbon its most famous city is brimming with tourists and travellers but there are other equally wonderful places outside of her to discover; the beautiful and peaceful beach town of Cascais and Belem for its famous pastry amongst other reasons to visit. In Lisbon, the history is obvious, the shadow of its geopolitical battles has meant that little has moved from its grassroots, but newer more commercial brands have cropped up have yet to overshadow the local ones; in a sense it remains trapped time that is far enough in history but not so that we cannot remember. History coexists in tandem with newness, straddling between worlds. It is nostalgia to be charmed by.