Monday, May 14, 2012

May 14, 2012 Portugal - Lisbon day 5

 first thing this morning - the fair is over in the square in front of our hotel; the trees are being removed
 sculpture of tree in light shaft in our hotel
 walking to Biexe Alto, beautiful table setting for sale
 lunch stop (so soon?)
 on our guided walk to the south shore we passed what becomes the hanky-panky district at night
 reached the top with copy of Brazil's Christ the King monument overlooking Lisbon harbour
 and here is the harbour
 Lisbon from the south shore
 time for tea once we are back in Lisbon
 passing a construction site
 and another Audi - with bike rack on top - looks familiar
 Museum of Modern Design - yes they are covering it with Post-Its
 end of another wonderful dinner
 men's colourful shoes for sale
and all is peaceful in the square outside our hotel right now...

Today we spent some time in the morning getting ourselves reorganized so that we will be ready to leave on Thursday morning. We have collected a few things we don't want to take home in our suitcases since there will likely be a weight restriction - so wee need to leave them here. One of the heaviest items is Mike's plastic raingear - and we certainly don't need it in Lisbon these days. It is really hot and dry and lots of tourists seem to be sporting sunburns. We prefer the beduin approach of keeping covered up and in the shade where possible!

In the afternoon we went for a second walking tour with "Lisbon Spirit." We were the only 2 walkers and our guide was excellent. He provided so many insights into questions that had been intriguing us.I guess one of the most interesting was his views on the popularity of the Fatima pilgrimages. As I understand it, one of the things that happened in the 19th century was a big revolution (liberdade) that included closing all the monasteries and convents and secularizing Portugal. This revolution was really only popular with the intellectuals in Lisbon and was not supported by the people living in the countryside. So even though Portugal is a Catholic country - religion was officially censored and, as a result,  the Pope excommunicated Portugal from the Catholic Church. Meanwhile, Portugal joined the alllies in WWI and many Portuguese soldiers lost their lives - but after the war was over, the country did not gain any benefits. The apparitions at Fatima happened during WWI and when Salazar came into power, one of the changes he wanted to make was to bring Catholicism back to Portugal. The appearance of Our Lady in Fatima was just what was needed to raise the profile of religion - not just in Portugal - but also with the Vatican. The Vatican lifted excommunication - much to the relief of the average Portuguese. If there had not been a political will to reinstate Catholicism, it is unlikely that anyone would have believed the stories of the 3 children. Ironically however,  most Portuguese still don't go to church regularly - but they do have a great devotion to Fatima and the biggest church in Portugal is in Fatima. Portuguese pilgrims go Fatima because it is a Portuguese holy place - not to Santiago - because St James is a Spanish saint and there is a lot of suspicion between Spain and Portugal. Only non-Portuguese pilgrims walk the Portuguese route from Porto to Santiago and, from my view anyway, most are doing it because it is a high profile endurance test (equivalent to the Boston Marathon) not because it is a spiritual activity. Anyway - a very interesting interpretation of history. Also - Portugal did not join WWII - maybe because one of the Fatima predictions was that a much worse war was coming so why get involved. Hmmm..

Our walk included a ferry trip across the Tejo Rio to Almeda and bus trip out to the famous statue of Jesus which towers over that side of the river. The statue is modeled on the famous one in Brazil and was instituted by Salazar. Then we walked back along the river's edge - to the ferry landing. It is a bit like the ferry to North Van from Vancouver and coincidentally, the nearby bridge is a suspension bridge - a lot like the bridges in Vancouver and San Francisco. People commute from Almeda to Lisbon - because nothing is happening in Almeda.

Tomorrow we are planning to take the train to the nearby area called Sintra where there are many interesting ancient sites - mostly restored in the 19th century - but quite delightful and in the countryside. So good night.

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