Last September I was fortunate enough to go to Portugal. Portugal is located on the Iberian Peninsula and it is the westernmost country of mainland Europe. As you can see in the map below, it is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south and Spain to the north and east. Apart from continental Portugal, two other autonomous regions are the Azores and Madeira neither of which I visited. The country is named after the second largest city, Porto (my favourite). This land has been continually fought over since prehistoric times. The Celts and Romans were followed by the Visigothic and the Suebi Germanic peoples who were themselves later invaded by the Moors. These Muslims were eventually expelled and by 1139, Portugal established itself as a Kingdom. In the 15th and 16th century, Portugal expanded western influence and established the first global empire becoming the world's major economic, political and military power. The Portuguese Empire was the longest-lived of the modern European colonial empires, spanning almost 600 years. The empire started in 1415 with the capture of Ceuta until 1999, when it handed over Macau to China and the granting of sovereignty to East Timor in 2002. The empire actually spread throughout a vast number of territories that are now part of 53 different sovereign states. Because of this huge spread-out empire, Portugal left a profound cultural and architectural influence throughout the world. In addition there are over 250 million people speaking Portuguese today, making Portuguese the sixth most spoken first language. Portugal's international status was greatly reduced during the 19th century following the independence of Brazil. The revolution in 1910 ended the monarchy and the democratic Portuguese First Republic was established. However, this government was unstable and was superseded by the "Estado Novo" right-wing authoritarian regime. Democracy was restored after the Portuguese Colonial War and the Carnation Revolution in 1974. Currently, Portugal is one of the world's most globalized, peaceful and responsive nations. A few more interesting facts: Portugal was one of the first countries to abolish Capital Punishment in 1867. In 2010 Portugal became the sixth country in Europe and the eighth country in the world to legally recognize same-sex marriage on the national level; and lastly Portugal was the first countries in the world to fully decriminalize the use of all drugs in 2001. If someone is found in the possession of a minimal amount of drugs, he or she is sent to a commission made up of a lawyer, social worker and doctor. The commission recommends treatment or a minor fine, otherwise in the majority of the cases, there is no penalty. Fourteen years later, it has been found that there have been many benefits from the new policy.
A map of Portugal. I flew into Lisbon where our tour spent a few days checking out the various neighbourhoods.
Chris, Gretchen and Sam posing in front of Rogerio Timoteo's statue "Rosto/The Face" made of resin and steel.
After the earthquake of 1755, the Marquis of Pombal instructed architect Reinaldo Manuel to design a new garden promenade with flora, statues and fountains. This promenade was known as the Passeio Publico (Public Way). This promenade was far from public as only aristocrats were allowed access and a large wall prevented common people from entering. The wall was torn down in 1821, after the fall of the monarchy. In 1879, the promenade was renamed Avenida da Liberdade (Liberty Avenue) and was redesigned as a prestigious boulevard modelled on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. The above statute is the Monument to the Fallen of the Great War.
A closeup of the Monumento aos Mortos da Grande Guerra Statue. This large monument inaugurated in 1931, honors the Portuguese soldiers who fought in the First World War.
Our hotel was very close to Liberty Avenue. I asked this policeman if it was ok if I took his photograph since in some countries, photographing policemen is disallowed.
There was a beautiful place to walk in the centre of the Avenue. Liberty Avenue was surrounded by hotels, offices and upscale boutiques.
Some of the "boutiques" were not so upscale!
Lisbon, Portugal's hilly capitol is a coastal city known for its cafe culture, pastel-colored buildings and soulful Fado music. About 2.8 million people live in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area.
Rossio Square is the popular name of the Pedro IV Square( King of Portugal Square). This has been one of the main squares since the Middle Ages. Popular revolts and celebrations, bullfights and executions have all taken place here.
Now it is a popular meeting stop for locals and tourists or for just hanging around.
A flower shop in the square.
We took a ride on the Santa Justa Lift (elevator) located in the historical section of Lisbon. Since its construction, the lift has become a tourist attraction. The lift has a height of 45 metres, covering seven stories. After getting off the lift, there was a great lookout with panoramic views of the city.
Another view of Rossio square from above.
I noticed lots of construction going on everywhere. Lisbon is recognized as a global city because of its importance in finance, commerce, media, entertainment, arts, international trade, education and tourism. it is one of the major economic centres on the continent with a growing financial centre.
The city is also one of the oldest cities in the world and the oldest in Western Europe, predating other modern European capitals such as London, Paris and Rome by centuries.
The Lisbon tramway network has been in operation since 1873 and now has five urban lines. In 1873, the tramway started off as a horsecar line and in 1901, Lisbon's first electric tramway started operations. Within a year, all of the city's tramways had been converted to electric cars. While walking the streets and hills of Lisbon, the colourful red or yellow tram cars added to the colour of the city. These trolleys are a very popular mode of transportation for locals and tourists.
We ended up walking down to the water where people were just hanging out in the beautiful weather. Lisbon enjoys a Mediterranean climate. Among the major cities in Europe, it has the warmest winters with average temperatures of 15 C (59 F) during the day from December to February. The typical summer season lasts about six months from May to October.
Next up: More of Lisbon