Monday, April 20, 2009

Lisbon Travel

Much has Changed in Lisbon since Amalia Rodgriques was a young girl singing in the Fado houses of it's cobbled streets. Lisbon is a European peculiarity and an enchanting city the likes of which there is no equal in the world. Lisbon is both a modern and ancient city, from it's shiny new office buildings in the commercial area to it's romantic, almost ancient streets of Alfama, Lisbon is unique.

Unlike other European cities, Lisbon has always been a city that has reached out to the world. It was from the shores of the Tagus river which runs into the Atlantic Ocean that Lisbon imposed itself on the world. Legendary figures like Prince Henry the Navigator, Luis Camoes and Vasco da Gama were all familiar with Lisbon, for it was from these shores that the world was discovered. The Portuguese carried their culture and customs with them to distant, unknown shores. In an age when many still believed that the world was flat, the Portuguese were busy creating settlements that still exist today, over 500 years later.

At the time, Sailors set course from Lisbon to the Far East, lands that up until then were mired in rumor, speculation and wonder. From Lisbon, the Portuguese were masterminding trade routes and signing pacts with many Asian, African and Indian kingdoms. All of this was occurring hundreds of years before most Europeans even knew these lands existed.

Lisbon today, with a population of approximately 2.5 millions, is also Continental Europe's most western capital. Sitting on seven hills and nestled between the Tagus River and the Atlantic Ocean, Lisbon's history predates modern times by thousands of years. Archaeologists suggest that Lisbon was already a major city hundreds and possible thousands of years before the Roman Invasion. At that time, many different cultures called Lisbon home.

It is said that the Greeks gave Lisbon it's name. The Greeks called this land, Olissipo, which is thought to have derived from the mythical king Ulysses. With the turn of the ages, the name Olissipo became Olissipona and then eventually Lisboa (Sounds like Lee-szh-Boa).

Lisbon has had numerous settlements of people, residing on it's shores, from Iberians, Celts, Germans, Romans, Moors and number of post Muslim Christian peoples who were attracted to its shores for conquest, fame and fortune.

It wasn't until 1255 that Lisbon became the capital of Portugal which effectively transplanted the seat of power from the Celtic Christian North to the more central and culturally diverse center and south. It isn't hard to realize why the kings of Portugal were so interested in far away places, since it was common place to have Arabs, Berbers and Jews so close by. The Christian kings desire for wealth eventually led to a peculiar point in time when the world would be changed for ever.

It was under the guidance of Prince Henry the Navigator back in 1419 that Lisbon began looking beyond it's borders and into the open Ocean. With the invention of the Portuguese Caravel, a new state of art hybrid ship that could sail in the open ocean, the Portuguese began to discover lands never before known or settled, including the Azores, Madeira, Cape Verde, just to name a few. By the end of the 1400's, the Portuguese were well on their way to India, making Lisbon the new capital of Europe.

Today, Lisbon is a city steeped in a rich past and a vibrant, eclectic music and art scene. There are many attractions scattered throughout this glorious, clean city. Lisbon has a very relaxed atmosphere, Lisboetas are known for their easy-going and friendly disposition which make Lisbon one of the most pleasant cities in the world to travel.

With its wide avenues, mosaic decorations on its pedestrian paths and excellent outdoor cafes, Lisbon is a city designed for the people. For example, the Monsanto Park is 10 square kilometers and considered one of Europe's largest parks.

Lisbon is a growing city, and the need for new roads and bridges have been deemed a necessity. Lisbon has one of the world's most modern Subway Systems that connects to many bus and train routes, making travel a pleasure. For motorists, the recently constructed marvel the Vasco da Gama Bridge along with the beautiful 25th of April Bridge, serve exit and entry points to the city.

It should be noted that the 25th of April Bridge, looks very similar to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. This is not by coincidence, in fact, the bridge was built by the same architectural firm that constructed the Golden Gate Bridge.

Lisbon is all about charm and people and this is most obvious in the pedestrian only streets that tourists and residents alike can enjoy the wonderful shops and restaurants that are abundant in this city.

There are many things that you can do and see in Lisbon, whether you are looking for a quiet getaway to the Sao Jorge Castle or visiting modern buildings like the Lisbon Oceanarium, be sure to end your day at one of the tastefully, well preserved art-deco cafes to enjoy a true Lisbon experience.

Don't miss the Belém Tower, a medieval tower built by the Portuguese during their Golden Age of Discovery.

Lisbon will amaze and charm you like no other city. It has an ambiance that is very human and welcoming, which will keep you visiting for many years to come. Be sure to bring a pair of good walking shoes, because once you start your Lisbon Vacation, you will not want to stop.

Source of above images are as follows:

First Photograph of Lisbon Parque das Nações: Author Paulo Juntas

Second Photograph, Old Lisbon and Sao Jorge Castle by: Osvaldo Gago -

Photograph of Ponte 25 de Abril viewed towards Lisbon: Vitor Oliveira from Torres Vedras, PORTUGAL

Photograph of Rua Augusta Lisboa by: Osvaldo Gago

Photograph of Lisbon Oceanarium taken by Nol Aders on 20th October 2005

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