–This is my last post on Lisbon (I promise!). Thanks for letting me share so much about it, as I truly had a wonderful time. I’m really thinking I need to learn Portuguese and go back soon.
Because it’s nestled into a harbor, because it seems to be on the edge of the world, or at least, Europe, and because it has a long history of navigators and explorers, Lisbon seems to have a special relationship with the sea. The city is located at the mouth of the Tagus River, creating a feeling of being surrounded by water. Every hill you climb, you see water. Every view you can find usually includes water.
Historically, Portugal has had a fantastic relationship with the sea. Known for being excellent navigators, the Portuguese sailed their ships around the world, discovered new-to-them lands and made their country rich with spices and silks. The Monument to the Discoveries in Belém celebrates this history of the Age of Exploration in the 15th century. It bears 33 reliefs of Portuguese explorers including Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama, and Ferdinand Magellan. While the effect these men had on world history wasn’t always for the best and the lands they “discovered” weren’t exactly new, you still have to tip your hat to their guts. They sailed away from their hometown for far away places, not always making it back.
A short walk down the river from the monument is the Torre de Belém, a fortified defense tower built in the 16th century. It sits just offshore with the river waters swirling and crashing around it. Once housing troops, live cannons and prisoners, now it’s a popular tourist destination, and a great place to enjoy the sea breeze.
After touring the tower, we sat on the steps and watched the waves climb the stone steps, soaked up the sun, and rested our feet. Back in Lisbon, just off the main square, there is a similar area near the sea. Stone steps trail off into the water and two posts stand together like a portal, inviting you deeper into the sea. And what will you find? Mermaids? Shipwrecks? Glistening shells and oysters with pearls? It’s tempting to follow the steps down and find out…
Maybe I will next time.