Thursday, July 3, 2014

Easter in Lisbon

The Swiss aren't particularly religious, but they still have religious holidays. Since Tom's office is closed on Good Friday and Easter Monday, we look to visit somewhere new. We didn't explore Lisbon on our 2001 trip to Portugal so that was our destination of choice for Easter 2014.

Before I share Lisbon with you, here are some sights of the build up to Easter in Zurich.

Palm Sunday

Stations of the cross were constructed out of Legos in "our" little Methodist church in Adliswil. 

Last Supper

The Dolder, Zurich's luxury hotel, decorates an egg entirely with carnations every year.

One of the recommended tourist sites in Lisbon is St. George's Castle. Since we could see this landmark on the hill from our hotel, we got to see it in all different lighting.

nighttime arrival

We were surprised by how hilly Lisbon is. We bought our "Lisboa" cards, valid for all local transportation on the weekend, and began or our way "up" to the castle.

Along the way, we stopped for a look at the cathedral. There certainly is no extra space between the street traffic and the cathedral! A service was in progress so we couldn't walk around the interior.

Eventually, we arrived at St. George's Castle

looking down at the approach to the castle

inside castle walls

St. George's Castle was clearly going to be the location for a cook-off between four chefs. We had no idea when it would start and did not linger to watch.

Two things are very noticeable walking around Lisbon: 
#1: Many buildings have colored tiles decorating their exteriors. 

#2:  Walkways are in black and white patterns. We were told that black stone was readily available in the area making it sensible to use.


Once the largest church in Lisbon, Carmo Convent, was destroyed in the earthquake of 1755 which also destroyed much of the rest of the city. The ruins are now a small archeological museum.

I always enjoy seeing the uniforms of the guards or police.

The trams in Lisbon are typically just one car rather than several attached together like in Zurich.  It could be because the streets are narrow and very windy - a longer tram wouldn't be able to make it around the curves. 

luckily the next tram is close behind

The small tuk tuk cabs were very popular, but we didn't try them.

A fun part of our time in Lisbon was a food and wine tour. Our guide took us to five different stops for food and drink. First:  Ginjinha, a sour cherry liqueur. It tasted better than cough syrup, but not great. You can purchase little chocolate cups and eat the chocolate with the liqueur. (Yum, much better)


port marmalade

Port marmalade is sliced, not scooped with a spoon. Eating it in combination with cheese is very tasty. 
marmalade and cheese

All the cod caught in Portugal is salted for preservation as it always has been. The fish is then rehydrated to be cooked and eaten. Dried cod does not look appetizing to me.

cod fish cakes
ham, cheese and white wine

chorizo and red wine = delicious
The western area of Lisbon, Belem, offers more than enough to fill a day. The Tower of Belem once stood on an island in the river, but is now approachable by land.  You can see behind us that there would be a lot of waiting. It was a beautiful day so not bad to be outside, but waiting ate a lot of precious time. 

looking out from the tower

Monument to the Discoveries dates from only 1960. It was built to honor the 500th anniversary of Henry the navigator. It is possible to go up and probably get a fantastic view, but we had more on our agenda and moved on. 

 Belem's Monastery of Jeronimos

the best pictures are often postcards!

doorway details
Our last stop in Belem was the pastry shop for the local specialties known as Pasteis de Belem, a custard tart. The line visible outside the shop moved quickly.

yum, especially warm!

We were a little concerned about touring on Easter Sunday since last year, we encountered many places closed in Budapest. In Sintra, Easter was just an ordinary day. Everything was open and ready for the tourist trade. Maybe this is because of Portugal's economic troubles or maybe it is always like this. We will probably never know. 

The Easter baskets being carried was the only indication of the holiday.  It appeared that people brought empty baskets with them to church and came home with them filled. It would have been interesting to see what transpired during the service.

A short train ride outside Lisbon, Sintra, is the former summer retreat of Portuguese kings. There are three palaces and one fortress, but we only had time to visit two of them.

From the central square of Sintra, the fortress is visible on the top of the hill. 

The National Palace of Sintra is not picturesque from the outside. The two chimneys are for the two fireplaces in the kitchen designed to cater large banquets. The chimneys remind me of Three Mile Island and living nearby in 1979 was not a relaxing place to be.

National Palace of Sintra
Three Mile Island

Swan Room

Galley Room
Magpie Room

Of particular interest in this palace are the ceilings.

Blazons Hall

 car from inside the bus

We took a bus ride up to the top of the hill to another palace, winding as we went. We had to stop when we came upon a car parked on the side of the road. The bus driver made a valiant, but failing effort to pass. Then he asked for three strong men to go out and move the car! More than three left the bus to help in the maneuver. The car was moved a bit and the bus drove on! Definitely a first!

car movers

walking here - are you crazy?

At the top of the hill, we were rewarded by the colorful Palace of Pena.

looking out at the fortress which we didn't have time to visit

low ceilings!


On our travels, we always try to experience some of the local culture. In Lisbon that meant going to listen to their Fado music. (pronounced like the musical syllables: DO - re - mi - FA) There were two vocal soloists, one man and one woman, and also two different styles of guitars. Some pieces were just instrumental. It was a very pleasant evening.

Here are a few random sights around the city.

fun group of street musicians

father and daughter?

And finally, a look at the same statue with musicians and an aerial view (postcard) with tram. We had a fun time and recommend Lisbon as a destination. There's plenty to see and do.