After this trip being in the making for so long, I was really excited to finally get out travelling again. Not just had I been longing to go to Portugal for quite a while, this was also the first time to really hit the road, after exploring the eastcoast of the USA in 2012. My everyday life as a primary school teacher didn’t give me much room to prepare so I left with few plans and some ideas. By now I have come to accept this as a way of travelling for myself: very little preparation but once I get there I am there fully – inhaling the country, the culture, the people and my fellow travellers.
I started my trip in the iconic capital – Lisboa, or Lisbon, Lissabon…
I had booked a dorm bed in hostel in the old part of town called Alfama. To get there I had to carry my slightly heavy and bulky bag up some nice steep hills. Drenched in sweat I got to Alfama patio hostel. I was welcomed and checked in by very friendly staff and moved in to my very own bunk bed. I had booked a dorm with an ensuit bathroom which left me wondering how anyone taller than me was able to sit on that toilette. The rest of the hostel was very cozy, with hammocks and bean bags to hang out in and a roof space with a wonderful view. The inhabitants were very invting and I quickly found interesting and very friendly people to chat with – two Germans who had been travelling the coast in a tent, a girl from Australia who was enjoying her last days in Europe and some American girls who I ended up spending the evening with. Before I had a great three course dinner though that was served for everyone who wanted for something like 3€.
A group of 5 we left the hostel and visited a nearby lookout point were we enjoyed the sunset views and some wine – classy straight from the bottle. Afterwards we took an Über (my first time ever, how exciting) and went to the part of town were the action. Restaurant next to bar, next to restaurant this place was truely bustling with everything you could imagine – Portuguese food, Brazilian drinks, Jazz music… We hopped a few locations, having a drink and short dance in a Brazilian bar, another drink at a Jazz bar accompanied by some life music. In the meantime I learned some things about my companions – strong, independent women, passionate and keen. Good times. At some point we had a pizza stop and soon after we ran into a bar crawl organized from a different hostel. We talked to some of the people, shared a few more drinks. But after travelling, arriving, meeting many people I was getting tired and the others weren’t that energetic anymore either. In the end we all went back together and I had a wonderful sleep in my bunk bed.
The next morning I wanted to go on a walking tour offered by the hostel. Only, being me, I didn’t leave in time, didn’t quite go into the right direction and missed the tour. Oh well, I had my lonely planet and maybe it was nice to explore by myself instead of more people and many informations.
Lisbon showed me its beauty – a bustling place with a nice breeze and wonderful sunshine. As most every capital there are lots of tourists swarming around the main attractions. For example the old tram line 28 seems so attractive that people que up for a ride in a way that makes you think they are giving out free ice cream. For me it was enough to take a picture of said que and the tram. After walking around the inner city, I made it to a big, green and peaceful park – Parque Eduardo VII. I found a little coffee and food place called Central Parque that soon turned out to be favoured by the locals. I overheard a man and woman speaking English and asked if I could join them. In tow they had a little boy. It turned out to be one of the most memorable encounters of my travels.
Their names were Gwen, Philip and Simon. Gwen and Philip had met a long time ago in Mexico and since been friends. Gwen didn’t own a cellphone, Philip told me. He would get a call out of the blue from an unknown number and hear Gwen’s voice “I’m coming to visit.” Gwen was from San Francisco where she was living on a boat. Now retired she had been a doctor, working in the emergency room. She was a free spirit. She loved Mexico and was there for several months every year. She would also go into the South American rainforest and give medical support to the indigenous people. They were living on oil rich land and apparently the oil companies weren’t aloud to go in as long as tribes were living there – solution: get rid of them with bullets shot from helicopters. Philip also told me that Gwen was a healer and very gifted. I asked her about my cracking jaw and she told me it stems from the anger towards my dad. I said that I felt like I wasn’t angry at my dad anymore and she answered it was already leaving me and at age 32 would be gone completely.
Philip was part of the royal Portuguese family and musician. He put his CD on in the coffee place – instrumental music with wonderful vibes from instruments he had made with his own hands.
We talked about life, magic, ayuahska, politics…
Simon was a sweet and gentle kid who loved football.
I gave my number to Gwen. She wanted to be in Berlin soon, visiting and staying with some South American DJs whom she wanted to introduce me to “You’ll like each other.” I never received that call, maybe I will some day. I tried to find out more about the three but the information I had were too little. (However there are information on the exploitation of indigenous people in South America over oil and the situation is horendous.)
In either way I am greatful I met those inspiring people and for a fantastic meal (at first I only had ice cream but when I saw the salad with fish they got, I had to get one too) and a beautiful spot.
Lisboa… a beautiful place with many things to give – beautiful locals, interesting travellers, small artisan stores, great food and steap, steap hills to train it off afterwards.
I left the city by an Über drive to the airport to pick up my rental. The guy was incredibly nice who gave me his card and told me to call if I ever needed help while in Portugal. Another first glimpse of the wonderful spirit of the Portuguese people.