Because of Portugal
Because of your explorers and far away discoveries
I dare to dream, to live and to be happy
USA > Mexico > Peru > Bolivia > Chile > Argentina > Portugal - 2012 / 13
Portugal Itinerary - Lisboa – Sintra - Óbidos
Because of a USD 1000 cheap ticket, I flew 2 hours form Buenos Aries to São Paulo, waited 2 hours on the plane and flew 12 hours to Istanbul, waited 13 hours and again I flew 5 more hours... Whew... After almost two days of journey I finally landed in Portugal, my first stop in Europe.
I was totally exhausted when I first arrived, but then I felt really pleasing when I looked up in the sky, the very blue Lisboa sky.
Portugal is a country I keep coming back because she is my own country. However I am not her people but national. I used to come here every time when my passports was going to expired, and listened to the Atlantic while waiting for the renewals. This time is no exception for my purpose here, but except I didn't went to Montijo the place I always miss, and I didn't see the man I had promised to meet.
I enjoy seeing Lisboa inside the very classic tram Electrico 28 every time I come back here. This hundred years old antique tram departs from multicultural Praça Martim Moniz, going through up and down hills, alleys and main roads, it brings me to Portas do Sol to overlook the very beautiful old town, Praça do Comércio to listen to the sea breeze, Alfama neighbourhood to get lost among narrow streets, downtown Baixa to quietly observe passing-bys, also famous gardens, churches, castles and many other attractions.
My home Macau has a lot of Portuguese architectures from the 16th centuries, our old town centre is just like somewhere in southern Europe. All the cobbled stones, tiled walls and flowery lampposts are same beautiful as those in Lisboa. Unfortunately I didn't fall for both even they are equally beautiful. In Lisboa everything is calm and tranquil, it makes me peaceful. While in Macau everyone is always in a rush or busy on something because money is everything, souls are sold to materials.
I had never experienced such a relaxing ambience inside any capital metro other than the one in Lisboa. Not sure if it is too big with too few people, or it is because of all the soothing art works displayed inside the stations, I never felt a single tiny bit of tension inside the Lisboa metro.
Tram 15 will take you to Belém, the most historical port area in Portugal. Torre de Belém and Mosteiro dos Jerónimo in Belém were both built during the period of Age of Discoveries. Monumento aos Descobrimentos is a monument crafted with a few tens of important people in the history of Portuguese discoveries, commemorating their embarking of journeys from this port to the far away oceans and new worlds, that had written a new chapter in human history.
Portugal is the earliest empire to colonise and the earliest power in the sea. From the beginning of 15th century, Portuguese explorers navigated south from the west coast of Africa until they reached Cape Town, continued their journey to India and then all the way east to Malacca and Macau, and at the same time they also discovered Brazil. During the height of the empire, the Portuguese flags were raised in nearly 80 places across Africa, Asia and America.
Most of the colonies were used as a trade point or transit port, and Macau was also one of these. Since the middle of 16th century, the Portuguese started to trade, to build, to marry, to preach, and to govern in Macau, bringing in different cultures from western Europe and south east Asia to a small fish village that only had a few hundreds peoples in the beginning, and made Macau becoming a very unique place. However through Chinese eyes the Portuguese got too much pride. And through Portuguese eyes the Chinese was a lower class. But we could never deny the fact that we shared a same history of more than 400 years together, many of the ways we talk and the way we think, how we act or how we do things, were already subtly blended and mixed for a long time.
Azulejo, the very famous painted ceramic tile works from Portugal, was influenced by North Africa, West Europe and Far East, making it truly unique. Azulejo were only seen in churches and palaces among powers five centuries ago, but are found inside rooms and restaurants in everyday lives in the present days. They are now everywhere in Portugal, just ubiquitous. The Portuguese style of tile painting is much cleaner and simpler comparing to the tile works of other countries, I specially love her blue and white classic design. To those wanted to know more about Portuguese azulejo, Museu Nacional do Azulejo is the place to go.
Every time when I am in Portugal I eat like a pig, and I feel real great. Not only they have the freshest seafood in this ocean country, but also the best pastry and most delicious coffee. What make it crucial is the fact that it costs only half euro for an espresso, and a few euros for a meal, the living standards here is the lowest among all western Europe countries.
From €150 you could pay the monthly rent of a single room in Lisboa. For around €25 every week, you could get eggs, milk, cheese, ham, bread, pasta, rice, and fish and veggie and meat. Plus the costs of public transports and coffees, basically for around €300 people could eat well and dream sweet. Unfortunately the unemployment in Europe is now close to 20 millions, some very unlucky ones couldn't even afford a small cup of coffee.
Sintra is a town surrounded by hills and is famous for her romantic architectures. Departed from Rossio train station in Lisboa the journey is around 40 minutes, and the cost is around €4 for return. The small town is like painted in green, with many attractions framed with flowers and grasses, the whole picture is truly refreshing. Even though there is a lot of beautiful palaces and charming gardens, I was there only because of Palacio Nacional da Pena the fairytale like castle. Immediately I ran towards the castle after I got off the train, but then I saw myself a very stupid person after walking for more than 45 minutes on the hill, without any water under high noon. Why didn't I take a bus or ask for direction or even had a glance at the map, how could I hike to the peak when I didn't even know how high the peak was. So I raised my thumb and sat into my first hitch-hiked truck.
Óbidos is a well preserved mediaeval town that you can also do a day trip from Lisboa. To reach there you have to take a Tejo bus, direction to Caldas da Rainhas, parking next to Campo Grande metro exit. The journey is 1 hour, the ticket is €7.5. The castle is surrounded by endless farmlands, with only 3000 inhabitants living in small white houses inside the fortified wall this is a real tranquil place. Each July Óbidos castle hosts a celebrating event called Mercado Medieval de Obidos, where locals were dressed in mediaeval costumes to do performances and serve traditional food, to send you back to the Middle Age.
The Statue of Ferreira do Amaral is the collective memory of the older generation from Macau, but it was already sent back to Portugal during the 90s. I never really saw his face but only his horse because the statue was too high when I was too small, that's why I never knew his story. Wiki told me Amaral demanded heavy tax and destroyed the homes and tombs of the Chinese people after he became the governor of Macau, of course the locals were enraged so they knocked him off his horse and cut off his head. However Portugal saw him as a national hero and therefore a statue was built. I never thought we would meet again so close that I could really see his face. Nor I ever thought my past 20 or 30 years would suddenly rise before my eyes.
I was born in the 70s, when Macau was still a Portuguese colony. I didn't went to a Portuguese school, but my school had taught me some Portuguese. I didn't know the Portuguese anthem, but I knew the Portuguese birthday song. I didn't have any Portuguese boyfriend, but I had a lot of Macanese (Portuguese Chinese mixed) friends. I know that Chinese people still suffered from various oppressions from the Portuguese governors after Amaral, but I also know that it was the treaty between Portugal and Japan that saved Macau from Second World War. I know many people have already forgotten our colony history, but I didn't.
I am so proud of being a Portuguese national even I don't carry a single drop of Portuguese blood, because I do really love her adventurous stories, oceanic sky, tranquil life and delicious menu. If you ever wondered if my love for her is because of the European passport she had given me, then I can assure you the answer is yes, how could it not be. A Portuguese nationality gives me 170 visa-frees out from196 countries in this world, not to mention my freedom to move and work in the European countries. I would never be me if I never had this nationality. I wouldn't had flew to England only with a single ticket to look for opportunities when I was still very young and furious, I wouldn't had backpacked so many European countries when I still hadn't finished my uni, I wouldn't travelled in south America and lived in Argentina without an itinerary, nor I would dare to dream, to act, to live a life and to be happy.