Lisbon and the Algarve (from 2018-07-23 to 2018-08-06)

Creative Commons License
Lisbon and the Algarve, and all the linked pictures, by Andy Pepperdine is made available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

The reason for my visit to Portugal was that the Esperanto Universal Congress took place in Lisbon, and I chose also to go on the pre-Congress excursion to the Algarve.

I flew late on Monday from the small London City airport, which I wold not recommend, because it does not have many of the usual amenities of international airports. It sits next to river Thames with one runway, I see the advantage for business trips since it is very easy to get to from London. The flight left 25 minutes late, but otherwise it passed smoothly over the Bay of Biscay, arriving in Lisbon about 23:00, where I found a long queue for the baggage and even longer one for for a taxi to the hotel, which I reached at 1:30 the following morning.

After breakfast on Tuesday the group of esperantists gathered together, and set out by coach across the bridge over the estuary of the river Tagus, the longest on the Iberian peninsula. At our first rest stop after two hours, in the garden of the restaurant we had out first close view of the species oak, whose bark supplies cork. Also there was a strange statue of a warrior, about which none among us knew anything.

View across the runway Cork oak Modern statue with lance and shield

We stopped for the night at the town of Évora, where the Roman Temple of Diana still stands. During the Middle Ages it was lost, and got used as a warehouse, when walls were constructed between and surrounding the columns. Finally, it was re-discovered, and the tops of the columns still appear fresh. However, it is at the top of a small hill which provides a good view over the town’s roofs in the direction of the ancient fortifications. Soon afterwards I saw for the first time this year Bougainvillea.

Columns and lintels Delicately sculpted stone column tops Red roofs Bougainvillea flowers

The cathedral in Évora is the largest in Portugal, and the oldest, built during the 13-th century. On each side of the door are statues of 6 of the apostles. However, the entrance seems too new to my eyes. The inside is full of gold and light. The 15-th century organ is situated between two columns supported on strong wooden beams. And the rich, painted apse was generally impressive.

Door of the cathedral Six statues of standing men Gothic arch over the door View to the altar Looking up to the organ Light area round the apse

Having seen the cathedral, we wandered along the narrow streets, past ornamental windows, on the way to the Franciscan church, and its simple coloured windows, richly gilded shrines, and walls covered in tiles.

Typical narrow street Window with sculptured stone surround Another church Simple colours in window Gilded shrine Blue tiles showing a picture

Next door is the Chapel of Bones, which is the place where the bones of the Franciscans are held. In fact the walls are covered by ancient bones. However it is now not used for that purpose, and the only memorial is a modern picture painted on tiles. The information about it explains the inscription and translates it: We bones that are here, we are waiting for yours

Piles of bones Stacks of bones along each wall Simple drawing on tiles English notice

The following day, Wednesday, we drove on to the town of Beja, where we climbed the Tower of Menagem at the castle. From the top the view is of red roofs and white houses, which are typical of southern Europe. Standing out from the tower can be seen large ornamental spouts. We went down by the same narrow staircase by which we went up. Afterwards we visited part of the regional museum, which contains the remains of the oldest church in Portugal. The columns may date from the 5-th century. Then we returned to the central park, where the agapanthus were in flower in the very hot weather, and we waited for our coach.

High tower View across the town Large spout Very narrow staircase Church as a museum Blue and white agapathus

Returning to the bus we set out past enormous fields of young cork oaks and sunflowers on our way to the remarkable Roman remains at Pisões, where we were greeted by a cactus in flower. There we looked at the “caldarium”, where hot water from a furnace flowed under the floor of the so-called warm room. The place also contained a cold room and other rooms, and extended across a low slope. Water from the nearby stream flowed through channels to the reservoir to supply the villa. It is not certain, but general opinion is that it was a recreation centre. It seems it was too grandiose to be a private villa.

Rows and rows of small trees Enormous field full of sunflowers White cactus flower Roman brickwork

However, the most impressive part of the place was the black and white mosaics on the floors of several halls. It even contained a large swimming pool. The main entrance was paved with a coloured mosaic. Elsewhere archaeologists have found the base of a mill for pressing oil from olives.

Geometric design in mosaic Long rectangular container for swimming Long paved path to the ruins Geometric designs in mosaics Channels in a stone

Then we continued to the southern coast of Portugal and the holiday destination of Faro with its busy marina and several strange sculptures. Like many of the buildings in Portugal the influence of the Moors is in evidence. Although I did not see any storks on their nests in Faro (four in the picture — count them), later in the week we did.

Marina packed with yachts Sculpture of woman with shell for a head Tiles around an arch Nests on a building

The old town is entered through a brick arch and we soon found ourselves looking at orange trees in the square near the cathedral. This building has a long and varied history, beginning as a Roman temple. Then followed a Christian church, Islamic mosque, and finally a cathedral, each time changing its shape when new parts were added. The earthquake of 1755 destroyed it, together with its history. However, this man, archbishop Francisco Gomes, took it upon himself to reconstruct it almost the same as it was, and that is what we now see. Finally we left the old town through a narrow arch now surrounded by more modern buildings.

Arch made out of bricks Orange tree Cathedral SStatue of Gomes AArch in a stone wall

On Thursday we had a whole day excursion along the Algarve from the port of Faro to the end of the world at Cabo São Vicente, the most south-westerly point of Portugal. Our first stop was the small town of Silves, where, due to the necessity of finding toilets, we visited the market. Although the town is not situated close to the coast, it is close enough for the market to have an excellent fish monger. Elsewhere we saw the usual Portuguese tiles on the walls, and also nests of storks, this time with residents.

Fruit and vegetables on sale Fish on sales counter Brighly coloured tiles Stork on nest on a chimney

The most worthwhile site is the castle, which now consists of ruins and a wall enclosing fortifications, some of which had a narrow archers' window. Along the wall was a walkway without any sort of barrier to prevent one falling. Obviously the Portuguese believe that one Has the responsibility for one's own safety. In the garden inside the castle stand several works of art, like this bottle opener by the Romanian Popescu.

At Silves we thought we had lost someone. After seeing the castle, we agreed to meet at a place near the ruins from where the exit was visible. One of us went to the toilets by the cafe, and after he came out, he went directly to the exit, but our group had moved its chattering mass about 30 metres away, and out of sight of the exit door. We waited for him, and waited. After 30 minutes, we finally decided to wander back to the bus, and during this we heard that the lost fellow was waiting for us there.

Stone ruins Tall narrow hole in a wall Pathway without barrier White stone sitting figure

Next we travelled on to Monchique, a village at the end of the mountain chain that separates the southern Algarve from the Alentejo. Due to our lost time, we did not stop in the village; instead we went straight on to the summit of Foia, the highest in the chain, from where to the south the Atlantic was visible, in spite of the humidity and heat. The modern world intruded on the wilderness by means of radio antennae.

Narrow plain in front of the sea Antennae

The next destination was the port of Lagos, where we were shown the location of the slave market. (If the people gathering together there were a sample of the wares on sale, then I am not certain that I would have frequented it.) One of the most important figures in Portuguese history is Henry the Navigator, and Lagos was the starting point for many voyages of exploration, which he instigated. This statue was put up in 1960 on the 500-th anniversary of his death. The seamen of that time sailed close to the coast, because they did not have a good way of finding their way across the vast ocean. Because of that, Cape Bojador in north-west Africa defied the Europeans for many years. Near there the winds suddenly change and blow strongly from the north-east, and wrecked many ships on the rocks. Finally Gil Eannes in 1434 discovered that the danger can be avoided by sailing out of sight of land, and after that time the era of discovery started, allowing Columbus to sail across the Atlantic, and Vasco da Gama to circumnavigate Africa and on to the East.

White house Statue of a sitting man tatuo pri staranta homo

Going further west just before we would fall into the ocean, we reach Cabo São Vicente, from which we get views to the north-west and south to the cliffs. Also there are art works made from and about things from the sea. On the way back to Sagres the school of navigation, founded by Henry, stands alone on a windy desert. Unfortunately we arrived too late to visit it.

Rocky headlands High cliffs Fantastic face White wall with a door in the centre

Friday was spent travelling back to Lisbon and out hotels before the Congress began.

At breakfast the next morning I was surprised to meet a friend, Inge, whom I last saw in South Korea at the congress there. This was completely be chance, unplanned, but gave me the feeling that things were in order, and I would enjoy the week. Between the hotel and where the congress was held was only a short walk along a calm street before one approached the site of the university. The first building seen, the Rectory, stands proudly beyond a flat lawn, across which I noticed the unusual sculptures, which reminded me of Mexico. I suspect that they are hiding something technical, since they seem unsuited to their position. But soon the main congress location appeared. That building contained the Faculty of Law, and so by the entrance the walls showed the history of the subject.

During the first day of the congress, we registered and collected the tickets and books for the excursions and the events. The restaurant was located one floor down and the food was very cheap and easily good enough.

Green street Large Greek style construction Cubical stone face Yet another building Mural Mural

Sunday brought the first real day of events, which started with the opening in a moderately full hall, but I think it went on too long as usual, as if it followed a formula unthinkingly.

Line of officials Audience in a hall

Later I joined the walk in the centre of the city. We climbed a staircase and wandered through narrow streets; saw the modernised shopping street at Divisão Dolado Oriental, avoided the yellow trams, and paused sometimes for a small drink and snack.

View down between old buildings Narrow street with flags Shops on a pedestrian street Yellow tram Drink and food

The day was not finished before we had passed the famous Elevador de Santa Justa built by the Frenchman Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard, an apprentice of Gustav Eiffel, to give the Lisbonites a view across the city. Inside it has a lift to the platform above the surrounding roofs. It is said that there is a very good view from the top, but unfortunately I did not have time to find out for myself. We also visited the old casino, where one used to gamble. We stood on one of the most interesting parts, because the tiles in the floor showed many drawings. Despite the attempt to appear Moorish, a pig was found among the pictures.

And then on to dinner.

Ugly square tower Mock Arab architecture Red tile floor Drawing of a pig Evening meal

Monday started for me at a somewhat boring lecture on the history of Portugal, and after too many names and dates I lost the thread. Inge then told me that she had collected her transport card for the metro, which she had ordered when she booked. I checked my booking, and I had forgotten that I had also ordered the same, so I got mine too. In the next talk Humphrey Tonkin talked about public speaking, and was very amusing. At the beginning he asked for some help with a technical matter related to the microphone and the computer. Then he declared that he had the sympathy of the audience, and that was always an advantage.

In the evening we attended the banquet in the cultural centre in Belem near the river bank, where there was a long row of dishes of all sorts of food. Later we sauntered through the open windows to the dance.

Lots of people at tables Dancing people

I spent Tuesday on a full-day excursion, starting at a house with typical tiles on the walls. And soon we passed a picture painted by the roadside. The first point of interest was a species of tree, which the Portuguese call Bela-Sombro (beautiful shade). In fact it is not a true tree, but a very large herb Phytolacca dioica, and hence the wood is extremely soft. But it spreads its branches wide, and the thick dark leaves throw a good shade. The picture shows only the twisted roots because it was growing in a restrictive place and almost impossible to get a good photograph. Other photos from our wanderings show bougainvillea and even more tiles which became so common, that I stopped noticing them.

Regular abstract pattern Painting on a wall Massive roots Large spreading climbing plant More tiles

I didn’t think the castle was worth a photo from the inside, but the view from it across the city and river is a spectacle. On the southern side of the river there is a statue of Christ copied from the one in Rio but smaller. Also from the castle one looks down on the Elevador de Santa Justa.

Many red roofs Christ standing on a plinth Black tower among the white walls

Later we walked around past more decorative houses, murals, along narrow pedestrian streets and an even narrower foot path to the museum of “Azulejo”. Outside in the small garden by the entrance a type of Protea was growing.

Another decorated house Modern graffiti Narrow street TVery narrow passage Large yellow trumpet shaped flowers

The word Azulejo means a tile and derives from the Arab word meaning “small polished stone”, and refers to a piece of ceramic normally square, with one side glazed, in other words a tile. The exhibition contains several examples, such as among others, small groups, various pictures and different topics, for example, religious, amusing, every day, homely, and modern, this last from 1988 by Júlio Pomar.

Tiles in groups on a wall Nativity Dog with a pen Dancers At the keyboard Clowns

Continuing on we went to the coach museum, where there are many old forms of transport, the oldest being this one, which belonged to King Philip II of Portugal sometime in the 17-th century. Still others displayed painted details or extraordinary ornamentation of gilded wooden sculptures.

Visitors among coaches Old coach Painted side of a coach Golden figures

Next we saw the monastery Geronimos, and its large church, where elephants support the shrines and tombs. These appeared during the time Portugal wished to describe itself as powerful as others, due to its Asian colonies.

Finally we tried to explore the Tower of Belem, it was too late and we saw only the outside. It was built as a guardpost and customs collection point, and to start with was in the middle of the river, but after the earthquake in 1755, a tsunami rearranged the land around Lisbon and now the tower is almost on the river's edge.

Colourful church Stone elephants supoorting tomb Stone tower Distant view of a tower

Wednesday was a free day, so I investigated the Gulbenkian museum, where the collection of the oil magnate is housed. He was grateful to Portugal, because the neutral country accepted him during the last world war, and he made it his home thereafter. It is not a large collection but every piece is of high quality. Some examples are a sculpted head of the Pharaoh Senruset III from ancient Eqypt, ceramics from Iran, star shaped tiles from the Middle East, glassware and religious ivory artefacts from Europe.

Black stone head Coloured bowl Star-shaped coloured tile Glass vase Hinged diptych

Throughout the week in Lisbon, the temperature rose higher and higher, and so the garden around the museum gave an opportunity to walk in the shade among the art works (this one by Reuben Nakian), next to the small lakes, and to see some wild life enjoying the sun.

Path among the trees Modern sculpture Statue of a woman Two terrapins

Apart from the main location, some of the events, the larger ones, took place in the Rectory whose entrance hall displayed on the walls, mosaics to represent the faculties in the university. Here are Philosophy, Physics and Chemistry, Geography, and Anthropology.

Mosaic Mosaics Mosaic Mosaic

Between my hotel and the university along the public road could be found a bust of the founder of the Dominican Republic (anyone know why?), the National Library (which I did not visit), the flightpath (under which I walked every day on the way to the congress) and a plant (which I think is a type of oleander).

One evening I went to hear a “concert” played on a carillion mounted on a lorry and advertised as the heaviest movable varillion in the world. You can hear it here (AVI, 6.6MB).

Bronze bust Building behind bushes Plane against blue sky Pink flower on evergreen shrub Bells on a lorry Picture of the player

The following day was the day of the solemn closing ceremony which consisted of the usual lectures, hopes, etc. etc., and finished when the flag was transferred to the team for the next congress, in Finland in 2019.

Men sitting at a table Group holding a flag

Because I flew very late on the Sunday after the congress, I used the extra day to see another sight. However due to the extreme heat, it was impossible to wander around outside looking at tourist locations. Instead I found a type of aquarium, or Oceanario as the Portuguese called it, where it was much cooler due to the water all around. Next to it stood an attractive coloured fountain. Inside there were fish and all sorts of sea creatures, for example rays, starfish, coloured tropical fish, and jelly fish.

Building standing in the sea Conical fountain Swimming rays Variously coloured starfish Blue fish Blue jellyfish

Then later I caught my flight to Luton.

Andy Pepperdine


Creative Commons License
Lisbon and the Algarve, and all the linked pictures, by Andy Pepperdine is made available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.