I have mentioned before that I love travelling spontaneously. Our second trip to Portugal also happened very spontaneously. As the first trip was during the times I did not have the blog, you might not know about it. In 2013, Sara Levent and me took a plane to Porto from Munich and with a rental car we drove to Lisbon, picked Muhammet up and visited Sevilla. I am keeping this story for another article. This article is about our trip 4 years after the first one with again four people and a rental car.
In near future I am planning to write an article about how I plan my trips and I don’t want to spoil it but I will just say this. I follow this website called Urlaubspiraten. In April they shared a good deal from Ryanair from Hamburg to Faro. We got the return tickets for 70€. We left rainy Germany to sunny Portugal again in May. The view that welcomes you to Faro is just breathtaking. Close to the airport there is not really a beach area that you can see but the coastal line looks just amazing like a rice farm. As our return ticket was also from Faro, we decided to go to Lisbon immediately with our rental car. In order to be fast we decided to take the highway but I can only say bad things about Portuguese highway. It is overpriced (around 20€ from Faro to Lisbon ca. 250 km) and the quality of the street is not good enough for what you pay for. But we were planning to take the coastal older street on the way back, so it was not a big deal.
We have reached Lisbon passing through the 25 April bridge and started to look for our Airbnb in Barrio Alto. The district is very central, vibrant and exciting. Although there are many advantages to stay in a central position, we could feel the disadvantages after spending 5 minutes trying to find our way through the narrow streets of Lisbon. Even tough our car was a small Hyundai i20, it did not help a lot because there are very few amount of parking possibilities around there. But luckily our host knew some free parking opportunity on this street close to our flat. Like in many warm countries, people tend to invent jobs, in Portugal as well. I saw it very often that some people just to to a free parking area and decide that people who want to park there should pay them. If not you either find your car tires blown or some drawings would be made on the doors of your car. But in that situation, if you want to park your car there, you have to pay those people. So did we.
After leaving our car to very “safe hands” we started to walk around Lisbon center. We spent the first evening in Barrio Alto. In the districts there are unlimited options of bars and cafes. In the morning it looks very calm but in the evening you feel like all the city decided to come and have a drink in Barrio Alto. The prices for drinks are quite low. I assume because of the competition between the bars there but still you can take advantage of the situation while having a large beer for an euro.
I personally think that Lisbon looks a lot like Istanbul from above. Also they have a bit of similarities. Like Istanbul, Lisbon also has seven hills. Again like Istanbul, Lisbon has been victim of earthquakes throughout the time. 250 years ago there has been a large earthquake that destroyed a lot of the city. You can see the impact of that earthquake by visiting this church (Igreja do Carmo Church) that partially survived it. The city center has a valley shaped geography (Baixa). The district Baixa was the most damaged region in Lisbon in that earthquake, therefore they had to rebuild everything around there. That is the reason that unlike rest of the city, the district of Baixa is very organised (grid-system) with relative orderly buildings with many tram lines.
Like always we booked ourselves places for the free walking tour in Lisbon. It was extremely educative about the history of the city and the country. Our guide was very strict about which sights to visit and which ones are absolutely “no go”. The district of Alfama is one of the few places left from the Moors in Lisbon.
The quarter survived the earthquakes but it is almost impossible to get there with the car or urban transportation because the streets are mainly only reachable by foot. On top of Alfama there is a castle named Sao Jorge. You can see the castle from anywhere in the city and that is the top “no go” sight according to our guide. Between 1932-1968 a dictator named Salazar ruled Portugal with “iron fist”. Back then he decided that the castle was not able to accommodate enough tourists, in order to increase the income from it, he got the old castle destroyed and rebuilt so that it could attract more tourists (that way of thinking is very familiar but I just can not find from where :) ). Therefore the castle was a “no go”.
After a breakfast in our tiny terrace, we went to the viewing point next to the Jesus statue on the other side of the town. Then we hit the road to Belém. It was a very sunny nice day and that caused lots of traffic and parking problems around there. Actually our main goal that day was to visit Sintra but unfortunately because of traffic situation the warm weather, we decided to go the beach. Of course we had some famous “Pastéis de Belém” on the way. About food, I can not say anything about the Portuguese pastry but to be honest I am second time disappointed by the food you get in the restaurants around Lisbon. As a Turkish person, I have very high standards for food and I can easily say that Portugal was generally under my standards.
First time in my life I have ordered fish in a restaurant and I had to remove the organs of the sardinia. I mean it is not a hard work but still, if I go to a restaurant and order fish, I expect some effort in it. I felt like they just salted the fish a bit and put it on the grill. Of course Portuguese food it not terrible but after visiting Spain, I always expect a similar way of doing to food as they are the only neighbor to Portugal. If we talk about the Portuguese cuisine, it would be a huge mistake not to talk about the wine. I have never had a bad wine in Portugal. They are simply good at it. Even tough it is not a bottle of the famous Porto wine, the house wines you get in the restaurants for 2-4€ are just delightful. I can only recommend to have another glass :).
My Article is getting too long again… I am going to write about the rest of our trip in another article, where I talk about Algavre and Faro. I have of course made some videos but still did not edit them. I am going to share it with you when I am finished with it!
PS about Portugal:
In the year 2001 they legalized the usage and possession of drugs in Portugal. You can see the effects of it during your stay in Lisbon. When you walk around the town, very often you will be approached by some people who are trying to sell all kinds of stuff. But maybe that is the way to go, since the legalization of drugs, the drug-related crime rates decreased significantly according to this article.
And do not forget to subscribe!