I have not written on this blog in over a year now. It was not due to not having much to write about, as there is always something to write about living in Berlin or Europe, but more so that I was really busy.
Most of the time though, I was just trying to distract myself from the winter depression in Berlin, so doing anything to avoid thinking about how crap I felt in the cold and dark winter months. I am very affected by the winter although it has changed since I moved to Berlin, it is a lot less harsh than previous years.
I always went home to Cape Town for a month every year in winter since I moved here so far. It is such a relief to have a break from the winter, but the last two years I have stayed here as I wanted to travel around Europe and a bit closer closer to my current homebase in Berlin. Every year I save up and then spend all my savings on the flight and trip home, that this winter (and last) I did not go home so that I could stay in Berlin and save some money, but also to travel a bit nearer to my current home and around Europe.
I almost got to the end of winter without my trip home, but then I started to crack in early 2016 near the end of winter. I had always wanted to go, and so I found a cheap flight and went to Lisbon.
I am not entirely sure exactly what made me always want to go to Portugal, whether it was a tourism advert I saw which sunk into my brain or the fact that we have Portuguese influence related dishes in South Africa (we also have many Portuguese people there) and the first people to find Cape Town were Portuguese explorers, or if someone had mentioned to me how great they thought Lisbon was and that I simply had to go there, but for some reason I had my mind dead set on going. I was also desperate to get any amount of time anywhere warmer and to feel the sun on my skin. So after searching a while, I found a very cheap deal with a flight and a week in and Air Bnb in Lisbon for 200€. I was so excited to “discover Portugal” as the adverts intriguingly whispered.
I arrived and took a taxi to my Air BnB which was in a pretty good location. I stayed with 2 lovely ladies and a guinea pig in a communal flat, I have to sat the Guinea pig really intrigued me in the advert and it was really funny to hang out with it as it had crazy long hair.
I took a walk down through town the first day and I took a long street which kind of felt like some streets downtown at home, a little dangerous. I was also walking one day when an electric bicycle came up behind me quietly on the sidewalk and then sped off as other people came around the corner just then. I felt like I might have been mugged though if they were not there. I am used to this kind of vibe though growing up in Cape Town and South Africa. Always living a bit on edge in a tourist city.
My plan was to stay at the Air Bnb for a few nights and then move to the beach somewhere, but in the end I just took a day trip to the beach and ended up staying the entire time at the same place. I think if I had rented a car I would have gone a bit further out as some of the most amazing beaches are about 2 – 3 hours away by car.
I did however take a day to visit a beach town as I simply had to go the beach and so I visited Cascais which was just over an hour away from Lisbon by train. The streets were impressive there too – all marble and glowing in the sunlight. This place as an absolute dream with not that many tourists.
The nature was also incredible as I took a walk along the back road and came across the start or a nature reserve and some amazing rock and cliff formations called Boca do Inferno. I was sure that I seen this in pictures before, but did not even know I would just stumble across it that way.
Cascais is a magical little beach town where I could picture myself living in happily and peacefully. I saw an elderly German lady there who owns a very cool cafe, called the House of Wonders which I stumbled across. The place was super interesting as it sold flat breads made in an oven as well as lot of buffet food, but it was wonderfully decorated and quirky and the smell of bread being baked the entire time was awesome!
Many people often do not know this, but Nando’s is from South Africa. It recently opened in England and is as huge as it is back home. When I tell people it is South African they are very surprised. But in any case, as it has a Portuguese influence, I wanted to try the original Peri Peri chicken, or Piri Piri as it is called in Portugal. I had looked everywhere and had not found a place that really did it, I thought it would be a really massive thing in Portugal, but it was not. They were not even sure what I was talking about as it is actually just a regular grilled chicken with spicy ‘piri piri’ oil on the side, nothing like the elaborate stuff we have on the Nando’s menu. I eventually got my fix though and this was randomly in a British pub at the seaside. The piri piri oil was very tasty, but not at all what I had in mind.
My air Bnb hostess offered me some tips as to where to go and I decided to go over the river to Almada. The train lines are really simple, cheap and easy to use and the very across the bay was also really cheap – as much as a regular train ticket.
Cape Town is also a harbour city and when I arrived on the other side of the bay at Almada, I really felt a similarity to the docks of Cape Town. Also being a trade city and ironically also discovered be the Portuguese and later again by the dutch, so I felt a connection somehow to my roots see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_of_Good_Hope
There were loads of seafood restaurants near the docks which is also similar to Cape Town, except that the seafood is a lot more expensive than back home. I still have not come across a place more affordable when it comes to Seafood than Cape Town. There were many Indian people there who attempted to lure me into the restaurants to eat.
Although I was tempted, I decided to rather go straight up to the Christo Rei statue, which was my initial goal. I asked one of the Indian guys in one of the seafood resturants if the statue was close and said it was a 10 mins walk and indicated a direction. I tell you, it was not 10 mins at all and I ended up taking a 45 min walk up a steep hill to get to the top to see the statue. It also started to rain and was very windy, but I persevered and walked all the way there. I read that people can and do make pilgrimages to the statue and this was not my original intention, but it certainly felt it by the end of the long walk up the hill in the storm.
I did not even know this statue was there and is similar to the very famous one in Rio.See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christ_the_King_(Almada)
It was a very stormy time up there, but this allowed for me to take some extra awesome and dramatic pictures.
On the way back down, I went into an absolutely fascinating looking bar which I had seen on my long walk up the hill and thought that I had to check it out on the way back. I remember being quite shocked that the price of a beer in a restaurant being 90c and it was really good!
The guy explained that this was due to the lack of people visiting that side of the river. Apparently it is no longer as it used to be, I felt pretty bad for the people living that side. Although, Portugal is in Europe, it seems that quite a few people seem to struggle financially. The decor in the place was crazy though.
On the ferry back over the bay, I met some wonderful people from Hamburg – Germans originally from Turkey, Serbia and Portugal who took me to the old town where we went partying and all the bars and drinks were very South American influenced. We had an absolute blast that night in a Brazilian bar.
The day before I had to leave, I was walking around and wanted a slice of pizza, there were two drunk guys who kept ordering pizza after pizza and we got chatting. They were two hilarious and fantastic guys from Belgium who like to travel together. We ended up going to to a Fado bar together which a guy I met earlier who played the wooden xylophone (Marimba) outside St Georg’s castle had invited me to (if you ever see him there as a tip, make friends with him as Portuguese locals have a free pass to museums and this was how I gained access to the castle for free) .
At the Fado bar, we were drinking tequila and did not know that you have to stay dead quiet while the people sing there Fado songs as it is a tradition. It was amazing to discover this music. I felt surprised and quite uncultured as I had never even heard of Fado music before and then, when we made some noise which the Germans across from us were quick to point out and tell us that we did not respect other cultures – they were buzz killers, but to be fair we had also had a few tequilas. After all, we were not intentionally trying to disrespect a culture. Anyway, a good tip if you go to a Fado bar – keep dead quiet while a performance is going on out of respect.
There are loads of old trams in Lisbon, but it is known that you need to be careful while riding these as there are many pick-pockets who take advantage of the tourists. I took a rather full one to Belem and was really blown away by this place. It is all white and looks totally beautiful. There are so many things to see in one place in this area – the original shop where the monks produced the first Pastel de Natas from the left over egg yolks they used after using the egg whites to bleach their clothes as well as a massive monument dedicated the famous world explorers, a huge really impressive monastery and a Tower / castle in the sea which looks is something out of a fairy tale.
The streets are marble and the air has a sweet smell somehow from the lingering smell of Pastel de Nata and everything is really really cheap. The air is mellow and yellow and there are colours everywhere, both in the vibrant mix of people, their love for music and the buildings and colourful tiles.
Lisbon also has the most impressive Aquarium I have ever seen.
I can not recommend visiting Lisbon enough and I will certainly be back to visit Porto very soon to experience more Portuguese loveliness. I might even one day move there if I build up the cash, courage and language skills to move there.
For more pics of ths trip, see :- https://www.flickr.com/gp/lecianel