September 6, 2012

Confessions of the Euro-fluenced: Days 58-60, 64

On a map, Spain envelopes Portugal on basically three sides. The two countries are so intimate that it almost looks like Spain is a big fish about to gobble the much smaller fish, Portugal. The only way for the small fish to escape is out to sea. 

(Symbolic? Maybe thats why Portugal has had so many explorers "escaping out to sea " to the west. Well, they probably didn't have THAT many explorers, just the ones from 7th grade that I can remember... a la Vasco de Gama!)

Back to being intimate. Although there are many similarities between the residents of both countries, there certainly are major differences. Contrary to what you may think (and maybe contrary to what one 27-year-old girl once thought), knowing Spanish does NOT equal knowing Portuguese. Disappointedly, the two languages are quite different. Here's an example to help you understand how different they are: During dinner one night, we witnessed a Spanish woman using a translate app on her iPhone so that she could communicate with her Portuguese server. 

Knowing Spanish in Portugal is as helpful as knowing French in Portugal.

No comprendo.

Funnily enough, after encountering many languages in over two months of travel which included twenty different cities in ten different countries, this is the first time, in Lisbon, that we have encountered a We really have no idea what you  are saying and you really have no idea what we are saying language barrier. But it's not what you think. This scenario happened during one of our dinner adventures at a Brazilian steakhouse  (the kind of steakhouse where servers come to the table and slice off huge chunks of meat but you have to get up and walk to the buffet to get your own salad... Ive never witnessed so many giddy men in my life). You see, most everywhere we've  travelled we can get by with just English. It really is amazing what non-English speaking Europeans can pick up through Hollywood movies and American rock music! But here, in this restaurant, no one understood a bit of English. So, after much flapping of arms and exaggerated facial expressions, we finally communicated 'Carne for him.' and 'No carne for me' (hoping that the Spanish 'carne' would be similar to the Portuguese word for meat). Whew. That was almost as much work as hunting and butchering and cooking our OWN chunk of meat.

As a whole, Lisbon has been the most hospitable experience thus far. Locals  were super smiley (Smiles have been rare in some of the places we have gone.. clear-throat-cough-Paris-cough). From the two super cool hostels we stayed at, to the local cafe, to the drug dealers on the street corner ("You want hashish?)... I felt very welcomed.

Even though Lisbon is not huge, its architecture and landscape can be very diverse depending on which end of town you are on. Helping to divide the city are the seven hills, and valleys, on which it is spread. So for instance, the first night we stayed in the chic Biaxo Chiado district (think high end retail). The second day we explored the residential Barro Alto district (think clotheslines out the windows). And the remaining days were spent sleeping and eating in quaint Alfamo (think modern day middle class).

Lisbon is one of those cities that does 'run-down' well. Even though there is a good amount of graffiti, it tends to accentuate, not distract from, the brightly colored fresco tiles that adorn the sides of the buildings and the sidewalks... Almost like the graffiti is meant to be a permanent part of the facade. On one side of the street there would be laundry hanging out, and on the other side, a beautifully built church. The streets were made of tiny, very slippery, gray cobblestones. And there's a pretty large river with a waterfront park thats great to chill out in. 

I HAVE to mention the Lisbon Poet's Hostel. This hostel was small, quiet, and comfortable.... Everything we could ask for. Each room was assigned a different poet and the decor was in theme to that  poet. Our room had poems written on the walls in magic marker.. It could have turned out super yucky, or really cool, and thank goodness, it worked well! Wonderfully creative!

All in all, Lisbon was great. Along with Basel, Prague, Brugge, Amsterdam, and York, I would recommend it to you.

>Food .5
>Location 1
>Activities .5
>Comfort 1
>Hostel 1

The Turner FLACH rating? 4 poetic stars.

No comments:

Post a Comment