Oh salty sea, how much of your salt Is tears from Portugal?~Fernando Pessoa
Tina has challenged us to capture our neighborhood in this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #36. That’s a great idea, Tina. I love getting glimpses of where people live around the world.
This week we’ve been exploring the neighborhoods in the ancient and beautiful city of Lisbon, Portugal. Here, spring is hovering and retreating, much like the sun. Hours of warmth are followed by flashes of chilling rain.
One night, we walked down to the harbor, where for centuries, Portuguese explorers set sail for distant lands. At this spot, a series of foreign invaders also fought for a foothold in this rich and beautiful land.
Regardless of the unpredictable weather, the streets are filled with people, window shopping, listening to music, and eating in sidewalk cafes. One night, a group of break dancers entertained spectators in Chiado Square. Behind them, you can see the statue of the poet António Ribeiro.
Chiado is one of several distinct neighborhoods in Lisbon, famous for its bohemian and artistic past. Distinguished writers like Fernando Pessoa composed poems and stories in the local cafes and restaurants.
We were astounded to learn that Lisbon is older than Rome. It can trace its history all the way back to 800 B.C., when it was occupied by the Phoenicians and the Greeks. Successive waves of invaders occupied the city and left their mark–most notably, the Moors, who shared their artisanal crafts of making tiles and mosaics.
The city has endured, even when a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck in 1755. Most of the city was destroyed and then rebuilt like the beautiful Rossio Square. (By the way, the wavy mosaic tiles are an optical illusion.)
Much of the city’s culture and history is shaped by its proximity to water. This influenced the creation of fado, the uniquely moody and nostalgic Portuguese music created by sailors and their families who longed for their return home. These waters have also shaped the cuisine of Portugal, famous for its fresh and delicious seafood. And it also accounts for its fabulous wealth, as seen here in the city’s oldest Byzantine church, Santa Maria Maior de Lisboa. Yes, that is gold.
We’ll continue our visits to the neighborhoods of Lisbon and the surrounding countryside before moving on to Madrid later next week. When traveling, it’s easy to see a place with “new” eyes. It’s far more difficult to keep finding the unique and unusual in familiar surroundings. But isn’t it true that we are all travelers on this earth–no matter if our voyages are around the block or far away on other continents? This quote by the famous Portuguese writer José Saramago, recipient of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Literature, reminds us all of that fact.
The journey never ends. Only travelers end. And they too can be prolonged in memory, in memory, in narration. When the traveler sat on the sand of the beach and said, “There’s nothing else to see,” he knew it was not true. We must see what we have not seen, see again what we have already seen, see in spring what we saw in the summer, see what we saw at night by day, with the sun where the first time it rained, see the green crops, the ripe fruit, the stone that has changed places, the shadow that was not there. We must return to the steps already given, to repeat them, and to trace new paths alongside them. You have to start the journey again. Always…José Saramago.
To join this week’s challenge (#36), link your post to Tina’s site. Next week, it’s my turn to host the next Lens Artist Photo Challenge #37. We hope you join us!