Wednesday, December 11, 2013

67. Next stop - Lisbon

November disappears somewhere into the nether and I take off on another flight headed to a new and exciting destination ... this time it's across Spain to the Atlantic coast and Lisbon.

This exciting city whose archaeological history dates back to the 12th century BC and whose modern day reputation as an cultural destination promises to captivate me for the next month ...

Here I am living in the newer suburbs of the city - on the 12th floor in an apartment building over-looking the Jardim Zoologico.  

An Autumn view of the Zoo from my balcony ...
 
It's a brand new experience for me to be woken early in morning by the chorus from the hungry residents calling their keepers for breakfast - and the sight of this poor old home-sick fella who reaches out to this poor old home-sick fella each day on my walk to the Metro ... maybe when I leave I can put him in my suitcase and smuggle him back to his proper homeland.
 
 
Lisbon is a city of many hills and that is really going to test my endurance as I explore the myriad of narrow lane-ways ... But on my first day here I decide to head for the most commanding of those hills - the one that over-looks the city, the Tagus River and out to the Atlantic ocean ...


And after climbing at least five million steps and walking over three thousand million cobblestones, I reach the summit and find myself at the gates of the Castle of São Jorge – pay my entry fee and start my first day of exploration …
 
 
 
The Castle of São Jorge is a Moorish Castle and fortified citadel complex with a recorded history that dates from the 11th century.
 
 
But archeologists digging around the hill have uncovered quite a history of usage dating back to 48 BC - starting with indigenous Celtic tribes, then Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians, all who used the area as a defensible outpost. That was later expropriated by Roman, Suebic and Visigothic peoples. Then during the 10th century, the fortifications were rebuilt by Muslim forces, and finally in the 11th century the Moorish people.
 

The castle and the city of Lisbon was conquered from Moors during the Second Crusade in the mid-12th century. The taking of the castle helped Christians forces maintain the defense of Lisbon until the end of that century.
Flags throughout the city are at half-mast on this day that Nelson Mandela passed
When Lisbon became the center of the Kingdom, in 1255, the castle acted as a fortified residence for Afonso III, in his role as governor. It was extensively renovated around 1300 by King Denis I, transforming the Moorish citadel into a Royal Palace.
 

Between 1373 and 1375, King Ferdinand I constructed the walled compound that enclosed the entirety of the castle. This wall, which partially replaced the old Moorish walls, was designed to encircle previously-unprotected parts of the city. Completed in two years, it had 77 towers and a perimeter of 5,400 metres.

The castle and the city resisted the forces of invaders several times during the 14th century and it was during this period that the castle was dedicated to Saint George by King John I, who had married the English princess, Philippa of Lancaster. Saint George, the warrior-saint, was normally represented slaying a dragon, and very was popular in both countries.
As a Royal Palace, the castle was the setting for the reception in 1498 for the navigator and national hero, Vasco da Gama, who had returned from discovering a maritime route to India.
 
Around the early 16th century, following the construction of the Ribeira Palace along the Tagus River, the old castle began to lose importance. An earthquake in 1531, further damaged the Palace and the Citadel, contributing further to the site's decay and neglect. In 1569, King Sebastian ordered the rebuilding of the royal apartments in the castle, intending to use it as his official residence. However, many of the projects was never completed, with the young King's "disappearance" during the Battle of Alcacer Quibir ( but that’s another story … ).
The great Lisbon earthquake of 1755 severely damaged the castle and contributed to its continuing decay. From 1780 to 1807, the charitable institution Casa Pia, dedicated to the education of poor children, was established in the citadel, while soldiers continued to be garrisoned onsite. And since then the castle and surrounding citadel has served many purposes and in recent times – and continuing in current times – has undergone extensive restoration works. And now housed in the ancient the castle is a museum and the "necessities" for the demanding tourists who flock to the hill each day.
 
Restoration works continue to return the castle to its former glory
 
And I am rewarded on this hazy wintery day with a spectacular 360 degrees panorama of the vast sprawling city and river below.
 
  

 

 

Manuel I - king of Portugal 1495-1521

 

 


 
And patrolling the grounds are several magnificent Indian peacocks ... 



 
And of course dozens of tourists - some of whom can't resist leaving their mark ... 

 
I can't resist exploring hidden passageways or climbing mysterious flights of stairs ...

 
... but it's when I get to the top that my in-built fear of heights kicks in - especially when I find warning signs like these ...

 
So after a couple of hours of exploring this ancient sight and taking in the vast city panorama, I returned to the cobblestones and descended back down into the ancient city.  

 
Next blog we'll do something more modern and visit a fabulous exhibition ...