Monday, June 30, 2014

[LISBON] Hashish, Anyone?

Okay, I am well aware that I look emaciated most of the time. Wait, scrap that, I have ALWAYS been emaciated. This is mainly due to malnutrition because I hate food. But of course, most people would stick to stereotypes and label you as this or that based on your appearance alone. Perhaps this is the reason why for three straight days in Lisbon, there was always someone approaching me whispering “Hashish?” or “Marijuana?” Hooray, I look like a drug addict. Tip: Fast forward to 4:20 of the video and listen well.

For the record, I don’t do drugs. I’ve tried it once a few years ago along with smoking. I never really liked either of the two. I guess that is fortunate because one addiction would suffice for me in this lifetime. While I have heard that there are other cities in Europe which are notorious for such drug pushers, it was only in Lisbon where I was persistently approached. For three consecutive days! This is the reason why it is hard for me to just brush it off, because it did not seem coincidental.

In any case, there is definitely more to Lisbon than Hashish, and I dedicated my last few hours to get to know the other parts of the city, starting with the Elevador da Santa Justa and then heading down to the river. If you want to chillax by the riverside, Praça do Comércio is the place to be. What’s waiting for you there then? A statue of a guy on a horse! This is Iberia. They really love guys on horses. Every plaza has one, usually some king from a bygone era.

Most tourists go down the river to chillax but I think this is a bad idea unless you want a super tan. Maybe most of them really wanted a super tan. Lisbon can be very hot during the summer and I did not see any area with shade next to the river. Perhaps jumping in is optional, although I did not see anyone doing so when I was there. The best time to go would be right at sundown, that way you would not have to worry about the heat and just have a leisurely stroll. In retrospect, I should have done that!

If the river area proves to be too hot during the day of your visit, I bet you wouldn't stay longer than half an hour there. After that, you could either explore Bairro Alto or head to Alfama. Remember that castle stalking you on top of the hill? That castle is within the said area considered to be Lisbon's oldest district. Oops, I forgot to tell you that you have to traverse a few hills to get there. Newsflash: You are in Lisboa. There is no avoiding those hills.

After torturing your legs and dodging trams on your way uphill, you'll find yourself in front of a cathedral called Igreja da Sé. The official name is longer than that and probably won't be of interest to you unless you're one of those diehard Catholics who must verify which saint they are giving tribute to before entering a church. I didn't really give a damn. I just wanted to see how it looked like inside. The interior is not fancy but the frescoes are worth a photo or two.

I got hungry along the way because I forgot to have lunch. What? Neither food nor hashish is a priority of mine when I am backpacking, okay. I stopped by a restaurant and had awesome pork chops. Meat, what would I do without you? I then continued my ascent and reached that part of the district with the good view of the town and the river below. I didn’t know why but that is how I imagine Italian towns would look like. There is a terrace where you can take photos or simply enjoy the scenery.

You need extra leg power if you are to go all the way up to the castle. Don’t worry; it’s hard to get lost because road signs are everywhere. The path to the castle is along a narrow alley to the left before you reach the terraces. So just do what I did and visit the terraces first, because it would be a bit of a hassle to backtrack after your castle visit. Now the question: Is the castle worth your time and effort? The answer is: I wouldn’t know, because I did not go inside!

Why did I decide to skip this attraction? Well, there was a train to Coimbra for me to catch. While the castle itself does not seem huge, the area surrounding it actually is. For those who are interested, opening hours are from 9 AM to 9 PM. I don’t think they charge anything for admission to the grounds but there must be one for the castle itself. My point is, if you have already done your obligatory palace and castle hopping in Sintra, you won't really find it necessary to explore this one. If you have the time, though, then go ahead.

Overall, Lisbon has given me a very good impression and coming back for advanced Portuguese language courses should be fun. I wouldn't really mind being stuck in this city for a while. While it is true that I prefer big cities with skyscrapers and all that shit, Lisbon to me is an exception because it just has this combo of old world charm and modern day comfort that is simply hard to dismiss. And then of course, Portuguese! And Dourado Grelhado!

[LISBON] Hashish, Anyone?

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