Visiting Lisbon – Essay


Notes from our trip to Lisbon, Portugal
Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Today, we arrived at Ankara Esenboğa Airport in the afternoon. The airport was calm and deserted. We checked in our luggage and went through the police control. We arrived at the passenger waiting area number 116. Our nonstop flight took off at 17:45. We spent five hours in the air. Following the route of Ankara, Ayvalık, Thessaloniki, Albania, Italy (Bari, Naples), Corsica, Barcelona, and Madrid, we arrived at Lisbon Airport. We passed through a crowded police control without any problems. We collected our luggage. While waiting in the taxi queue, we met a young taxi driver. He drove us to our hotel and took €13 in cash. There were two young girls at the hotel reception. First Payment was made for one night, and remaining payment was received from the card for six nights. Breakfast is served between 07:00-11:00. Our rooms are more comfortable and spacious compared to the hotels we stayed at before. I took a shower immediately; the internet was password-free. The time here is the same as Greenwich Mean Time, two hours earlier than Turkey. Tomorrow morning, we will explore Lisbon on foot. Let’s see if we can find a suitable restaurant where we can eat lobster.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

We had a hearty breakfast from 07:00 to 09:00. We watched the morning traffic outside on bar stools facing the street. Then we went outside and followed a wonderful wide boulevard down to the seaside. We walked along the coast, rested on cafe loungers, and bought pineapple, bananas, and freshly squeezed orange juice from a nearby supermarket. We ate them on another wooden bench. Everywhere was mostly filled with fair-skinned British tourists and African refugees trying to sell them sunglasses. They asked for €20 for a hat, then reduced it to 15-10-5€. In Lisbon, there are three must-have things: a hat, sunglasses, and oil sunscreen. My wife lay down on comfortable chairs at the Lisboat pier and slept. Tomorrow, we plan to take a two-hour boat tour along the coast. There is also a music festival all day in the square by the shore.

Portuguese sailors sailed to Africa with caravel-type small but sturdy sailboats, crossed the Atlantic Ocean to India, and then went to Brazil. They filled the country with the riches they brought from there. They built churches, cathedrals, and narrow streets, all of which were destroyed in the 1755 earthquake. After an earthquake felt at 9 on the Richter scale at sea and 7.5 in Lisbon in year 1755, the city was destroyed, and the earthquake and tsunami destroyed the city. The city was then redesigned and rebuilt to be earthquake-resistant.

It’s a pleasant, warm, and comfortable geography. Eating seafood with emotional and romantic songs sung by women following the sailors to distant seas is very pleasant.

We walked a lot today, the cathedral, the castle, and the seaside are all in a very hilly city. We lost track of the hotel and had a hard time finding it. For dinner, we tried the “O Cardo” seafood restaurant near the hotel. It’s a small, charming local restaurant that started serving at 19:00 and gradually filled up. We ordered fish soup, shrimp, and seafood, accompanied by local beer. The bill came to 36€, they charged it in USD from the credit card, and automatically added a 5% tip. The restaurant was very close to our hotel. We were very tired all day, there are many Portuguese fish restaurants around. We are on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, so fish dishes here are probably very cheap.

Thursday, April 25, 2024, Lisbon

Today is the Carnation Revolution Day in Portugal, the 50th anniversary of liberation from autocratic rule. Ceremonies are being held everywhere. There will be concerts in the large area by the sea. After 1974, Portugal withdrew from its overseas colonies. Angola and Mozambique declared their independence. One million Portuguese living in the former colonies returned to their homeland. Today, Portugal’s population is 10 million, and Lisbon has around 500,000 residents. The country did not participate in World War II, avoiding its effects and damages. It facilitated the migration of refugees from Europe to America.

We had a hearty breakfast again: scrambled eggs, fried bread, cheese, salami, jam, tea, and coffee until 10 o’clock. Then we went outside. The streets were closed to traffic. Athletes were running a marathon for the 50th-anniversary celebration. Hundreds of men and women passed by us as we walked along the sidewalk while they ran along the street. As they ran along the street, we arrived at the finish line using the sidewalk. The athletes who completed the race received their medals. Red carnations, a symbol of the holiday, were distributed everywhere. We sat outside at a Starbucks cafe and watched the surroundings. We had lactose-free cafe latte. We were very tired yesterday. Then we walked from the pedestrian zone to the coast. On the way back, we ordered “sea bass fillet”, green salad, and fish soup at a seafood restaurant, accompanied by local beer. We watched people coming and going in a beautiful indoor venue. The bill came to 42€.

We walked back to the hotel; there was a lively atmosphere around. Flags, songs, and anthems; everyone was celebrating the holiday joyfully. Today, we took everything more comfortably and easily.

April 26, 2024, Friday

Yesterday was a holiday here. Main roads were closed to traffic. Everywhere turned into pedestrian zones. There were meetings, shows, marches, and concerts in all major areas. We had a lot of fun.

I gathered some information about Portugal from Wikipedia. Portugal became one of the 12 founding members of the Atlantic Alliance (NATO) in 1949.

In 1986, Portugal joined the European Economic Community with Spain, which later became the European Union (EU).

In 2023, renewable energy production in Portugal met 61% of electricity consumption. It exceeded 31.2 TWh in total, setting the highest value recorded in the Portuguese national system. Wind energy accounted for 25% of consumption in Portugal, hydroelectric for 23%, photovoltaics for 7%, and biomass for 6%. Natural gas comes from “take-or-pay” agreements with Algeria and Nigeria.

Per capita gross domestic product is $28,969 (nominal, 2024). Portugal is a country below the income average of Europe. Agricultural and seafood products are cheap. 60% of the working population is in the service sector.

What can be done in Lisbon, Portugal? You can walk by the coast, eat fish, shrimp, mussels, and lobster. Maybe listen to a concert at the Gulbenkian Museum. There is no textile industry, but there are many automobiles, none of which are domestic. Most of the employees in all restaurants are refugees, Arabs, Brazilians, and Africans. People from the former African colonies have come, burned their past behind them, quickly learned the language, integrated, sent their children to school, and became police officers and soldiers in public institutions.

In the 1830s, Brazilians who had already gained their independence were already speaking Portuguese. It’s a country of calm, quiet, and self-assured people, with highly variable weather where one day can be very hot, and the next cool and rainy. We spent the whole day walking, browsing souvenir shops, and eating seafood in the city center.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

The breakfast room was crowded again this morning. The croissants were excellent. We had cappuccino and tea while having breakfast in front of the large TV screen in the corner. There’s a CNN Portugal news program on TV. Almost all men on the street, whether civilian, military, or police, have beards, while only foreigners shave. I decided to stop shaving as well. Being in a completely different place far from home, surrounded by different people, everyone speaking simple English, makes communication easy. You need to buy a card and load money onto it at the metro station. We intended to do it yesterday, but the queue was long, so we gave up. The system works like our Istanbulkart. We’ve been walking every day for the past three days, averaging about 20,000 steps per day. There’s no chance to eat simple vegetable dishes here; everything comes with fish and seafood. I ordered spaghetti, and it came with plenty of shrimp. Cod fish and sea bass are among the most consumed dishes. Football is very popular here. Public transportation is good. Today, we plan to do a “hop in, hop out” city tour. We’ve walked a lot in Lisbon and learned the main streets. There are many brand stores on our boulevard, while supermarkets are on side streets. I couldn’t find a bookstore. There’s a large supermarket on the way to the Gulbenkian Museum.

This morning, we took a train to Sintra, located 25 kilometers west. We saw the mansions, estates, and palaces of Portuguese elites. We toured with the HipHop tour bus. We visited a lighthouse at Casa do Baco on the Atlantic coast. The waves on the beach looked much livelier and bigger than what we’re used to in our country. On the way back, we had tapas at El Cortes Ingles shopping center.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

This morning, we took a train to Cascais, a coastal town 30 kilometers west on the Atlantic coast. We strolled in the marina and sat at a lovely coastal café. In the afternoon, we returned to Lisbon by train. We had a wonderful day.

Monday, April 29, 2024

This morning at 10 o’clock, we went to the Gulbenkian Museum. They charged €10 per person, but there was a 10% discount for those over 65. We left our bags at the cloakroom. The museum was quite spacious and enclosed. Besides works from Turkey like Kutahya tiles, carpets, manuscripts, tiles, and ceramics, we saw many paintings and sculptures collected from other countries. Gulbenkian lived between 1869 and 1956. In 1942, during the German occupation of Paris in World War II, he came to Lisbon to go to the USA. He found this place very beautiful and saw that it was a country without tax problems, with government support. He established a foundation and brought all the artworks he collected here. He had a 5% stake in oil companies. He advised the Ottoman sultan on how the system worked and held public office. He was born in Uskudar, graduated from Kadikoy Saint Joseph High School, and later studied at Robert College and the Royal College in London. He worked as a petroleum engineer and made a lot of money from oil businesses. When you come to Lisbon, you must visit this museum. The modern art museum building is being rebuilt, and there is a large park garden. There is also a concert hall. After the museum, we are having lunch at the café, and it’s very crowded.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Today is our last day here. Our PC1742 flight will depart at 10:00 PM, and our planned arrival time is 05:00 AM. We’ve walked a lot here and seen all the worthwhile places. We took a trip to Sintra and Cascais by train. We visited the Gulbenkian Museum.

There was a concert at the same place at 8:00 PM, but we were too tired to go.

We need to vacate the hotel room by 12:00 PM. We plan to take the metro to the airport around 5:00 PM.

Most People here can’t speak proper English. However, there are many English-speaking American tourists. My wife communicates better than me. People can’t understand me when I speak, so I need to speak more slowly and simply.
All meals are served with fish and seafood, even spaghetti comes with shrimp and mussels. Sea bass and cod fish are the most served dishes, but they are not cooked well; they are often burnt or undercooked. Vegetable dishes are weak. The waiters are Indian, and the street vendors are Bangladeshi refugees.

It was a great trip. We came to a country we didn’t know, explored it, and enjoyed it. The sidewalks were paved with individual stones and had beautiful decorations. The Atlantic coast was very windy, and the waves were very high. The metro was easy to use. Many buildings need to be renovated, but there were no tall buildings; everything was balanced. Traffic was calm. There was free and passwordless internet everywhere, even in the park.

The hotel was in a reasonable location, but I couldn’t find a bookstore, and there were no small grocery stores. The airport was almost within the city, and transportation was very easy. This year, the Lisbon Energy Summit and Congress will take place from May 27th to 29th, 2024. If I had known beforehand, I would have planned my trip for those dates. On the first day, I memorized a few polite phrases in Portuguese, which proved to be quite useful.

Being in a different geography far from Turkey, seeing different people, talking to them, walking on streets and avenues we’ve never seen before, and participating in many new experiences is very enriching.

Haluk Direskeneli

Haluk Direskeneli, is a graduate of METU Mechanical Engineering department (1973). He worked in public, private enterprises, USA Turkish JV companies (B&W, CSWI, AEP, Entergy), in fabrication, basic and detail design, marketing, sales and project management of thermal power plants. He is currently working as freelance consultant/ energy analyst with thermal power plants basic/ detail design software expertise for private engineering companies, investors, universities and research institutions. He is a member of Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.

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