Lisbon: Day Two
|Manta Ray at Oceanario|
|Manta Ray at Oceanario|
|Underwater Japanese Garden|
Lisbon is a small city compared with other European capitals. Most of its sights are clustered around either the Belem district, Alfama, the atmospheric Placa de comercio or further upstream the Tagus around the Oceanario. While these sites are not near enough for a quick stroll, they do not lend themselves for much of a commute either. On the first day in Lisbon, we had managed to cover Belem, Placa de Commercio and the precincts of Alfama. On the second day, we decided to do the Oceanario. Having seen the much bigger Oceanografic at Valencia, the decision to include Oceanario at Lisboa was a controversial one. But I figured that including too much of historical and architectural wonders tends to tire out the kids. Therefore one needs to break off the monotonous with something more lively.
|Ornate tap at Museum of Tiles|
|Lisbon Cable Car|
After a breakfast consisting of sausages and some indescribable egg-based dessert, we made our way to the Oceanario. It is a decent 20-minute walk from the nearest metro station. The sun was shining brightly. It was getting a bit uncomfortable. We crossed two pedestrian bridges to reach Oceanorio. It is one of the best maintained large aquariums in Europe. Though not as big as the one at Valencia, it does pride itself in better nature conservation practices. Hence no controversial dolphin shows. When we land up there, we realise it is some school holiday. A queue of hundreds of gregarious school children has formed at the entrance. Thanks to the online pre-booked tickets we cut across it and make a quick entry. The first section is a Japanese garden-themed aquarium. It features several varieties of tropical fish. Then, there is a huge circular central tank. It has several marine creatures, such as Sharks and Manta Rays. One gets to see this central tank from various perspectives as one moves around it. On the fringes, there are sections for marine birds and some other mammals. There are smaller aquariums which have fish from the different seas. These are connected by fairly dark alleyways which gives one a feeling of moving in a surreal netherworld. Less romantically, one bumps often into toddlers and schoolchildren on the passageway. The last section is a huge shop. It sells wares and memorabilia based on the various attractions of the Oceanario. Most of it is overpriced and we hurry through it lest the kids insist on buying something! Just outside the Oceanario, there is a cable car, Telecabine Lisboa, which runs along the Tagus river. It offers panoramic views of this city spread on the rolling hills the wide Tagus river and the majestic bridges that span it. From the height, Lisbon, devoid of any tall buildings, looks like a neat patchwork of a Lego toy city.
Our next stop is the Museum of Tiles. Portugal is known since centuries for glazed tiles. The craft dates back to the Moslem era. The initial workmanship of the glazed tiles was brought by craftsmen of the Caliphate. The art was subsequently perfected and diversified in Portugal. The tiles made initially, in the Moslem tradition, figure neat geometric designs without any visual imagery. Gradually, visual imagery in a single tile and subsequently large complex images made up of hundreds of tiles was made. The subject of the imagery is very varied as well. In the Churches, the imagery is drawn mostly from the Catholic mythology. In Royal Palaces, it depicted scenes from Greek and Roman mythology adapted for the Portuguese tastes. As one views the tiles in room after room, the complexity grows to mindboggling levels. Entire walls, several feet high, are covered with hundreds of tiles, each a part of the whole, making into a huge surreal mural-like image. Soon, one’s senses are overwhelmed by the designs, colours and complexity of the tiles. The crowning glory of the museum is a massive room. The walls on three sides are covered by a humungous panoramic view from across the Tagus of medieval Lisboa spread across the hills. One can easily spend an hour examining the details of this huge three-walled tiled mural. If one has indeed got enticed by all this, the Museum offers a short course in glazed tile making. But our feet are tired and kids are hungry. Mercifully, the cafeteria of the Museum is equally diverse and offers its fares on very reasonable rates. We sip on aerated drinks as we cool our heels in the warm afternoon sun awaiting our sandwiches.
After catching our breath we move back to the Placa de Commercio to visit the Story of Lisboa exposition. The audio guide that comes with the exposition needs a little getting used to. The story describes the glory of the age of discoveries when Portuguese explorers braved the seas. The city grew out of humble beginnings. It grew prosperous from the wealth brought back from the Portuguese colonies. The 1755 earthquake is dealt with in serious detail. It is an event that has left a scar on the soul of the city even after two and half centuries. The relatively modern events of the Carnation Revolution of 1974 are depicted in stunning photographs. As one leaves the exposition, one realizes the toils and turmoil this city has undergone over the ages and in many ways contributed to its greatness. We retire relatively early back to our hotel. The next day we move to the last leg of our journey to Porto.
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