18 Haziran 2015 Perşembe

The City of Discoverers and Streets; Lisbon

Is a revolution without blood possible?  Besides, this revolution is against a dictator. If you are holding carnation flowers instead of guns in your hands, yes, it is possible. The Portuguese proves that it is possible long time ago; in 1974. We are in the country of the discoverers; in Portugal. We are also in Lisbon; the capital of the sailors who have always been proud of making the majority of the undiscovered lands of the world known to the rest of the world. We are here to discover the most interesting city of the Portugal which has been the capital of the country since 1260.

Lisbon has grown up in the lap of Tajo River that looks very like a sea. The river has very long suspension bridges making curves over it.  Rising in Spain, Tajo River runs in vast banks of Lisbon and soon later meets the ocean. Our city discovery starts at the coasts where Christof Colomb, Vasco de Gama and other adventurous sailors who are curious about the unknown parts of the Earth. We have a volunteer guide, Eda with us. Ela, with black eyes, eyebrows and as an Arab woman from Antakya,
south of Turkey by the Syrian border, overuses her mimics and body in a lovely way as if she was on stage while giving details about the city. Ela has an extraordinary life story. She leaves everything behind her in Turkey and moves to a city of Andalusia. Paradoxically, her Arab ancestors come to these lands to conquer the country on the horse backs with the swords in their hands in the 7. Century. They rule the area for hundred years.   

Ela keeps telling us about the city life, history, women rights, marriage and religion with great excitement whereas we try to catch up with her speaking and walking pace. On the other hand, she tries to swallow the traditional food (Sarma) we bring from her hometown. I have just told that the

Portuguese people are proud of their revolution with no blood. Ela goes on giving more information about this interesting issue. The leftist soldiers revolt against the bloody dictatorship established by Salazar in 1936. Although the great dictator,  Salazar, ironically dies by falling off a chair in 1970 his successors; the president Thomaz and prime minister Caotano continuo with the fascist regime. In 1974 and huge movement starts against the regime and it ends up with a big success. How does this revolution become successful? And why is it called The Revolution of Carnation? Another friend of mine, Carla, from Lisbon tells us the amazing story.  
The fascist government is surrounded by the brave revolutionary soldiers and "April Captains" and Thomaz and Caotano have to flee to Brasil. Also the story of the carnations is that there is going to be a big wedding in a very big church in Lisbon and the church has been decorated with carnations. But since there is a revolution, the wedding is cancelled and so the florist decides to pack them and go home. But on the way, a soldier, tired, asks her for a cigarette. She answers " I have no cigarette but I can give you a carnation". The soldier accepts the flower with a smile and puts it on his riffle. And the other soldiers like it and imitate him. I know all this because my father was one of the "April Captains" and the story of the florist is because my son, Carl had a colleague at primary school whose grand-mother was this florist.
Isn’t it a fantastic story? Anyway, the leftist junta makes a new democratic institution and they send Salazar’s fascist constitution that steals even the right of voting of women into the rubbish bin. They establish the foundation of today’s democratic life with high human rights standards. Can soldiers bring democracy to a county? This experience in Lisbon is precious one for the people and social science academics to study and find the correct answer.

Lisbon is a county of mosaic pavements.  The pavements are painted and illustrated with mosaic pictures so that the pedestrians can enjoy the art
while walking.  The pavements make an amazing harmony with the well-protected old buildings, free-spirited women, street artists, colorful immigrants and musicians. The travelers enjoy every moment of this artistic painting appear in front of them every second. We realize a silent revolt inside us while staring at this picture. Why our hometowns not having such harmony? And why the historical identity of our towns has been destroyed? This is a familiar feeling for every traveler person from Turkey travelling abroad.
Lisbon experiences a devastating earthquake in the past. The earthquake hit the people when they are praying in the churches with the lit candles in 1775. That’s why huge fire starts. People who want to escape from the fire run towards the river. However, a second disaster starts at that very
moment and a fatal tsunami meets people by the river. So the loss increases immensely this way. The chain of disasters leaves behind more than 100 thousands casualties, a totally destroyed city, epidemics, poverty and hopelessness. Local people think that the disasters are the signs of the punishment of God because neither the earthquake nor the tsunami or the fire could give any harm to the Muslim neighborhood. The hopelessness creates a hero that moment King Jose I.
Learning from the terrible experience, he rebuilds the city with large streets and squares and bring courage and hope to people. That’s why people start to treat him as a saint and hero.

If the city is mountainous with lots of hills around and ends by the water, that means it is lucky city.  Its nature, tastes, smells, flavor and the music of the city turn to be very rich and special. Moreover, it gives the chance to its inhabitants and visitors to have a panoramic look to the city all the time.
Lisbon is such an amazing city. The castle of the city stands up there on a hill with a brave look and right below the castle you can watch the red tiles of the buildings, the river and the history from the
viewing terraces. Honestly, it is not easy to reach this high point of the city. You need to wait for a long time to be able to go up using the slow and colorful trams which has only a few cars behind.  Also, you need to be very tough to push people away to get on the tram.
I guess the local authorities and people do not want to interfere with the slow city, slow traffic and quietness philosophy. That’s the reason why the local trams visit the stops very rarely. Being used so much to the speed and crowd, we, the people of Turkey, do not find this slow philosophy reasonable. The truth is the most enjoyable things are the ones which can be done slowly. The lovely bitter espresso, the liquor called Ginginha, with a special flavor, special kind of wine and architecture help us slow down and find the rhythm of the city. We never miss any chance of watching local people, the sellers, street musicians, the drivers and the kids. We observe no tension on the people’s faces and they are usually ready to smile. It seems that the serenity on the faces proves the real life quality of the people. Isn’t it?   

Like all beautiful cities of the world, Lisbon is a colorful and multicultural city. You can see people coming from the ex-colonies of Portugal such as Angola, Brasil and other African countries with
their own colors. Lisbon, the city of sea and water, still attracts big number of immigrants.  By the way, Lisbon has been chosen as the city of tolerance. The wall dedicated to this award is used as the meeting point of the immigrants. They come together in this square under the scripts written in many languages, have deep conversation and ease the pain of missing their hometowns. We reach the immigrants’ neighborhood as soon as we leave the square and move up. Walls with flowers, the colorful clothes of women, the gloomy streets and the weed sellers meet you in this street.  Watching the humorous windows and the doors, we come across a hidden cute café. In the café, they serve us water and smiling faces. Just like in Anatolia; the water in a pitcher on the table and free of charge.
Espresso is the rescuer again. It is a remedy to sleeplessness, tiredness and pale eyes. Espresso is strongly recommended to the travelers with short of time and plenty of attractions to discover.
We would like to watch the city from a different point of view and from a higher spot. So, we go up with a lift same age (19th century) and style with the one in İzmir, Turkey. It functions as a carrier for the people to reach the upper neighborhood. It is a good idea to go up on this lift as it gives us an opportunity to
see the details of the city, enjoy the history again, and realize the craziness and creativity of human being.  We come down in this interesting lift which looks like an old room. We wear a stupid tourist smile and intend not to miss any surprising things around. While passing through the long streets full of stories which arouse the feeling of being a vagrant, we start talking about living in this interesting city for a while. This is the moment when the feeling of freedom can beat starvation. Isn’t it possible to live in a different city every year?

Although fading in today’s world, Lisbon is the city of strong faith and churches. Ela brings us to one of the most interesting churches. She keeps telling us everything in a theatrical way. Saint Domingos Church, which is known as the Burnt Church among local people is built in 1241. What is it called Burnt Church? Let me tell you. This royal church is burnt two times during the two earthquakes in the past in 1531 and 1755.  The restoration process takes long time until 1807. However, the bad fate of the church doesn’t leave it alone and it is burnt completely again in 1959. Two firemen die during the big fire. Some parts of the burnt sides in the church are left
untouched so that they give a good lesson to the people. We go inside the church. The burnt parts on the walls and the frescos look very fresh. The hundreds of lit candles remind the fire every minute and make me scared.   
After visiting the mystic church, we find a classical fish restaurant so that we can enjoy the rich sea food of the ocean and the river of
Lisbon. Having the familiar and unfamiliar cheap fish marinated with garlic, olive oil and spices and drinking high quality wine creates the feeling of “thanks God I am in Lisbon”. Seeing house of Jose Saramago just near the restaurant shocks me and makes me very happy. This writer is a humanist, socialist with high conscious of justice and has an imagination as huge as high mountains. Two cult books go across my mind very suddenly.  The Blindness and Seeing. They are really good books to know about the country, the world and humanity.
We prefer to stay in an old hostel called Lisb’on which is build by the river. The helpful workers who seem to be enjoying doing their job make our stay most comfortable.  The hostel is in the heart of the live life of the live city. People staying in the hotel have different languages, faces and clothes but same motivation. They aim to discover the city and experience a different life for a few days.  After having a short break-  Lisbon never lets you sit
down- we enter into the more active night life than the daytime.  There are different pubs for different preferences and styles. Pubs with Fado music, rock, jazz or a striptease pub (Casa de Amor-House of Love) with a library are just some of the options. Lisbon has the long and rich life of night time for the ones who are energetic enough to have fun till dawn.

You should go for a walk along the riverside of Lisbon. You can watch the old city with red tiles while seeing the fish in the river. We just do the same. Now, we have another guide; Sinem, who comes to the city as an exchange student within Erasmus programme, falls in love with a Portuguese guy, the city and decides to settle down in this
charming place. Sinem leads us to the tram which is not the favorable transportation option for us. But this time we are more experienced and ready to fight and get on the tram. Finally, we realize that we are all on the tram sitting together. The experience we bring from Turkey help us succeed this fight.

Lisbon has Belem. Belem is a green town, 10 km far from the city center, located near the river and has magnificent buildings. The buildings are the architecture masterpiece; Jeranimo Monastry, the monument of the discoverers and the small castle in the water that you can hardly believe it is real. Once you watch the works carefully you soon realize that you are far away from your hometown in unknown lands. It is the time to discover the

lands of the discoverers. When watching the Monument of the Discoverers, I am hit by the thought; “the discoverers become happy and rich when they discover the new lands, how about the people being discovered? A tragic end?” We finish our discovery with the traditional dessert called Pastel de Nata. Then, we fly over the ocean towards Madeira Island with the sweet taste in our mouth and the magical images of the city in our eyes.  
Mehmet Ateş
June 2015, Izmir, Turkey

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