Portugal

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The playground of royalty

A different world opens up an hour away from Lisbon – the rolling hills and lush slopes conjure up images of Bavaria and it is not too far from the truth to say a rather homesick King who married a Portuguese Princess chose to dwell in relative peace in such surroundings. Introducing Sintra, the playground of royalty in the 19th century. The quaint town is itself about a pleasant 10 minutes walk through the winding road filled with greenery. And the boo-moment of the day happened when I read the map wrongly, and thought the palace was situated in the heart of town. To my chagrin, it was actually 5-6...

Old world charm

One wonders at the tripartite heart of Lisbon – the Bairro Alto (now the clubbing district), the Baixa Chiado (the centre piece and shopping area) and the Alfama (the oldest quarter that survived the 18th century earthquake), yet Tiago merely called it a big village. He is not wrong, for all 3 areas are interconnected, but the Alfama, followed by the Bairro Alto is undeniably the most compelling with its winding, uneven streets, and its stunning views at various look-out points. Up the Castelo Sao Jorge, a Visigoth battlement enhanced by the Moors with which the Tourism office makes a quick buck out of mere ruins, yields a magnificent panorama...

Lisbon and its Taxis

I reached Lisbon after a rather harrowing 7 hour bus-ride, in which the driver in Jekyll-Hyde form, turned sanguine to nasty as he neared Lisbon Sete Rios Bus station. By the end of the journey he was already yelling at someone for some unfathomable reason, and I thought it wise to walk away before it escalated into some full blown quarrel. Then it was into a taxi from Sete Rios to Rua de Augusta (an apparently famous vein of the city) and found it most disconcerting to find that the cabbie himself didn’t know the way. “Cruzamento Rua de Augusta com Rua de Conceicao…” I had said to him curtly, attempting to pronounce the tilda-ed word properly. Either he did not understand a word I said, or my accent was so bad that...