Welcome to Lisbon, I thought to myself, uncorking the bottle of wine that was put out to welcome me together with a basket of fruit and a jar of delicious tomato jam.
Hip Lisbon combines history and modernity
‘Hip’ is not always ment positively. So I was perparred for the worst when I read the first lines of the editorial in The Jerusalem Post… Are they sarcastic? Don’t they like Lisbon?
We have close friends in Israel and don’t want them to get the feeling that Lisbon is over hyped – that the hot air in the balloon will cool down before they have visited us.
My fear was no less when I saw the picture that followed the story. Maybe the worst photo of Ponte 25 de Abril I’ve seen… quite an achievement considering the quality of the camera we all have in our cell phones.
After 2 minutes reading I forgot all my worries.
I was drawn into Gil Zohar’s vivid description of Lisbon. Through the historical highlights and facts – which most media mention (the earthquake, Vasco da Gamba, the Portuguese Empire etc.) – he manage to ‘sell’ all the main attractions without the use of a single photo.
But it’s Pedro IV Square, popularly known as the Rossio, which brought me to tears. The square, once the headquarters of the Inquisition where heretics were burned at the stake for Judaizing, includes a monument to the Lisbon Massacre.
Here on April 19-21, 1506, a mob of local Catholics and foreign sailors whose ships were anchored in the Tagus, tortured and killed hundreds of Conversos – Jews forcibly baptized in 1496 – who they accused of clandestinely practicing Judaism.
And then, unlike all other travel stories we’ve read so far, he goes one step further and highlights – for obvious reasons 😉 – the Jewish background to some of the most popular sights and parts of town that is our daily life.
Of course we know that the Jews were here – but mostly from the history of the Portuguese Kitchen – especially the Alheira de Mirandela that was created by the Jewish as part of an elaborate decoy to trick the Portuguese Inquisition into thinking they were Christian.
Now I will always think about the massacra from 1506 when I cross Rossio.
And when we cross Marques de Pombal I will always think about how Sebastião de Melo achieved what his colleague Haussmann achieved a century later in Paris
Erecting gallows to discourage looters, prime minister Sebastião de Melo (better known as the Marquess of Pombal), famously ordered, “Bury the dead and heal the living.”
The marquess reconstructed Lisbon based on the urban planning ideals of the Enlightenment. As Baron Haussmann achieved in Paris a century later, the marquess’s legacy of replacing the medieval city’s ramshackle byways with broad avenues and squares is what has made Lisbon such a jewel today.
I don’t know how many travel inspirational Lisbon stories I’ve read the last 2 years in medias from all over the world
At least 300 – maybe more.
Why did it take me so long time to find a story about a part of Lisbon’s history that obviously has had big impact on not only many of the touristic sights, but also the whole City. Is it because of bad journalism?
Or has it something to do t´with the Jews – after all Richard Zimler’s bestselling novel The Last Kabbalist was initially rejected by 24 American publishers befor it got published.
Or maybe it’s a combination.
Any way – after reading the Lisbon story in The Jerusalem Post I’m going to revisit a lot of places in Lisbon.
But first I have to read The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon.
Read Gil Zohar’s story in The Jerusalem Post here