Our overnight in Lisbon provided beautiful views of the city at night, but an early start for our Sunday morning tour required a light dinner and an early to bed.
Again, we had contracted for a private tour of Lisbon to see the city and learn more about the culture of the Portugese people. Our driver/guide was Paulo, from Tours by Locals, and he provided a most interesting peek into the daily lives of the people of Portugal.
We made a few stops at mandatory tourist sites, the Belem tower and the Jeronimos Monastery, and then headed out of the city to see the Christ the King statue across the Tagus and high above Lisbon.
Jeronimos Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on a Sunday morning
The Cristo-Rei (Christ the King) statue sits across the Tagus river on a hilltop 436 feet above sea level. The statue and monument rise another 300 feet above that and command outstanding views of the city. It was completed in 1984 to fulfill the request and promise made during World War II to keep Portugal out of the conflict. It was modeled after the statue in Rio de Janeiro and although the statue is smaller, the total monument size is larger, allowing both Lisbon and Rio to claim superiority.
The inscription over the door reads “I am the Way”
From across the Tagus River at the monument site, is a great view towards the 25 April bridge, which commemorates the revolution in 1974 overthrowing the dictator Salazar. Built by the same company that did the Golden Gate bridge, this bridge has a second, and lower level for the trains.
Stations of the cross surround the perimeter of the monument, and the chapel under the statue is small, but artfully done.
After leaving some prayerful requests, we found our way to the Lisbon cemetery, which is quite unique, but important to the religious Portuguese.
In the center of Lisbon, the cemetery is laid out like a city with streets lined with family mausoleums, very ornate and individualized.
Each has space for a ladder of caskets on each side and just enough space for a chair between. During holidays like Christmas or Easter, the interiors are decorated with a Christmas tree or other home decorations to include the deceased in the holiday celebration. Family members often visit, inside the building, to bring the loved ones up to date with family news and events.
This one, door knocker and all, was designed by the architect who designed the La Scala opera house, which I believe is in Milan.
The door knocker is superfluous, I believe, for obvious reasons.
The cemetery is VERY large, with streets lined on both sides for blocks, right in the city. At the entrance, a map provides direction for visitors.
Lisbon streetcars are everywhere, with some dating back to the 1920’s and still in use.
On the way back to the Rotterdam I was able to catch a “Kodak Moment”, the Christo-Rei statue tightrope walking the 25 April bridge. Priceless!!!
It was another full day, but our departure was scheduled for 4P to allow photos of the Belem tower dating to the 16th century, when Portugal and Spain both searched for alternative trade routes to the Far East. The “Silk Road” overland was long, time-consuming and frought with hazards. The Belem tower was the last view of Lisbon as the sailors left by sea, and the first to appear as they returned home. Similar to Judy as we returned to the Rotterdam, exhausted, but enlightened.
Monument to the Discoveries is also best seen from the ship as we depart Lisbon, depicting Henry the Navigator and 44 other brave, seafaring souls who launched Portugal into the 16th and 17th centuries with their adventurous journeys.