Post Number: 285
Posted From: 126.96.36.199
|Posted on Wednesday, March 31, 2010 - 02:10 am: |
Jim: Nothing can ruin a trip like being mugged or pickpocketed. It happened to me in Izmir, Turkey and I lost a day of travel because of it. My friend also was mugged in Russia. You probably have returned home by now and have gotten a replacement ID card, which I understand is not too difficult to obtain with proper ID. You really covered alot of territory travelling alone and I really enjoyed your critique of what you did. I'm looking forward to your third installment on how you made it back to CONUS.
Post Number: 18
Posted From: 188.8.131.52
|Posted on Tuesday, March 30, 2010 - 03:28 pm: |
Great trip report.
I especially loved "Porkugal".
Looking forward to part III.
Post Number: 334
Posted From: 184.108.40.206
|Posted on Tuesday, March 30, 2010 - 08:25 am: |
Tell us how you solved your ID card problem.
A friend of mine is a GNR officer. I once asked him the difference between the GNR and the National Police. He told me the GNR use their batons more freely.
Post Number: 552
Posted From: 220.127.116.11
|Posted on Tuesday, March 30, 2010 - 02:38 am: |
Jim, I hope you post part III soon! I have enjoyed reading your interesting posts.
Too bad about losing your wallet and especially your military ID card. I hope that doesn't bite you when you try to enter NS Rota.
I loved "Porkugal"!
I wondered why you didn't try to stay at the several Portugese military lodging facilities that are available to us. Did you know about them?
Thanks for taking the time to write your very enjoyable trip reports.
Post Number: 12
Posted From: 18.104.22.168
|Posted on Monday, March 29, 2010 - 11:47 pm: |
apologies for my delay in getting this posted--I thought I was getting too long-winded, and saved the post for editing...but never got around to shortening it. so,here goes...
Picking up where I left off-
Got to my hostel in downtown Lisbon about 8 Thursday morning 4 March--too early to check in, so I sacked out on a big beanbag chair in the common room and snoozed till 11 (jet lag'll do that to ya). Awoke shortly before noon, stowed my gear in the room, then made a mug of java in the communal kitchden and looked over a city map with one of the very helpful hostel staffers, who had lots of good info about how to get around and what to see in order to make the best of 2-3 days in town.
On my first foray out, had lunch at a nearby restaurant--whole grilled mackerel and a half-bottle of one of the local white wines. As one would expect, a seafaring nation like Portugal has loads of good seafood, and there are plenty of good wines--it's not all port, though of course there's plenty of that too. And the pastries--we don't hear much (at least I never did) about the wealth of sugary delights this small country produces, but there are pastelerias all over the place, each with a mind-boggling array of confections on display. And every region of the country has its own signature delights--all the more reason to get out and about.
My first afternoon was taken up by sightseeing in and around the Alfama (old Moorish quarter). Rode an old-fashioned streetcar uphill and then most of the way back down before realizing I'd missed my intended stop, so hiked back up--working off most of lunch in the process, I'm sure. Atop the hills I visited a couple of the old churches, one richly decorated with blue and white azulejos (tiles) which are a characteristic feature of many historic buildings here. Also I saw St George Castle, originally built by Visigoths in the 5th century and then expanded by the Moors, and again by the Christian kings of Portugal. The towers offer a wonderful panoramic view over Lisbon and the River Tejo, and it was especially impressive as I was able to watch the sunset from the castle walls.
More seafood for dinner, then went on a pub crawl with a group from the hostel (calling my sanity into question)..finally turned in about 0300 Friday morning.
Friday I took the modern streetcar line to Belem, about 4 miles west from where I was staying. This is where many of the early voyages of discovery set sail, and there's a cool monument-and-museum along the waterfront commemorating Prince Henry the Navigator, Vasco de Gama, Magellan and the other great explorers. A couple blocks inland is the Monastery of the Order of St Jerome, a superb example of Portuguese renaissance architecture embodying the wealth and extravagance of the era in which they were Europe's leading maritime power. And just down the road is the Antiga Confeitaria de Belem, a pastry shop in what was originally a sugar mill. Had to try their signature item, an egg custard tart dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar, chased with a shot of strong espresso-like coffee. Mmmmmmm! Back at the hostel we had a tasting of eight or nine Portuguese wines--great way to wrap up the evening.
Saturday spent a couple hours checking out the Cathedral, then walked over to the Rossio railway station, terminal for the regional commuter trains; from there aprx 1 hour ride out to Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the hills overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. And it was at this point that the 'incident' occurred: arriving in Sintra, I couldn't find my wallet. I'd had it out to buy my ticket at Rossio, and obviously one of the local pickpockets had nabbed it. There went my Military ID, credit card, and 40 euros cash. My passport and ATM card were safe in the passport case under my shirt, which is usually where the DoD ID and Visa card were; in fact, this was the first Space-A adventure in which I'd even taken the wallet along--obviously the wrong game plan, in hindsight! So, the first hour-plus in Sintra was spent at the local GNR (National Police) station filing a report.
I made the best of the rest of the day by having some regional pastries at a local cafe recommended by Lonely Planet and then visiting the old castle in the center of town and a nearby mansion and gardens built for a Brazilian coffee millionaire. Then back to Lisbon, where I contacted the bank to stop my credit card and got on the hostel's free internet to post a "any ideas?" query in the Off-topic section of this very web site. One of the great things about being part of the SPAT community is the wealth of insight and experience shared by Pepperd.com readers!
Since I still had my passport and access to cash via the ATM card, I decided to tough it out in Portugal a while longer. Sunday after a late sleep-in I took the subway to the Gulbenkian Museum, which is free on Sundays. It houses the personal collection of Calouste Gulbenkian (in effect the John D Rockefeller of imperial Russia, he pretty much launched the Black Sea and Caucasian oil industry). Lots of artifacts from Egypt, Greecee & Rome, the Islamic world and the Far East; also a European art collection featuring at least one work by most of the big names among renaissance Italian painters, old Flemish masters and the French Impressionists.
Monday took the train up to Porto, a ride of about three hours. Got in a little before sunset, so didn't get much sightseeing done. Stayed in a pension--15 euro per night for a private room but shared bath, no breakfast and 50 Eurocents for 15 minutes on the 'net. Dinner in a nearby cafe was secretos de porco preto (literally "secrets of the black pig"), thick slabs of belly bacon from hogs fed on acorns and chestnuts. As I joked to a friend later, with all the delicious swine flesh that graces the tables there, they could just as well call the country "Porkugal".
Tuesday visited some of the highlights around the old part of town, including the Casa do Infante where Prince Henry the Navigator was born in 1394. After lunch, crossed the Douro River via an iron bridge designed by a student of Gustave Eiffel (of tower fame) to Vila Nova de Gaia, where the celebrated port cellars are. The wine is actually made at vineyards on the hillsides upriver, but it's then shipped by boat down to Porto for the requisite aging in massive wooden casks. Of course, I had to visit at least one of the cellars; I chose Sandeman's, partly because I almost always have a bottle or three of theirs in my modest collection at home. Took a tour along with three siblings from Lithuania and a young Aussie couple who were already on their third cellar tour of the day--perhaps too much of a good thing!
Wednesday I stopped in to the cathedral and then took the train north to Braga, Portugal's third-largest city. Big highlight there was the 12th-century cathedral and a really good lunch of pork loin with applesauce and roasted chestnuts, a half bottle of local wine, and a port-flavored custard for dessert.
Thursday by bus down to Coimbra, a university town about midway between Porto and Lisbon. Stayed across from the bus station in a pension that was half apartments, half rooms for travelers (you could tell which half was which by the lines of drying laundry hanging like signal flags from balcony railings--you see a lot of that in Portugal!). Like Porto and old Lisbon, Coimbra is very hilly--plenty of opportunity to walk off the calories gained from indulging in the local pastries. Walked up and down and all around through the University quarter; saw lots of students in the traditional garb--mostly black with long capes. Then Friday I took a bus out into the countryside to explore Conimbriga, one of the best-preserved Roman ruins on the Iberian peninsula. Spent about 2 1/2 hours wandering around before bussing back to Coimbra for dinner and a free concert of fado, a rather melancholy style of vocal music with roots going back to the medieval troubadors. The group I heard consisted of a lone singer accompanied by a classical guitar and a Portuguese guitarra, a 12-string instrument looking like a cross between a regular guitar and a madolin. The concert took place in a cafe next to one of the big churches in town--in fact, I'm pretty sure it originally was part of the church, as you don't usually see gothic stone arches and vaulted ceilings in your typical night spot. Oh, of course I had pastry, and strong coffee, and a good glass of slightly dry white port while savoring the music.
Saturday I headed back south. Bus to Lisbon, then after a short layover onward by bus to Faro, in the Algarve region on the south coast. This is a popular holiday spot for Brits seeking respite from the rain and chill of the homeland, as evidenced by the many signs advertising "full English breakfast" or "traditional Sunday roast". Didn't do a whole lot in the day and a half I spent there; just chilled out enjoying the sea breezes and seafood (and yes, the local pastries). Stayed in another hostel in Faro, conveniently situated only a block from the bus terminal and not much farther from the beach.
And then, when Monday dawned, it was time to start the journey back to Rota. More about that in Part III...