On my second trip to Senegal from Denmark I had a sizable layover in Lisbon, Portugal. After landing in the A.M. I purchased a 24-hour Lisboa Pass, which granted me free access to public transport and discounts to major attractions. In a whirlwind self-guided tour I saw several major parts of the metropolitan area, visited a handful of museums, historic buildings and monuments, and ate the most bizarre lunch of blackened squid (that’s what you get when you don’t speak Portuguese). Lisbon is a beautiful, cozy city and I would very much like to spend more time getting to know the culture, and not just it’s history and tourist attractions.
One interesting revelation I had was that of highly subjective nature of history. On this day I was repeatedly exposed to the Portuguese people’s great pride in their historical legacy as explorers. From the discoveries of Henry the Navigator and Vasco da Gama to the reach of the old colonial empire, the small nation is not shy to taut its former glory. In particular the very impressive Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) celebrates all of the major Portuguese explorers in 171 ft. of sculptural grandeur. While I was indeed impressed by all I learned, I found it rather ironic to be waiting for a plane to take me to the other end of their “discovery,” where Europeans claimed other peoples’ lands, exploited their resources and took many a poor soul to other colonies to live and die as slaves. Perspective is a fascinating thing.