Abril, aguas mil – Lisbon in the rain

Personal, Travel

Iberian peninsula during springtime is wet, dramatic and unforeseeable. Unless you expect the unexpected, or something which would discourage many tourists (and leaving these beautiful lands at peace!), i.e. torrential rains, strong winds and only short spells of the sun. There’s even a saying about it both in Spanish and Portuguese ‘Abril, aguas mil!‘. I’ve experienced it very well living in Lisbon, Faro and Barcelona, still this kind of weather did not scare me off from visiting my beloved Lisbon for a city break, hungry for something different after a long and bleak Berliner winter. And knowing there will be less crowds than usual, to enjoy the springtime rain smells and spells.

I decided to picture these days with my new camera, Nikon D5100, and although I don’t pretend to be a professional in this area either, it was quite some fun to explore its different effects. Still, Lisbon looks pretty even in the eye of the worst photographers!

Bad weather was also a great occasion to explore Lisbon’s tech hub: I have connected with various professionals working in the industry, including FarFetch, Uniplaces and Zalando. It was great to see how the city is growing its potential and economy, and I asked a lot of uncomfortable questions, including the responsibility over the gentrification, lower remuneration and taxation than in other parts in Europe.

Getting the current insiders’ perspective was refreshing and I am looking forward to connect with more people during this year’s WebSummit where I’ll definitely show up. I was delighted by the experience and offers that this city gives after years I’ve got to know it, but I still think about how the fast tech growth could take into consideration the city’s history, pace, specificity and not leave the less privileged inhabitants behind and push outside of the city limits.

I do believe that tech can make a positive impact, much more than mass tourism model, but needs to be tackled early enough. I hope for the social responsibility actions to be taken in Lisbon and other cities in Portugal and Spain, flourishing years after of financial crisis such as Porto, or Valencia. Even though I can honestly admit that I’m a part of the problem, I still remember living there on a shoe string, as a student and being able to make it a valuable experience.

Final words go to my partner, an author of some of the tram photos. Visiting Lisbon for the first time, I benefited a lot from his sharp and new perspective on things, and he was lucky enough to experience an empty Tram #28 at night, something which is a hard to find, very special setting in this city.

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Bem-vindas em Lisboa

Personal, Travel

In June I re-visited Lisbon on my way to Azores and spend there two weekends. I was lucky enough to live the last days of the Santo Antonio festivities and visit my favourite beaches: Guincho and Caparica. The city shined in the light of the sun, or yellow lanterns during the night.

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It changed greatly as well. The infrastructure is much better since the airport connects the city centre with a metro line. The Tagus river bank has now a boulevard to enjoy the sunsets while listening to the urban beat (often: Brazilian, Angolan combo of sounds – so good…). There are, however, more tourists than before. Lisbon became one of the ‘hottest European destinations’, and it is perfectly understandable. Fascinating history, quirky architecture, sunny weather, best beaches in Europe within 1 hour drive reach, great cuisine, English-speaking services and affordable prices. Sounds great, but too familiar for someone who lived 4 years in Barcelona, where ‘normal life’ has become unbearable due to the massive tourism.

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That’s why I am worried that the authenticity of Lisbon is at risk. My Lisbon friends no longer visit Alfama, as it is mostly invaded by tourists on segways, or worse: tuk-tuks creating serious traffic jams (!) on the little cobblestone streets.

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I don’t want to rant about tourism in general. This is what we all do if we want to discover new places, don’t we? But then let’s call it travelling. Lisbon is one of its kind, special location and I always love to come back there, but when I do, I try to respect the locals, and their everyday lives and customs.

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I always feel so welcome on the tiny streets, bars and pastelerias where time stopped years ago. I look at the faces that have seen different times, and now staring at the unconscious or intoxicated tourists passing by with the same indifference. Yet if you try to live the spirit of the traveller living the night and day of Lisbon, you will notice the difference.

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Bem-vinda seja, Lisbon seems to tell me anytime I land there. And soon I’ll be there again, on a my way to a very interesting art conference!