Tag Archives: Salazar

Portugal – Lisbon, Castles and Churches

Our excellent apartment was in the Bairro Alto region of the city, an elevated district high above the River Tagus and the commercial centre of Baixa, an area that required a lot of hill climbing, strong knees, deep lungs and steep steps to negotiate.

Today we were planning to explore more of the city and our first stop was the Castelo de São Jorge

The Patron Saint of Portugal is Saint Anthony of Padua (I have come across him before) and the Patron Saint of Lisbon is Saint Vincent and Saint George is somewhere down the Catholic Church pecking order as the  Guardian Angel of Portugal.

The castle is in Alfama district and this is separated from Baixa district by a sort of deep and rather inconvenient gorge which requires going down a lot of steps on one side to get to the bottom and then going up a lot of steps on the other side to get to the top.  We could have used the funicular tram but at €3.20 I considered this unnecessary expenditure  for a five hundred yard journey so instead of whirring and wizzing to the top we walked and wheezed instead.

Amalfa is the historic heart of Lisbon, occupied by the Moors during the occupation of Iberia and once they had gone subsequently chosen by the Christians as the site for their defensive medieval castle to stop them coming back.  The district was badly damaged by the 1755 earthquake and sadly no original buildings survived but it has retained its compact and rather  quirky original  layout with tightly packed streets and alleyways and hidden secret corners to explore.

It has to be said that the area is rather run down with several dilapidated houses screaming out for  attention and a bit of love and affection, abandoned cars and graffiti scarred walls  but this only adds to the charm of this part of Lisbon. Here are cobbled streets minus a few cobbles, decorated with terracotta plant pots and effusive flowers, gaily coloured doors and shutters and flapping washing lines stretching out and dripping indiscriminately upon rich and poor across the lanes below.

Eventually we reached the castle entrance and immediately ran into a line of people queuing to pay.  This time we decided to risk it and to our surprise the line moved quickly and we were soon inside.  It isn’t a very authentic castle, it was destroyed by the Lisbon earthquake and restored in the 1930s under the dictatorship of António de Oliveira Salazar.  Often described as a benevolent dictator he was responsible for a lot of historical restorations and there is nothing wrong with that in my book.

In 2006 in a  public opinion television show Salazar was judged the “Greatest Portuguese Ever” with 41% of the vote.  I find that interesting, he was sort of a right wing fascist but not quite and in similar votes in Spain and Germany viewers were forbidden for voting for Franco and Hitler.

I don’t know much about Salazar except to his credit he denounced Hitler and the Nazis and kept Portugal in the Western European Time Zone but the fact that a nation would vote a dictator who suppressed the democratic process for over forty years perhaps explains human nature and maybe why people in the UK keep voting for a succession of despicable Tory governments.

Maybe people  just like the feel of a jack boot on the back of their neck.

There were some excellent views over the city from the castle walls and we stayed for an hour or so before leaving, stopping for an excellent lunch in an authentic restaurant (on a table next to some especially noisy and boisterous Germans) and then made our way back down to the Tagus.

I spotted this man on the way down. Working from home perhaps?

I don’t remember very much about the Cathedral, it isn’t a very impressive building from the outside and these days I am moving closer to Kim’s views on Cathedrals that pretty much they are all the same on the inside.  I took some photographs as I always do and wondered why because I am certain never to look at them or use them for anything.

I preferred the Igreja de São Domingos, a National Monument in the centre of the city and maybe the unluckiest church ever.  Damaged by an earthquake in 1531 and completely destroyed by the big one in 1755, it was rebuilt and completed in 1807 but destroyed again by a terrible fire in 1959.

Instead of the altar I took a picture of this fire damaged corner…

The church was restored and reopened in 1994 but the restoration didn’t attempt to repair the internal fire damage and that, in my opinion, left it in an authentic state.  I liked it and we spent half an hour so examining the interior.

When we emerged from the gloomy interior something quite odd had happened to the weather, the sky was suddenly grey and it was pouring with rain, we purchased an umbrella from an enterprising street seller who had seized the opportunity, found a bar in which to shelter and after the storm made our way back to the apartment.

Later that evening we dined in our favourite restaurant (so good it was fourth night in a row) and then prepared to move on the following day to the coastal city of Setúbal.

A to Z of Statues – R is for Ronald Reagan

In my series of A to Z of statues I have already been twice to Liberty Square in Budapest.

First for Imre Nagi who led the Hungarian uprising of 1956 (since removed by the way by the Hungarian Nationalist Government of Viktor Orban in case it offends his Soviet pal Vladimir Putin) and secondly for Louis Kossuth who led the 1948 revolution against the Austrian Empire.

This time I am here for a statue of Ronald Reagan who is held in high regard in Hungary and elsewhere in Eastern Europe for his opposition to Russian control of Eastern Europe and his role in breaking up the Soviet bloc and Communist control of Eastern Europe.

The header picture is a street named in his honour in the Polish town of Nowa Huta near Prague.

In 2018 I stayed overnight in a hotel in Thetford in Norfolk and got to stay  in the Ronald Reagan room…

Removing Ronald Reagan from Liberty Square might be a step to far for Viktor Orban.

Ronald Reagan it seems is curiously popular. 2003 in a television USA viewers voted him the Greatest American of all time and in terms of Presidents alone that was ahead of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D Roosevelt and John Kennedy.

It makes me think about Mount Rushmore.

If they were doing it again now (2021) who would be the fab four I wonder.  Washington and Lincoln I predict would still be there but Franklin Roosevelt would replace Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald would  cruise in and most likely replace Thomas Jefferson.

At this time a lot of countries used a similar format to determine the greatest whoever.

There were also some odd results elsewhere, Russia voted for Josef Stalin (responsible for an estimated 60 million deaths), France for Charles de Gaulle instead of Napoleon or Louis XIV, Portugal for Antonio Salazar (a dictator), Spain for King Juan Carlos (now disgraced) and Canada for someone called Tommy Douglas who turned out to be Scottish. German viewers bypassed Otto Von Bismarck (voting for Adolf Hitler was not allowed) and voted post-war Chancellor Konrad Adenauer as the greatest German of all time.

Two predictable votes were Winston Churchill in the UK and Nelson Mandela in South Africa. In India voting for Mahatma Ghandi was not permitted on the basis that he would so easily win so it would be a pointless contest. The winner was B. R. Ambedkar, the ‘founding father of the Republic of India’.

In New Zealand viewers voted for the physicist Ernest Rutherford. In nearby Australia they had a hard time getting a short list of fifty and about 50% of those included were sportsmen. Personally I would have voted for Richie Benaud but the Australian public went instead for the bush poet Andrew “Banjo” Patterson famous for many things down under but mostly for the song “Waltzing Matilda”.