Portugal was one of the European nations to replace its national currency (the escudo) with the euro, and the average cost of living has risen dramatically since the euro’s adoption in 2002. Frustration with this change seems to be constantly finding its way onto the walls of Lisbon’s buildings, usually in the form of anarchist communist slogans that urge fellow Lisbonians to FIGHT ALL AUTHORITY. Red Circle-A’s are also everywhere.
At the same time, the euro is creating more radical aesthetic and material change through major construction. It is difficult to walk more than a block without running into at least one catepiler, crane, or announcement of a new infrastructure project. Perhaps most interesting is the decision to leave the facades of old buildings intact, kept standing through the elaborate use of steal beams… for now.
Left to right: anarchist graffiti, teen angst graffiti, storybook graffiti.
I’m going to be admit something. I wikipedia’d the Lisbon Portela Airport almost immediately after my flight landed. Apparently, it is one of the largest airports in Southern Europe. Chastise me for trusting wikipedia if you want but I wanted some perspective after landing in the middle of a major (and ancient) European city.
This landing was in some ways a preview of the city that I have experienced in the first week: the same streets that are lined with elaborate Catholic churches are tagged with graffiti advocating anarchy.
Here’s another wikipedia fact that I’ve found important trying to orient myself in the physical and cultural layout of Lisbon: a massive earthquake destroyed most of the ancient Roman fortress city in 1755, and when planners decided to build again they built away from the remaining castle. Each major hill and valley of Lisbon’s skyline is the result of a new era’s architectual innovation: the 20th c. work is furthest from the castle, 19th c. work a little closer, etc. Each hill/valley area is home to a v. different type of neighborhood.
I’ll stop lecturing now, and get exploring.
More pictures can be found at my blog: http://meardley.wordpress.com