|Praça da Figueira seen from the Castle|
The framework of Lisbon’s urban structure is evident from the vantage point of the Castelo São Jorge, the Moorish Castle that caps the hill shared with the Alfama District. The cascade of rooftops ends at the banks of the Tagus River, wide and calm as it meets the Atlantic. The Bridge named “25th of April” is reflected in the Tagus; its silhouette is similar to San Fransisco’s Golden Gate, but it is more slender and miniature.
The diagram of the city is the opposite of the two other Iberian capitals, Madrid and Barcelona. Both of those cities have an organic and medieval core surrounded by the regular blocks of their “eixample” (Catalán) or “ensanche” (Spanish). Lisbon’s core is a rational grid, though it lacks the chamfers of the other cities, and is surrounded by the organic fabric of both older and newer districts.
|Avenida da Liberdade|
There seem to be few cars for a city this size, but that is made possible by a public transportation network that weaves into the fabric of Lisbon. In addition to buses, there are at least five scales of electrified railway servicing the city. They are:
1. High Speed Rail. Though not as fast as France’s TGV or Spain’s AVE, Portugal’s intercity trains stop at the main train stations and connect to other large Portuguese cities such as Oporto as well as cities in Spain and France. Feeding into these train stations are both commuter railways and subways. Intercity and commuter railways are known as “comboios.”
3. Subway. There are several lines that follow the main corridors that radiate from the core of the city (Cidade Baixa) and the Port. These all have transfer points with larger train stations and tram and bus terminals.
4. Streetcars. There are sleek, articulated street cars that glide along several large streets in the city center.
Though we appreciate all of the different trains, we look for excuses to ride the trams. We stand at the spacious rear of the tram, which feels like a bay window. On the tighter curves we are worried that the tram may scrape a building. Though the streetwall is solid and tall, we know from our visit to the castle when we looked down on the city that there are generous gardens behind some of these doors. A loquat tree in bloom is withholding its fruit until the orange trees have been picked. The fruits of Africa, Brazil, and Asia have joined the European fig and olive trees in the gardens of the Alfama. All of these fruits are arranged in neat boxes in a produce stand in the main square of the Graça neighborhood.