Saturday, June 02, 2007

Lisbon castle rocks!

No really, it’s made of rocks. Okay, stones technically. But you get the picture.
I'm finally getting back to my German Marshall Fellowship trip recap with this quick entry. Last time we chatted, I was in Lisbon, which has a long, tumultuous, interesting history with documented archeological finds in the city that stretch back to the neolithic era (7000 - 3000 BC). In fact, one of our group meetings there was with a reporter who had done stories about how often construction sites in the city hit ancient ruins as they demolish old buildings and begin new ones. That alone was fascinating given the U.S.'s relatively short history in comparison.

We visited several notable Lisbon locations that warrant mention. First was the Castelo de São Jorge on top of the highest hill in Lisbon. Although the castle dates back to the 10th-11th centuries, the oldest remains there date back to the 6th century BC. In 1147, the first king of Portugal conquered the castle and captured the city from the Moors. At that time, Lsbon was an important Moslem port.

Shyam from Atlanta, Jeff from North Carolina and Carrie from Chicago looking cool outside the castle walls in Lisbon.

Over the next 300 years, the castle played an important role in the life of the city on historic and celebratory occasions. For instance, actors performed the first Portuguese theatrical work there to mark the occasion of the birth of future King Joào III. The castle was declared a national monument in 1910 and it was restored during most of the 20th century.

Portions of the castle still looks as rustic as they did in its heyday, with self-guided tours of the towers, lookout points, former moats and all the nooks and crannies that make ancient stone structures so interesting to see and touch.

Panoramic view from outside the castle

However, the castle has been "enhanced" for modern tastes and expectations and now includes a multimedia exhibition, gallery, a café and restaurant, gift shop, and concession stands. It seemed a little Disney-esque, but still impressive nonetheless.