Sunday, November 26, 2017

Portugal — Layers upon Layers

As well as a collage, Portugal is layers.

Phoenicians. Vikings. Visogoths. Christian conversion. Moor domination for 400 years. Crusades. Kings and assassinations. World navigation and ostentatious wealth. Spices and gold. (Vasco de Gama, folks, was not a nice guy. Burned a boat of pilgrims headed for Mecca alive.) Acquisition of church property by the state.  Dictatorship. Democracy. EU…

By chance (believe me published schedules here don’t always work) I found the door to an Archeological Museum in Lisbon –not the main one.. The guide-book-address door wouldn’t open (getting ready for an exhibition, I was later told). Around the corner at another door a guide said the tour was full and come back later but to arrange it by the next door. It turned out to be the back-door to a bank and the clerk was quite upset with me. But I came back in a hour (no one answered the phone either) and the guide led me down layers upon layers… Patience in Portugal, Kathy, and it is always worthwhile.

See the vats where Romans layered salted fish with herbs making a paste they stuffed into amphora for shipment back to Rome. (Like caviar spread in Norway, I wonder?) Where houses lived and lanes wandered. Where rubbish piles yielded ceramics and glass, jewelry and bones. All unearthed when the underground was excavated for the bank.

And in another museum, a Roman man in a toga. 

And useful items from the Chalcolithic era.

Layers of disaster too! 

The giant earthquake of 1755 in Lisbon, tsunami and fires totally rearranged the city and, I wonder, the psyche? A third of the population died, the center of the city was  destroyed and the king forever suffered from PTSD (always afterwards living in a tent). Leaders came to the rescue with the immediate motto: “Bury the dead and tend to the living.” And the center of the city was rebuilt by a grid plan which is infinitely easier for the tourist! But always, always there is the reminder of the layer of past destruction. 

See the church tinged by fire. 

And a convent, Museo do Cormo, with the lovely arches remaining when the roof came down. (Almost more lovely, I thought, like a sculpture or forest.)

And layers upon layers of emotion.

Guides on walking tours have tried to explain “fado.” I was told it was born of suffering, from the women left behind when their sailors left for places unknown (or just to fish) and knew they might not return. But more than that, the yearning or longing or anticipation of a better time, when they might return, when life might be joyful. Of course I had to seek it out. It is not just music, though the duet of guitar  and the round 12 string Portuguese guitar is unique.Fado is an experience where one dips into the layers of the past. When the singer stands up the bar is darkened and no one speaks. Always they sing from the heart with profound emotion. I couldn’t understand the word but the passion was clear. Where I went the singers were not paid. Of course most of the songs were about love, because “love always contains sadness.” 

Here are the singers. Each one takes a set of about three songs. They do it for the love of it. One told me, “Of course Fado is sad, “Because love is sad.”

 And here, listen for yourself and FEEL...

Rich and deep. Portugal

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