I know it has been a little while since I’ve written a post, but I have been really involved with work and life in Lisbon, Portugal, the second stop on my Remote Year Kublai 4 month journey. I’ve also experienced my first emotional low point while on the trip, battling some minor depression and facing the reality and challenges associated with long-term travel. Nevertheless, I am pushing forward on my escapades across Europe and am feeling rejuvenated by a short side trip to Spain.
We spent the last few days in Belgrade soaking up as much of this old city as we could. We watched one last fortress sunset on Thursday before we left. Sitting atop the wall with the RY gang was one of my favorite parts of Belgrade. The panoramic view of the burning red sun as it made its way down towards the horizon spawned opportunities for conversation, drinking, and merriment to its observers. I’ll definitely miss and cherish this part of the trip for a long time.
I spent most of Friday evening packing my belongings in a newly-purchased suitcase in excitement and anticipation of our next city. I was a bit frantic as I tried to fit all of my items accordingly. We have strict weight limits on what carry ons as well as checked luggage can weigh. As I learned my lesson from the first trip out, I wanted to keep an extra outfit in my carry-on luggage in case the airline again lost my suitcase. Being cognisant of the weight limit, I saved several pairs of clothing to wear to the airport through security.
Our travel day started Saturday at 10 AM. A van came around and picked us and our luggage up from in front of the apartments we stayed at, and we were escorted to the airport just outside the city. Once there, Kubs came in batches from other vans also arriving from apartments they were lodged in around the city. As mentioned, I layered up with two pairs of shorts, jeans, three shirts, and my regular pair of shoes to pass under the maximum carry-on weight limit to get through security. Once on the other side of passport control, I threw these alongside the extra change of clothes in my carry-on. Take that, weight limits! We had a few hours before departure. Some Kubs opted to grab morning beers, others relaxed with a book and readied themselves to travel to our next stop.
It was time for boarding, and we made our way into a tight, cramped departure gate with its own security checkpoint behind metal doors. Interesting…I’ve not seen this setup before. Maybe this is because it was an international departure. I wasn’t a fan of how cramped it was and how hot that room got, especially with the number of bodies and luggage around. Thankfully, we finally embarked down the jetway onto the plane. It was funny to me to see Kublai taking up a good chunk of the plane seats. We were mixed among non-Remote Year travellers, some sharing the same aisles and others scattered around the plane. I had a nice forward seat that allowed me to board and deplane with relative ease. Our plane finally then taxied from the gate to the runway, soon soaring its way from the ground to the sky above, ultimately en route to Portugal.
Some time later, we landed in the German city. Deplaning was indeed a breeze because of my awesome forward seat. We made our way down through yet another security checkpoint, another oddity to me. This was immediately after making our way off the plane before entering the main airport gate. Gotta love those Germans and their dedication to keeping it safe! After, we trotted to the main gate’s concourse where there were bars, lounges, stores, and restaurants galore. Our layover in Munich was lengthy; we had almost 5 hours to hang out and prepare for the final leg of the journey to Lisbon.
I tried to find some vegan-friendly lunch around the airport. There wasn’t really a ton to be had, initially leading me to settle on some mediocre potato salad and bread. However, later on I did discover a burger place that offered a vegan option – a falafel patty and fresh toppings (onion, tomato, lettuce, etc.). That did the trick. It was not the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten, but it was decent and got me full enough to enjoy the rest of the layover. A lot of the Kubs hit up the various restaurants around the airport before finally rendezvousing around a large table adjacent to the Biergarden. Laughter, conversations, and merriment accompanied a healthy (??) amount of booze consumption. I think this helped some people’s nerves on a long travel day and led to some tipsiness to accompany us on the subsequent journey!
After those few hours had finally passed, we started making our way towards the gate. But not before I picked up some duty free chocolate – my sin of choice as opposed to alcohol. We boarded the second plane with anticipation of our arrival in Lisboa. We fastened our seatbelts and once again jetted skywards towards the next chapter.
During the flights, I read some of The Price of Civilization, which is a great take on our current world and the consequences of highly advanced, technical societies and the impacts of globalization and income inequality. Later, I put on my headphones, took out my phone, launched Sonic the Hedgehog, and played the platformer just like old times. My relationship with video games has been strained severely for the last half decade or more, but it was nice to escape to a familiar fantasy world for a few hours.
Arrival in Lisboa
In the waning daylight, our plane touched down at LIS with a shared sense of relief that the day was nearing its end. Headed down to luggage claim, we sang an impromptu Happy Birthday to one of the fellow Kubs whose birthday was the travel day. We probably were the most obnoxious large group of people in the airport! But it was fun to celebrate our fellow friend. We synced up with our new program leaders who gave us each a reusable shopping bag with a banana and water. Mmmm, snacks. After making sure everyone was there, we split off into our respective groups to board the vans en route to take us to our new living quarters for this month. Like Belgrade, we are scattered across various parts of the city. More on this later.
We settled into our new digs; my roommates and I claimed our rooms. We unpacked some of our stuff, changed, and went to bed exhausted from a long day. Tomorrow would be a new day of discovery, of learning a new city, and of adjusting to our new life in the westernmost continental European country.
A Honeymoon: The Brief Swing in Love with Lisbon
The next day, I explored around the new city trying to locate important landmarks. Places to eat, shop, and relax. Our city preview that evening presented by our program leaders highlighted for us tips and things to know about Lisbon. One of the main meeting and eating points in the city, the TimeOut market, is a large, indoor farmer’s market and storefront for restaurants with a large seating area in the middle. This became a frequent meeting point for us during our stay in Lisbon. Colorful, beautiful, and architecturally diverse historic buildings line the cobblestone laden streets, appearing in vivid contrast to the gray communistic influence entrenched back in Belgrade.
After the city preview, we made our way to the Parque Park (!) to visit and get our bearings in the new city. Here we were treated to beautiful, panoramic overview of the river Tagus separating Lisbon, Almada, and its more southern urban and suburban areas. I think started a honeymoon phase for a lot of Kubs now learning their new home wishing to maybe move here to a warm but temperate, scenic, and historic city that in many ways is reminiscent of San Francisco.
My first track event was a few days after arrival. We went to the TimeOut market to be taught a cooking class by an engineer-turned-chef. Being that Lisbon is on the water, seafood plays a large part of the cuisine here. The dishes we were to prepare all contained meat and seafood. As I don’t eat either of those anymore, this created a conflict with me, but thankfully I was accommodated with a similar dish to the rest except with vegetables. We were instructed along the way, masterfully and artfully preparing our dishes to cook and consume. We prepared a sautéed eggplant dish and then a rice risotto with asparagus using an onion stock. Delicious! During the class, we were also fed generous amounts of verde wine from Portugal. This is the first wine that I’ve had and not completely disdained. In fact, it was kind of tasty. Needless to say, a lot of us were buzzed by the time the class was over, as the generous staff refilled our glasses throughout the entire session. Overall, this was one of the best tracks several of us Kubs had been on and certainly the best one I’ve taken so far.
To Be Continued…
As I haven’t written posts in a while, I wanted to release several at once. You can find on my subsequent posts on why the honeymoon was short lived and where I stand now.